This object is a wood and metal icebox that was popular in homes before electricity was widely available. It is currently being exhibited in the sharecropper’s cabin in the museum. Iceboxes were developed and used before modern day refrigerators, and were designed to preserve foods.
Basic iceboxes were made of wooden frames, and had a gap on the inside, with a smaller metal lining. The iceboxes had separate drawers and shelves to store different types of foods. Ice would be packed in the space between the wood and metal, and then insulated with straw, sawdust, seaweed, or cork. Cheaper versions would just have a drip pan underneath to catch the melting ice, but fancier models would have a container that caught the water, and a faucet to drain it.
Every year when the weather turned warm, ice was delivered daily to homes by the iceman. The iceman would drive from home to home, on a wagon lined with straw and full of ice blocks. For each home, he would chip off pieces of ice for the icebox, and for an additional fee, he would insert the ice into the icebox for the homeowners. During the summer months, kids would hitch a ride on the wagon of ice, or chip off small pieces of ice as a treat. Icemen worked for ice houses, which stored ice year round. Every winter, ice was harvested from frozen lakes and stored in ice houses. Ice harvesting and storage became a huge trade for states in New England, with many people becoming rich from shipping ice to the Southern states and the Caribbean.
However, ice houses were around long before the dawn of the icebox. Records dating back to 1780 BC talk about construction of an icehouse in Mesopotamia. Starting as dug out pits lined with straw, ice houses evolved around the world over the years, into everything from brick buildings to underground tunnels. By 1930, electric refrigerators like we use now began replacing the old iceboxes. As the need for ice delivery declined, so did the business of ice houses. By 1960, ice houses no longer served a purpose, and most were closed. In Texas however, ice houses were more innovative and started selling groceries and beer. They became gathering spots for people to get together and relax. The national convenience store 7-Eleven developed from ice houses that were operated by Southland Ice Company in Dallas and San Antonio in the 1930s.
Though it’s easy to take ice for granted today, many things around us are reminders of our modern innovations. Modern refrigerators still contain many elements of original iceboxes, such as shelving and drawers; and every time we pass a convenience store- it sits as a reminder of a bygone era, when ice houses served an exclusive purpose, still present in the bags of ice sold there. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Mid to late 19th century
This is a Kickapoo saddle, used for horse riding. This saddle is only the wood base of what would have been an elaborate piece of equipment. The horse’s back would have been covered with a saddle blanket and the saddle would rest on top. the blanket was made of leather, cotton, or wool which could be adorned with beads, and sometime feathers or quills. Often saddles like these are wrapped in leather, the stirrups and leather girth would be set in the space between the wooden sides of the saddle. The girth, sometimes called a cinch strap, wrapped around the belly of the horse to secure the saddle on the horse’s back.
The last prehistoric horses in North America died out over 11,000 years ago but horses remained and evolved in Asia, Europe, and Africa. In 1519 horses returned to the Americas with the conquistadors from Spain. In the land that is now Mexico, the Spanish began breeding their horses and taught Native Americans how to ride and take care of the herds of horses. These herders were the first vaqueros, or cowboys. Although the Native Americans were herding, riding, and caring for the horses, the Spanish kept the Native Americans from owning their own horses for many years. The first Native Americans to acquire horses were the Apache, in modern day New Mexico. As more groups of Native Americans adopted the horse, stealing, bartering and breeding horses became a significant part their way of life.
The Kickapoo are a group of Algonquian speakers originating from the Great Lakes area, east coast, and Canada. Before European contact they relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering roots, seeds and wild rice. The Kickapoo first encountered the French in the 1640s when they were still living in modern day northern Michigan. However, the threat of white expansion grew and the Kickapoo gradually migrated south. Resulting in the Kickapoo disbanding into the three distinct groups that exist today, the Oklahoma Kickapoo, the Kansas Kickapoo, and the Mexican Kickapoo (later Texan Kickapoo). During the Civil War Spain granted displaced Native Americans land in the northern part of the Spanish Territory of Mexico. These groups wanted to get out of the United States to get away from the American Armies who were either trying to recruit them to fight or massacre them for their resources. In 1865 a band of Kickapoo led by No-ko-aht traveling to Mexico to seek refuge, were attacked by Confederate soldiers and Texas Rangers, commanded by Captain Henry Fossett. The battle took place on a branch of Dove Creek, east of Mertzon, Texas. The Kickapoo were hunting when the battle began, chief No-ko-aht’s daughter was killed when she went to meet the troops with a white flag. The Battle of Dove Creek is well remembered because No-ko-aht’s account of the battle still exists, making it one of the rare occasions that the Native American side of these conflicts are heard. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This object is a contact printer made by Ansco Company in Binghamton, New York. Before photography became primarily digital, it was designed to create a photographic image from a film negative. Several images from a strip of film would be lined up on a sheet, creating rows of small picture prints, called contact prints. This contact printer was owned by James W. Zintgraff, Sr. Zintgraff, along with his son, James, Jr., owned and ran a well-known photography business in San Antonio from the 1920s through the 1980s.
James Zintgraff Sr. was a cameraman in Hollywood in the early 1920s. After deciding he didn’t like the pace of the west coast, he moved back to San Antonio with the idea of starting a local film industry. In 1927, he worked as a cameraman on a movie called “Wings,” which was filmed in several areas in and around San Antonio, and went on to become the very first movie to ever win best picture at the Academy Awards.
Around that same time, Zintgraff started a still photography business in his backyard. In the early days, the owner of the Coca-Cola plant in San Antonio would enlist Zintgraff to take pictures of the plant and warehouse. Zintgraff would run home, develop the pictures, and deliver them within four hours. He believed the owner was doing him a favor to help him get started.
Though there wasn’t much competition in the early days, James felt that Zintgraff Studios could attribute his success to “having a lot of good friends” from his time in Hollywood. When a movie premiere or famous people came to town, James would get the jobs through his Hollywood connections. Most notably, Zintgraff photographed Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman when they came to San Antonio for presidential duties. When James, Jr. joined his father’s business, he worked closely with Hollywood elites such as Cecil B. DeMille and even worked with John Wayne when he was filming The Alamo in Brackettville, a town about 130 miles west of San Antonio.
Through the years, Zintgraff Studios worked closely with some of the most well-known brands in the city, including Pearl, Lone Star, Rainbo Breads, and Coca- Cola. In addition, they were official photographers for the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, numerous Fiesta events, and captured thousands of photographs of area movie theaters, street scenes, parks, schools, and even the new Convention Center when it opened it the 1960s.
The photographs taken by the Zintgraff Studios span seven decades of history. They tell the story of San Antonio and its people. Today, more than 850,000 of the Zintgraff photographs are stored in the UTSA Special Collections Library, located inside the Institute of Texan Cultures. The moments they captured are locked in time, preserving a bit of the past for future generations. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This object is a quilt, made in the 1950s, in the African- American tradition of quilt-making. An appraiser from Antiques Roadshow was able to identify it based on the style, construction, and materials used. It appears to be hand-quilted and pieced, assembled in the strip construction technique, in which strips of scrap fabric were sewn together to create a pattern.
African textile traditions have not been well-documented in comparison to other types of folk art, however, it is thought that their origins can be traced back to four civilizations of Central and West Africa. In Africa, most textiles were made by men. It wasn’t until African slaves were brought to the United States that women took over the tradition, with work being divided based on Western gender roles.
By the time African-American quilting had become a tradition, it had been combined with traditions from the Caribbean, Central American, and southern United States. However, some distinct characteristics survived, and can still be identified in quilts today. Bold colors, strips of fabric, and symbolism are all dominant features in African-American quilting.
Large shapes and bright colors were used in African tribes to distinguish people from far distances. The ability to identify different warring tribes or hunting parties was crucial to survival. This use of bold colors and oversized shapes has endured in African- American textiles.
Combined with that is a distinct tradition of asymmetrical patterns and improvised designs. There are many reasons for this. The ability to change or alternate the pattern allowed quilters to get the most use of scrap fabrics, as opposed to a repeating pattern, that required specific colors in set quantities.
More importantly, breaks in patterns held great symbolism for African cultures. A break in pattern could symbolize rebirth in the power of the wearer or creator of the quilt. Pattern breaks were also believed to keep away evil. It was believed that evil traveled in a straight line, and by breaking the pattern, evil spirits would become confused and be slowed down. Improvising the patterning also ensured that the pattern could not be copied, and gave the creator and owner and strong sense of ownership and creativity.
Once in the United States, African quilts took on even more meaning. Many women would create story quilts, in which they would applique pictures onto their quilts. By doing this, they could record their family history- like a photo album- or tell a story in pictures. One of the most famous women to create story quilts was a freed slave named Harriet Powers. In 1896, she created an intricately-crafted quilt which she entitled “Bible Quilt”, depicting several Biblical stories. In 1898, she crafted the “Pictorial Quilt”, illustrating three rows of Bible stories, historical events, and significant weather anomalies. The “Pictorial Quilt” now hangs at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the “Bible Quilt” is housed at the Smithsonian Institution.
Few examples of African- American quilting tradition have survived through the years. They were considered necessities rather than luxuries, and most were worn out. However, men and women of African descent have kept the essence of the traditions alive, and are illustrated in pieces such as this quilt from the 1950s. What was once simply a functional piece of bedding, we know know is artistry to be preserved and celebrated. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]