Object: Lantern

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Yellow Dog” Lantern
Alamo Iron Works
San Antonio, TX
early 1900’s
Materials: metal

Image via:Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography University of California, Riverside

Image via: Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography
University of California, Riverside

Lanterns like this “Yellow Dog” were used for night time lighting around oil drilling derricks in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were designed to burn crude oil, abundant on oil fields, and used two wicks to put out more light. They were made of iron or steel to be very sturdy, and unlikely to break or explode. A fire on an oil derrick could quickly become very dangerous.

This Yellow Dog was made by Alamo Iron Works in San Antonio. Founded in 1875, Alamo Iron Works was originally located in downtown San Antonio in the area that is now the Alamodome. Alamo Iron Works has a long history of producing and distributing steel, and was a key supplier for local projects like the Menger Hotel and Ursuline Academy.

Map via: Texas Almanac

Map via: Texas Almanac

Oil drilling has been big business in Texas since 1901, when the so-called “Lucas Gusher” struck oil in the Spindletop field, near Beaumont, TX. Before this the largest oil producing region of the country was in western Pennsylvania. Following the impressive find at Spindletop an oil boom began in Texas, with speculators setting up drilling operations throughout the state in hopes of striking in it rich. Wells sprung up in Corsicana, Burkburnett, New London, and many other boom-towns around the state.

The following video discusses the oil boom in Ranger, TX.

In less than a decade oil transformed Texas from an agricultural economy into an industrial powerhouse. The discovery of abundant oil supplies in Texas transformed transportation, making cars more practical and converting trains and steamships from coal to oil. It also brought a great deal of wealth to the state. Well owners became overnight millionaires, but the industry also created many jobs in all aspects of oil discovery, production, processing and transportation. State universities and public schools also befitted greatly from the oil boom in Texas, thanks to oil being found on lands appropriated to schools during the Republic of Texas. Even today oil and natural gas are an important part of Texas’ economy. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Boatright, Mody Coggin, and William A. Owens. Tales from the Derrick Floor; A People’s History of the Oil Industry. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970.

Burrough, Bryan. The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.

Olien, Roger M., and Diana Davids Hinton. Life in the Oil Fields. Austin, Tex: Texas Monthly Press, 1986.

Rundell, Walter. Early Texas Oil: A Photographic History, 1866-1936. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1977.


Object: Drawing


20th century
Materials: Paper, Pencil, Ink

This object is a drawing done by Jack “Herc” Ficklen of the 38th Governor of Texas, John Connally. Connolly served as governor of the state of Texas from January 15, 1963-January 21, 1969. Connally was born on a farm near Floresville, Texas on February 17, 1917. He attended Harlendale High School in San Antonio, but graduated from Floresville High School. Graduating from the University of Texas and then the University of Texas School of Law. It was at the University of Texas where he met his future wife Idanell (Nellie) Brill. When he passed the state bar exam, he began working as a legislative assistant to Representative Lyndon B. Johnson. It was during this time that the two formed a friendship that would last for many years.

connally-p01During WWII John Connally joined the United States Naval Reserve and served as a fighter director aboard a aircraft carriers. Connally was at 9 major air-sea battles in the Pacific. He survived 52 hours of consecutive kamikaze attacks in 1945. During his time in the military Connally rose up in the ranks all the way to the lieutenant commander. Upon returning home he worked in a number of different positions, including operating a radio station in Austin, Texas. He also served as Sid W. Richardson’s legal counsel. He was most notably known for managing five of LBJ’s political campaigns. He ran for governor in 1962 and won. He would remain governor until 1969. During his term as a governor, Connally signed a number of laws dealing with higher education. He also backed the entry of women into Texas A&M University that was previously an all male school. Connally also  promoted the World’s Fair in San Antonio called Hemisfair ’68.


Texas Governor Connally waving from the limousine carrying President John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and Nellie Connally.

On November 22, 1963 Governor Connally was on the Texas tour with President John F. Kennedy.  While on the motorcade through Dallas, Texas, shots rang out, fatally injuring President Kennedy and also hitting Governor Connally in his chest, neck, and wrist. At first in the chaos of what was happening, rumors spread that the governor had also passed away. His wife Nellie wrote notes about that fateful day stating how it affected them saying, “It was all I thought about, all I talked about. What if? Why? Why?” Governor Connally recovered slowly but surely, and even though he had a few doubts about what was found in the Warren Commission he agreed with most of it. John Connally would go on to become Secretary for the Treasury and even run for President of the United States. He passed away in 1993. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Connally, John Bowden, and Mickey Herskowitz. In History’s Shadow: An American Odyssey. New York: Hyperion, 1993.

Connally, Nellie, and Mickey Herskowitz. From Love Field: Our Final Hours with President John F. Kennedy. New York: Rugged Land, 2003.

Reston, James. The Lone Star: The Life of John Connally. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.

Vickers, Sue Bitner. Hemisfair 1968. Thesis M.A. — University of Texas at Austin, 1968, 1968.


Object: Shoe

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Women’s exercise shoes
ca. 2001
Material: Rubber or synthetic material, leather

Laura Bush

There is a saying that  in order to truly understand someone you must first walk a mile in their shoes. This pair of Nike cross training shoes belonged to former First Lady Laura Bush. The shoes are white with red and blue accents, with the words “First Lady”  printed on the back of the shoes. Having been named one of the most popular First Ladies, there is much more to Laura Bush than meets the eye.

A native of Texas, Laura was born in Midland, Texas on November 4, 1946. At a young age Laura became fascinated by books and loved to read. In 1964 she graduated High School and went to Southern Methodist University where she received a Bachelors in Education in 1968. The future first lady was a teacher in Dallas, then Houston until 1972. In 1973 Laura received a Masters degree in Library Science from the University of Texas. Laura obtained a job at a Public Library in Houston and later at a school library in Austin. It was during her times as a librarian when Laura Bush learned the importance of reading and would shape her agenda when she became First Lady.

Laura met the future Governor of Texas and President of the United States at a barbecue thrown by friends. She first became a First Lady in 1995 when George W. Bush became governor of Texas. During this time as the First Lady of Texas Laura tried to stay out of the spot light. However, things changed when she became the First Lady of the United States. She would be First Lady from 2001-2009. The First Lady of the United States is an unofficial and unpaid position, never mentioned in the Constitution. Their duties have evolved since Martha Washington became the nation’s first First Lady, from being the hostess for gatherings at the president’s home into a much more public role. Over time the views and opinions of the First Lady on political matters have become increasingly important to the public. First Ladies have famously advocated for a number hotly contested political issues including: Prohibition, Woman’s Suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement.

Upon entering the white house as First Lady, having previously been a teacher Laura became an advocate for Education. She was a “key advocate of her husbands No Child Left Behind Act.” While First Lady of Texas, Laura had established the Texas Book Festival a fundraiser for public libraries. When she became First Lady of the United States Laura launched the National Book Festival in 2001.expand-bush The National Book Festival is still held today and authors from all over the country attend. Apart from focusing on education, Laura also focused on health issues like heart disease and cancer.

Another First Lady from the Lone Star State was Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson. Lady Bird was married to the Lyndon B. Johnson who was also from Texas and served as First Lady from 1963-1969. Although, the role of the First Lady has changed over time, the public continues to be fascinated with the woman who stands beside the President of the United States. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources: 

Bush, Laura Welch. Spoken from the Heart. New York: Scribner, 2010.

Graddy, Lisa Kathleen, and Amy Pastan. The Smithsonian First Ladies Collection. 2014.

Johnson, Lady Bird, and Michael L. Gillette. Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History. 2012

Wertheimer, Molly Meijer. Inventing a Voice: The Rhetoric of American First Ladies of the Twentieth Century. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2004.

Object: Wedding Dress

Wedding Dress
San Antonio, Texas
ca. 1912
Materials: Cloth, Metal

Wedding dresses have been worn by brides for hundreds of years, however a white wedding dress is a fairly new custom. Over time wedding dress styles have changed and not all cultures share the same wedding traditions. This  wedding dress was worn by Emma Steubing on her wedding day, December 14, 1912 to Robert Gass. The dress was likely made by a family member or the bride herself, which was common. The dress is an off white color and has lace trimmings throughout. Lace was and still is a popular material used in wedding dresses.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Today in Western culture the traditional color for a wedding dress is white. Queen Victoria is credited for starting the white dress trend in 1840 after her marriage to Albert of Saxe-Coburg . Phillipa of England wore white in in 1406 and Mary Queen of Scots wore white when she married Francis the Dauphine of France in 1559. In France, white was typically the color of mourning for French Queens, but Mary wore white anyway because it was her favorite color.

Before Queen Victoria decided she would wear white to her wedding, the popular color of the time was red. In the 1800s brides would usually wear the best dress they had to their weddings, which were usually a color like red or blue, rather than wear a dress specially made for the occasion. White was rarely used because at that time washing white articles of clothing was difficult. It was then easier to wear a dark colored dress and use it multiple times after. Wearing white was usually just done by the wealthy. However, Queen Victoria also wanted to send a message that she supported domestic commerce using only British made materials, a custom still supported 171 years later at the marriage of Catherine Middleton and Prince William.   A few years after Queen Victoria’s wedding a popular lady’s monthly called white “the most fitting hue” for a bride, “an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.” It was after this publication that young women everywhere started shifting their ideas of what a wedding dress should look like.

Wedding SariAlthough white maybe the popular color to wear in places like the United States, in China the brides usually wear red. The color red symbolizes love and prosperity in Chinese culture. In South Asian cultures a sari is worn during weddings. Sari, which translates to ‘strip of cloth’, is a clothing garment made of a piece of cloth five to nine yards in long and two to four feet in wide. The sari is wrapped around the waist and one end around the shoulder, baring the midriff.  The wedding sari was traditionally red with gold and made out of silk but different colors and fabrics are also used today. All around the world wedding dresses and traditions are different, and as time goes by the styles of these wedding dresses change. [Rebecca Gonzalez, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Banerjee, Mukulika, and Daniel Miller. The Sari. Oxford: Berg, 2003.

Ehrman, Edwina. The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions. London: V&A Pub, 2011.

Foster, Helen Bradley, and Donald Clay Johnson. Wedding Dress Across Cultures. Oxford: Berg, 2003.

Victoria, and Barry St.-John Nevill. Life at the Court of Queen Victoria, 1861-1901: Illustrated from the Collection of Lord Edward Pelham-Clinton, Master of the Household : with Selections from the Journals of Queen Victoria. Exeter, England: Webb & Bower, 1984.

Object: Painting


“A Plaza in Texas in the 1930s”
Carmen Lomas Garza
San Francisco, CA
Materials: Wood/ Paint/ Metal/ Canvas

This object is a painting entitled “A Plaza in Texas in the 1930’s” by artist Carmen Lomas Garza, a Chicana narrative artist, inspired by the Chicano Movement, Carmen’s painting depicts every day events in the lives of Mexican-Americans. Her paintings are based on her memories and experiences of growing up in South Texas. Carmen Lomas Garza was born in Kingsville, Texas in 1948. At a very young age Carmen knew she wanted to be an artist and pursued every opportunity to improve her skills. At the age of 13, she taught herself how to draw and learned about the basics of art by checking out books from her local library. She also practiced drawing every day and drew pictures of people she saw at school, at home, and in her neighborhood.

Carmen is a graduate of the Texas Arts & Industry University (now known as Texas A & M University-Kingsville), Juarez-Lincoln/Antioch Graduate School, and San Francisco State University where she earned her Master of Art in 1981. She is the recipient of numerous awards and has exhibited her work in galleries and museums across the United States, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 1990, Childrens Book Press published a bilingual book which focused on Lomas Garza’s paintings and short stories. The book, entitled Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia shows paintings and text depicting what it was like growing up in a small South Texas town in a Mexican American family. Carmen Lomas Garza stated, “The pictures in this book are painted from my memories of growing up in Kingsville, Texas, near the border with Mexico. This is my book of family pictures.”

Book Cover for "Making Magic Windows"

Book Cover for “Making Magic Windows”

Since 1996 there have been three more books published using Carmen’s paintings they are titled In My Family/En Mi Familia, Magic Windows/Ventanas Magicas,and Making Magic Windows:Creating Papel Picado/Cut-Paper Art with Carmen Lomas Garza. The books have been incredibly popular selling more than 700,000 since the year 1990.

In most of her paintings, like this one, Lomas Garza uses “monitos” or little figures. These little figures are how she portrays her family, neighbors, and even pets. This painting shows different monitos at a plaza. The figures show couples dancing, children playing and families out together. The most important theme in Lomas Garza’s paintings tend to be family. Her paintings focus on family traditions and values. Some of her paintings include images of families out at a birthday party, quinceañera, having dinner, or at a tamalada. Lomas Garza stated, “Every time I paint, it serves a purpose–to bring about pride in our Mexican American culture. My art is a way of healing… like the sávila plant heals burns and scrapes when applied by a loving parent or grandparent.”

Today Carmen Lomas Garza does speaking events, and hosts workshops, she also still paints and her artwork can be found in a variety of different exhibitions, including the Los Tejanos exhibit here at the Institute of Texan Cultures. The Los Angeles Unified School District has named a primary school after her called Carmen Lomas Garza Primary Center, which she says has been the greatest honor. [Rebecca Gonzales, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:


Chávez, Ernesto. “Mi Raza Primero!” (My People First!) Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Cortez, Constance, and Carmen Lomas Garza. Carmen Lomas Garza. Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2010.

Marin, Cheech, Max Benavidez, Constance Cortez, and Terecita Romo. Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 2002.


Sneak Peek

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our Part of Victory: Texans in WWII opens today! Here’s a few images from our installation and to give you a peek of what to expect.

Object: Passport

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Materials: Paper/ Ink

This object is a passport that once belonged to Louis and Mary Finkel. This document helped allow the Finkel family to move from Russian controlled Lithuania to the United Kingdom in the early 1900s. They lived there for 16 years before finally immigrating to the United States and settling in Luling, Texas. Passports have been around for hundreds of years, and are important documents required for international travel. In the United States the first passports were issued around the time of the American Revolution. The passports were used to the people going to France with Benjamin Franklin.

U.S. Passport Cover

U.S. Passport Cover

In order to travel abroad United States citizens, are required to have a passport. Passports are needed for international travel by air, sea, or land. Today there are two different kinds of passports. Today there is the traditional passport book and a passport card. However, there have been many different types of passports over the years. While a passport book can be used for all types of international travel by air and by sea. The passport card is used for travel between the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. This card is not valid for international travel by air. A passport card is a good alternative for people living on the border and don’t want to spend the money on a passport book. A passport’s main objective is to identify a traveler as a citizen with a right to protection while abroad and a right to return to the country of his citizenship.

Max and Goldye Finkel

Max and Goldye Finkel

Louis Finkel, immigrated to the United States to join his brother Max in Luling, TX where he opened a dry goods store. Louis ran the store with his sons Harry and Larry Finkel, who later took over the business on their own, operating it through the 1960s. Lulling held a large Jewish population, but slowly the families moved away. The Finkels were one of the last remaining Jewish families in Luling. Today the dry goods store building is no longer exists, after being destroyed in a fire in the year 2000. The lot however, is now used as the location for the watermelon seed spitting contest in the annual Watermelon Thump Festival.

For information about attaining a U.S. passport, the Finkel family and Luling, Texas visit the links below. [Rebecca Gonzales, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Bridges, Anne C. Huff. Do You Remember?: Early Days in Luling Texas. [Luling? Tex.]: [publisher not identified], 1967.



Parsons, Chuck. Luling. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub, 2009.

Robertson, Craig. The Passport in America The History of a Document. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 


Object: Coins

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Levine Brothers General Merchandise
Sealy, TX
ca 1940s
Material: Metal

Map via: bestplaces.net

Map via: Sperling’s BestPlaces

These two silver colored metal coins were once valued at five cents at the Levine Brothers General Merchandise in Sealy, Texas. The unique scalloped edges and Levine Brothers print suggest these coins were developed specifically for the Levine Brothers store. Their store sold mostly general goods, and many early photos from the University of Texas at San Antonio digital collection document the Levine Brothers General Merchandise as a clothing store. In the small town of Sealy, Texas business and industry was not uncommon. Established in 1879 this 10.2 square mile town eventually became the home of the Sealy Mattress Company thanks to cotton gin builder Daniel Haynes. While the Levine Brothers General Merchandise may not have the recognizable name of Sealy Mattress, these coins in the Institute of Texan Cultures collection will maintain part of the history and legacy of the family store. These coins are unique for not only being of monetary value but also being commemorative in nature.

Lyndon B. Johnson Image via: WikiMedia Commons

Lyndon B. Johnson
Image via: WikiMedia Commons

The commemorative coin revolution in the United States was sparked by Texas’ very own Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1966 Johnson signed the American Revolution Bicentennial Bill on the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution. This bill was introduced in an effort to revive patriotism and national spirit. The commemoration of the American Revolution was designed to remind Americans and the world of the values of the Revolution, a struggle for freedom and liberty. The Bicentennial Bill was written in an effort to build national unity through celebrations, education and the commemorative coin. The commission appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson was composed of members of Congress, Attorney Generals, Senators and even archivists from the Smithsonian Institute. The commission worked to organize national celebrations, educational programs to teach more about the American Revolution in schools and design commemorative goods.

Commemorative coins are still produced to this day. The United States Mint (U.S Mint) alongside Congress establish commemorative coins in an effort to pay tribute to significant events and influential people throughout history. The funds raised by the sale of commemorative coins goes directly into our national museums, monuments and memorials. The first establishment of a committee to develop a monetary system for the United States was in 1776. The U.S Mint was later founded in 1792 to produce and archive our nation’s coins. The U.S. Mint is also a historical archive for many documents and artifacts beyond just the official commemorative coins of the United States.

Test your knowledge of the United States Mint history here!

Ambassador Michael Michalak, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, and Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, show off their new coins after an office call to the U.S. embassy in Hanoi. Image via: WikiMedia Commons

Ambassador Michael Michalak, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, and Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, show off their new coins after an office call to the U.S. embassy in Hanoi.
Image via: WikiMedia Commons

While not all coins are officially recognized as commemorative by the U.S Mint, many are made symbolic by their use. The Military Challenge coin is symbolic for many branches of our military. Each division, squadron and even rank within those branches can have their own unique coin. As history tells, the military coin came about during World War I when a soldier was taken captive by German forces and striped of all forms of identification, except for a military coin he wore in a pouch around his neck. He disguised himself and escaped, but ran into French military forces who thought he was an undercover member of the German army. Without anything to prove his identity as an American he was bound to be shot when he remembered the coin around his neck, the only thing the Germans forces left him with. The French recognized the emblem on his coin as American and they spared his life. Other stories date these military coins back to the Civil War as tokens taken by men as a reminder of the war. Yet, today these coins are much more than tokens, they are carried with pride and sometimes traded to one another or given as gifts. Here is where the “challenge” comes from, men and women in the military will sometimes “challenge” one another to present their coin to ensure they always have it with them. If you are unable to present your coin the punishment is often up to the challenger.

Now why would a store have their own coin made? These Levine Brothers coins may be commemorative but given the value they represent it is more likely they were used as store credit for purchasing. During severe economic crisis many countries resort to a rationing system. They consider the resources their country has and the size of the population to determine how much each family will be given. During World War II the United States took to rationing food, oil and even farm equipment. The majority of the resources they had were being funneled into the war, people, machinery, oil and anything needed overseas. Thus, families would receive booklets of stamps that they would use to get goods from local stores. Vendors would in turn use ration coins, or rather tokens, to payout the difference to families using ration stamps. Tokens hold another value all of their own, one beyond the commemorative or monetary. Tokens are place holders for a monetary value. It’s possible that these Levine Brothers coins were manufactured during a time of rationing for customers to use to buy merchandise.While they are not official commemorative coins they are housed in the museum collection as pieces of a small town Texas family history. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

American Association for State and Local History. “National Body to Commemorate Revolution,” History News 21, No. 8 (AUGUST, 1966): 153.

American Association for State and Local History. “Year of Celebrations,” History News 24, No. 6 (JUNE, 1969): 119.

Marsh, Julia and Jenine Loesing and Marilyn Soucie. “Lewis and Clark,” Teaching Children Mathematics 11, No. 1 (AUGUST 2004): 24-25.

Stoller, Michael A. “The Economics of Collectible Goods,”  Journal of Cultural Economics 8, No. 1 (June, 1984):  91-104. 

Object: Radio

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

RCA; Atwater Kent
Materials: Wood, metal, glass

This object is an RCA radio with an Atwater Kent speaker that attaches to the radio. There are a couple of different people credited as pioneers of the radio and include Henrich Hertz, Nikola Tesla, and Guglielmo Marconi, to list a few. As technology has evolved so has the appearance and use of the radio. This particular style of radio would have been primarily used within the home. It would have been a one way transmission which means that the radio would receive a signal from the nearest broadcasting tower, but would not be able to send a signal back.

The first major wireless communications were from ships at sea to other ships or land-based stations. However, since voice transmission was not yet available these messages would be sent by coded dots and dashes also known as Morse CodeMorse Code worked by assigning letters and numbers a set of dots and dashes. Letters used often would get a simple code, while letters less used would get a more complex code. As radio correspondence between ships became more available, questions regarding correspondence were raised. A major debate at the time was the number of operators working on these ships, and after the sinking of the Titanicthe Radio Act of 1912 was passed. This act made sure that all radio operators on the ships would have licenses to operate the radios and that radios would be under constant watch 24 hours a day.


Young girl listening to the radio.

Once the long distance transmission of a human voice and music was made possible, radios started to be used as a form of entertainment. The period between the 1920s and 1930s is considered the golden age of radio. It was during this time the radio broadcast of comedies, dramas, variety shows, and popular music gathered millions of listeners. The large audience resulted from radios being made smaller and less expensive. Having a radio in the living room was as common as having a television today. Listening to the radio brought communities together and the audience also related to the heroes in the programs they listened to. Besides entertainment, the radio was used to listen to the news. One example of this was the Hindenburg disaster which was covered by radio reporter Herb Morrison. The radio was also used to listen to Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats, a series of presidential speeches aired on the radio. These speeches made the public feel closer to the President in a whole new way.

One popular company who produced radios was the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) which was formed in 1919 and the brand of the radio shown here. A. Atwater Kent the man who the speaker is named after, was an inventor and owner of the largest radio factory in Pennsylvania. The Atwater Kent Company produced a number of different models of radios and at one point was the world leader in radios. Kent spent more than $500,000 on advertising for his radios, at the time a huge sum, and he even had his own radio show called The Atwater Kent Hour, which was one of the most popular shows on the radio. 

As television became more popular many of the shows that people listened to on the radio moved to the television screen. However, radio has not been completely taken over by television and it is estimated that 95% of Americans listen to the radio at least once a week. As radio platforms continue to change one thing is for sure, the radio has come a long way. [Abby Goode, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Dalgleish, D. I. (1989). An introduction to satellite communications. London, U.K: P. Peregrinus on behalf of the Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Kahn, F. J. (1978). Documents of American broadcasting. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Richter, W. A. (2006). Radio: A complete guide to the industry. New York: P. Lang.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. Fireside Chats. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.



Object Blog: Apothecary Box

I-0369r (1)

Box, Apothecary
1914 -1960
Material: Paper and ink

S.B. Penick & Company Logo Image via: antiquecannabisbook.com

S.B. Penick & Company Logo
Image via: antiquecannabisbook.com

The history behind the S.B. Penick & Company, that produced this apothecary box of Elm Bark Powder, is a perfect example of the innovative use of resources produced by the environment of the United States. Slippery Elm Bark was used to make tea from to sooth a sore mouth or other common internal ailments. Slippery Elm Bark gets its name for the inner layer of the tree bark being so slippery. This tree can be found in parts of the Northeast, along the east coast and even into parts of central Texas. S.B Penick came out of modest beginnings collecting and gathering botanicals for herbal remedies from the woods and fields of his Southeastern home. Long before professional doctors, hospitals and drug stores in the United States remedies were made from resources found in nature and administered by a family member, local medicine man or an appointed town physician. Peddlers known as ‘herb doctors’ would sell plants and herbs to settlements to cure everything from internal ailments to common cuts and bruises.

Image via: uptreeid.com

Image via: uptreeid.com

S.B Penick was more of an ‘herb doctor’ until World War I when his skills at producing remedies from plants were needed more than ever. Thus, S.B Penick & Company was founded. S.B. Penick used the plants supplied by his environment to produce botanical pharmaceuticals, medicine made from plants. This company would grow to be one of the largest botanical pharmaceutical producing companies by the 1960s. Unfortunately for the S.B Penick Company, botanical pharmaceuticals had been on a steady decline over the years after the Food and Drug Act was established in 1906, putting into question herbal remedies. It took time for this act to spread to the masses but it did so through trained doctors questioning the effectiveness of the herbal remedies.

With a declining market for their products, the S.B. Penick & Company would go out of business along with much of the botanical pharmaceutical industry. The decline was not only because natural plant based medicines were not working but also they were just not as profitable as the newer chemical medicines. The company was split apart for assets with only Penick Pharmaceuticals remaining and being bought in 1988. This portion of the company survived because it kept working and changing with the times, focusing on inorganic medicines that were being used and purchased more by hospitals and doctor’s offices. Further hardships would fall upon the company when they had to file for bankruptcy in 1994 but the Penick name and the use of plants and other natural resources, like Slippery Elm Bark, continues to be used in the United States to this day.

It seems remarkable that such a small box of an all-natural medical remedy could tell such a big story, but it’s the story behind these seemingly simple items that can stir our memories and ignite our imaginations. This paper and ink box of Elmwood bark beckons us to consider our earliest days of exploring our environment’s resources. Challenge yourselves to imagine the possibilities in the simplest things, you’d be surprised what you may learn. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Keezer, William S. “Botanical Sources of Early Medicines.” Bios. 34, No. 4 (Dec., 1963) , pp. 185-191.

Kremers, Edward, James Harvey Young, and George Urdang. History of Pharmacy: A Guide and a Survey. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1940.

Stobart, Anne, and Susan Francia. Critical Approaches to the History of Western Herbal Medicine: From Classical Antiquity to the Early Modern Period. 2014.

Taylor, David. “Herbal Medicine at a Crossroads.” Environmental Health Perspectives.  104, No. 9 (Sep., 1996) , pp. 924-928.

Van der Zee, Barbara. Green Pharmacy: A History of Herbal Medicine. New York: Viking Press, 1982

The TARL Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Museum Anthropology

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Center for the Future of Museums

Experimenting with collections access since 2013


Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Smithsonian Collections Blog

Experimenting with collections access since 2013

Digital Scholarship in the Humanities

Exploring the digital humanities

ethnology @ snomnh

experimenting with social microexhibitions since 2007


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers

%d bloggers like this: