Object Blog: Director’s Chair

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Director’s Chair
Metal, Cloth, Wood

Going to the movies is one of the most popular leisure activities in the United States. Getting a film made and in a theater near you requires a long list of people who work together to make it happen.  A person who plays a major role in the film making process is the director. The director of a film has control of what the film will eventually become. Film directors have many responsibilities that range from choosing the actors, to making sure the film stays on budget. This object is a film director’s chair used by Robert Rodriguez during the filming of Machete Kills.

Robert Anthony Rodriguez is a film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor, cartoonist and musician. Rodriguez was born in San Antonio, Texas in 1968 to Rebecca Villegas and Cecilio G. Rodriguez, both of Mexican descent. As the middle son, in a family with 10 children, Robert always stood out. His mother would take him and his siblings to the Olmos Theatre to watch classic films starring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. It was during these outings that a young Robert Rodriguez was inspired and knew that he wanted to make movies.  Robert made his first films using an old Super-8 camera he found that belonged to his family. With this camera Robert made all types of films.  Using his family as the cast and household items as props, Robert experimented with creating action, sci-fi and even stop motion films.

robert-rodriguez-on-set-1008820_196405323877472_347878817_o-1024x813In the 1980’s, Rodriguez’s father purchased him a video camera that recorded to tapes that could be played in a VCR, the latest form of film technology at the time. He uses these tapes to screen his movies for his friends and family, quickly becoming known around the neighborhood as the “kid who makes movies.” Following High School, wanted to attend the Communication College at the University of Texas, but a low GPA threatened his admittance. He created and submitted a film trilogy called Austin Stories as part of his application, the trilogy beat out some of the top students and he was accepted. Once in the film department, Rodriguez used $400 of his own money to come up with his biggest film at the time entitled Bedhead. The film went on to win an number of prizes at film festivals.

After receiving such positive reviews for his film Bedhead, Robert knew his dream of becoming a filmmaker could be possible.  In order to finance his first feature film Robert decided to sell his body to science, and participated in multiple medical studies. With the money he made as a medical research volunteer and the help of his friends, Rodriguez began his first feature length picture entitled El Mariachi. The film made its way to the Sundance Film Festival where it became an instant favorite. This film is often credited for launching Robert Rodriguez’s career getting him a deal with Columbia Pictures. Spy_kidsFollowing the film El Mariachi, Rodriguez worked on other films including Roadracers and cult classic From Dusk Till Dawn. Rodriguez later made a sequel to El Mariachi, called Desperado, and although it was not as well received as El Mariachi, it did help launch the careers of Selma Hayek and Antonio Banderas on the American film scene. Robert Rodriguez’s most successful film was also the least expected. Throughout his career  Rodriguez was known for his adult action films, but that changed when he wrote and directed Spy Kids in 2001. Spy Kids had so much success it became a movie franchise and was followed up by two more films.

The chair shown above was used during the filming of Machete Kills the sequel to the popular film Machete starring Danny Trejo. Today Robert Rodriguez is still working on films and has made a crossover into the television scene, recently launching the El Rey Network in 2013. His latest project is a TV series adaptation of his film From Dusk Till Dawn.

Additional Sources:

Berg, Charles Ramírez. Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, Resistance. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Chaplin, Charlie, and Kevin J. Hayes. Charlie Chaplin: Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.

Rodriguez, Robert. Rebel Without a Crew, or, How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player. New York: Penguin, 1996.

Object: Music Sheet

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Music, Sheet
“Texas Pride of the South”
Ella Hudson Day
20th Century
Materials: Paper

This is sheet music featuring music composed by Ella Hudson Day entitled “Texas Pride of the South.” Ella Hudson Day was born Luella Lucile Hudson in Texas and raised in the Hill County. Reportedly she started to compose piano music at the age of ten. She studied music and voice in Austin, Texas and was also known to have played a few stringed instruments. In her 20’s she taught music in San Marcos, Texas and later, Comanche, Texas. Luella married Eugene Ramsey Day on October 12, 1897. Her family was among the first to help establish Rotan, Texas in 1907. Her first composition “Quality Rag” was printed in 1909, followed by “Texas, Pride of the South” which is used in many Texas colleges and schools. Her most famous composition, “Fried Chicken” followed in 1912, and “You, Just You” in 1926. Her final composition was published in 1948, and was titled “I’m in Love With You.” Besides being a composer, she was a member of the Poetry Society of Texas, a newspaper correspondent, and represented the city of Rotan at the first Texas Centennial Celebration in Austin.

Texas has been the home and birthplace of many female composers. Among these composers was Raidie Britain, a classical composer who was based out of Silverton. Born in 1897, Raidie was educated in Chicago and Europe. By the time she was 91 years old, she had composed over 280 pieces for the orchestra, piano, organ, and chamber music. She was known to compose in a isolated canyon, seeking inspiration from the landscape of her southwest home.

Other Texan composers include Julia Frances Smith  born in Carwell, Texas in 1905. As a teenager she studied with Harold von Mickwitz at the Institute of Musical Arts in Dallas. She earned her Bachelors Degree from North Texas State Teachers College (now known as University of North Texas) in 1930 and her Masters & Doctorate degree (1933 and 1952 respectively) from Juliard. She mostly wrote classical compositions including “Waltz for Little ‘Lulu’” in 1937, the opera “Cynthia Parker” which premiered in 1939, and a composition written in honor of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration in 1965. Besides being a composer, she was an accomplished concert pianist, author, and advocate for women composers. Julia was also the chairman of the American Women Composers. After her death in 1989, her home became a part of the University of North Texas campus.

Female composer Mary Jeanne Van Appledorn was born in Holland, Michigan in 1927. She studied composition with Bernard Rogers and Alan Hovhaness at the Eastmen School of Music. There she earned a Bachelors Degree in 1948, a Masters Degree in 1950, and a Doctorate in 1966. She received several ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) awards between 1980 and 1988. In 1967 she was appointed as a teacher at Texas Tech University .

Contemporary female composer Tina Marsh was born in 1954 and was primarily based out of Austin, Texas. She was co-founder and creative director of the Creative Opportunity Orchestra Jazz ensemble. Tina also became a member of the Texas Hall of Fame as well as the Austin Arts Hall of Fame. Among her many talents, Tina was also a jazz vocalist.  [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Hudson, Kathleen. Women in Texas Music: Stories and Songs. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.

Jasinski, Laurie E., Casey J. Monahan, Gary Hartman, and Ann T. Smith. The Handbook of Texas Music. Denton, Tex: Texas State Historical Association, 2012.

Julia Smith Papers / Music Library

Object: Painting


“Helena Landa Fending off Robbers”
Michael Waters
Materials: Paint/Paper/Wood/Glass

This is a watercolor painting by Michael Waters entitled “Helena Landa Fending off Robbers.” It depicts Helena Landa, surrounded by four of her children, fending off robbers with a pistol in her family store in New Braunfels, Texas. Helena Landa was born Helena Friedlander in Kempen, Germany. Her husband, Joseph Landa, was born in Prussia in 1810. Joseph Landa moved to Texas in 1845, they were married in 1851 and had 7 children. When they moved to New Braunfels, they were the only Jewish family in their German community. They held regular services in their home and Helena prepared her own matzoh balls ever year for Passover.

This photograph is titled “A Texas Eden, Landa’s Park, New Braunfels, Texas” ca. 1865-1915

This photograph is titled “A Texas Eden, Landa’s Park, New Braunfels, Texas” ca. 1865-1915

Joseph opened a general store in San Antonio and one in New Braunfels. With the money he earned, they purchased up to thirty thousand acres of land around Texas. In 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation that granted slaves in the Confederate States freedom. Joseph Landa freed his slaves but feared confederates would harm him, so he fled to Matamoros, Mexico and left Helena in charge of their business interests. In his absence, Helena ran their general stores, sawmills, and cotton gin. After the American Civil War ended, Joseph returned home. After Joseph died in 1896, Helena helped her son Harry operate the Landa Roller Mills, the Cotton Oil Factory, the Electric Light and Power Plant, an ice-manufacturing plant, stock farm, and irrigated gardens.

Pioneer women in the 1800’s were able to support their families by working. They produced cheese, preserved food, and made soap and candles. Some women found jobs as seamstresses or washerwomen. Others became teachers or operated hotels. The Congress of the Republic of Texas adopted laws in 1840 that prevented married women from making contracts. However, some women were able to find loopholes around the law to allow them to engage in business ventures. In the 1900 U.S. Census the number of women in Texas who reported to be merchants or dealers totaled 531.

Landa Rock mill in 1972. The masonry building was built by Joseph Landa in 1875

Landa Rock mill in 1972. The masonry building was built by Joseph Landa in 1875

Texas was home to some notable women who found success as business owners. Sarah Horton Cockrell in Dallas, Texas helped her husband Alexander operate a sawmill, gristmill, and construction business. After her husband died in 1858, she took over their businesses and eventually opened the St. Nicholas Hotel in 1859. After that burned down, she built the Dallas Hotel in 1860. In 1872 she opened a suspension bridge that united Dallas with major roadways. In 1868 she was one of only 4 women who were members of the Dallas County Agricultural and Mechanical Association.

Another woman, Maria Gertrudis De La Garza Falcon, and her husband Jose Salvador de la Garza owned up to 284,416 acres of land, west of Brownsville. After her husband’s death, Maria became the owner of the land and all the livestock on it. Elizabeth Ellen Johnson Williams started out as a schoolteacher, but in 1871 she began to raise cattle and eventually became known as the “cattle queen”. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Myres, Sandra L. Westering Women and the Frontier Experience, 1800-1915. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

Ornish, Natalie. Pioneer Jewish Texans. 1st Texas A&M University Press ed. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2011

Stone, Bryan Edward. The Chosen Folks: Jews on the Frontiers of Texas. 1st ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

Weiner, Hollace Ava, Kenneth Roseman, and Texas Jewish Historical Society. Lone Stars of David: The Jews of Texas. Hanover;Waltham, Mass;: Brandeis University Press, 2007.

Object: Animal Bell

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Animal Bell
19th century
Materials: Metal

Today cars, buses, planes and ships have made it fairly easy to travel from one place to another. As technology advances so do the speeds of many of these transportation devices.  However, in the mid 1800s getting from one point to another was difficult. For the United States Army who had to travel from one place to another on foot or horseback, travel was long and hard. Travel time on horses depended on a variety of factors, such as water and terrain. The route the army had to take depended on where water was located for the animals but this often made the journey longer. Seeking a solution to the transportation problem, the United States Army tried an experiment using camels instead of horses for a brief period of time. This object is a reproduction bell like the ones that were used on these camels.

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis

Before railroads crisscrossed the nation there were very few routes available to transport goods and people in the sparsely populated western states. It was thought that camels, being specially adapted to going long distances in harsh terrain with minimal water needs, might be an ideal solution. So in 1853 Jefferson Davis, at the time serving as the Secretary of War, put out his annual report suggesting that camels could be a potential solution to the transportation problem. He was not the first person to suggest this, in 1836 Major George H. Crosman first suggested the use of camels after his experiences in the Black Hawk and Second Seminole wars. Also advocating the use of camels was George R. Glidden an archaeologist who had spent time working in Egypt wrote to the Senate Committee of Military Affairs in support of the use of camels. His main argument for using camels instead of mules was that camels would drink almost any kind of water, even brackish water.

It was not until Davis became Secretary of the War Department that camels were seriously considered for military transportation. However, he first tried to solve the water shortage problem along the routes by building additional wells, but failed. Davis stated that camels were used in other parts of the world where the environment was less than ideal. He believed that the dromedary camel could be used in the “carrying of expresses, making reconnaissance, and moving troops rapidly around the country.” So in the early months of 1855, Davis was granted 30,000 dollars to be used in the camel experiment. Davis was able to send a ship to North Africa and the Levant to purchase the camels that would be put to the test. The project was overseen by Major Henry C. Wayne.

Dromedary camel

Dromedary camel

Major Wayne learned a lot about the camels while on the expedition. He learned about the camel’s hump and how it was made up of gelatinous fat which provided the camel with sustenance when it was deprived of food. The camel was able to travel long distances, almost 60 hours non-stop if need be. He learned that the camel traveled well on leveled land and did fair on mountain and valley travel. Camels had calloused soles which enabled them to travel on sandy soils but weren’t well suited for wet clay and mud. Traveling through different terrains and plant life, the camel ate almost any kind of shrubs, even thorny ones. Camel meat was edible and resembled beef, and the milk it provided was similar to a cows. A camel was able to travel six to seven days without water which would solve the issue of not having water on the routes used in the United States.

After hiring people to serve as camel attendants and saddle makers, 33 camels made their way to the Texas coast on February 11, 1856. Having money left over from the expedition, Davis sent for more camels and on February 10, 1857 forty one more camels landed in Indianola, Texas. The camels were sent to join the first shipment northwest of San Antonio.  Most of the camels were in overall good health except for few camels who had swollen legs from the long journey. The camels were marched west several miles at a time to help them get adjusted to their new home. The camels were moved from camp to camp until a perfect settlement was found in Camp Verde, Texas. The camels overall proved to be useful, being able to carry up to 600 pounds, and got accustomed to the terrain. There was also some mishaps with the camels as some got sick, and others had bad tempers. Many horses panicked around camels and soldiers did not want to be near them.

Camel at Drum Barracks, San Pedro, California

Camel at Drum Barracks, San Pedro, California

In February 1861 Confederate forces took over Camp Verde and with the U.S. Civil War about to break out, no one knew what to do with the animals. For a while the camels were used to travel to Arizona and California and carry supplies and messages. Some of the camels were used to give rides to children, and some were put on auction. Even though the camels proved to be useful, the people who were going to be using them were not convinced. They believed the camels could not make a difference and thought of them as a nuisance. Jefferson Davis who was the main advocate for the camels became President of the Confederate States and could no longer focus on the camels. The camel experiment ultimately failed and the soldiers continued to use horses, eventually upgrading transportation devices as technology advanced. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources: 

Davis, Jefferson, Lynda Lasswell Crist, Mary Seaton Dix, and Kenneth H. Williams. The Papers of Jefferson Davis. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971.

Faulk, Odie B. The U.S. Camel Corps: An Army Experiment. New York: Oxford

Lammons, Frank Bishop. 1957. “Operation Camel: An Experiment in Animal Transportation in Texas, 1857-1860”. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 61, no. 1: 20-50.

Sorenson, Michael. Military Images Magazine, March 1, 2006, 1-3.

Object: Lithograph

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“I am Woman”
Frank Spivey
Materials: Paint/Cloth


Cathay Williams via Wikimedia Commons

This is a lithograph of a painting by Frank Spivey entitled “I am Woman.” It depicts Civil War soldier Cathay Williamsthe first documented African-American woman to have served as a solider in the U.S. Army. Because U.S. Army regulations prohibited the enlistment of women into military service, Cathay Williams enlisted with the United States Regular Army on November 15, 1886 in St. Louis, Missouri as Private William Cathay. Disguised as a man, records give her age at the time of enlistment as 22 years old. She was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry, one of four segregated African-American units under the command of white officers. While the Union is historically portrayed as anti-slavery, officials at the time were concerned that integrating white and African-American soldiers would offend Northern conservatives. Lincoln eventually allowed for African-Americans to enlist, yet kept them segregated. During her time of service, the 38th Infantry spent time training and scouting for signs of hostiles in such locations as the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Fort Harker in Kansas, and Fort Bayard in New Mexico. On October 14, 1868 she was discharged from military service with a certificate of disability. A certificate of disability allowed soldiers to end their military service due to injury. Later, the certificate could be used to obtain pension. Little else is known about Cathay, her life after the military, or her death. In June of 1891 she filed an application for invalid pension claiming she had gone deaf due to her military service. Only after she filed the claim was it revealed she was a woman. The Pension Bureau eventually rejected her claim. It is presumed Cathay Williams died between 1892 and 1900.

During the Civil War, women found several ways to contribute to the war effort on both the Union and Confederate sides as everything from spies to vivandieres – women that followed the troops and provided support. Occasionally, like Cathay, women would disguise themselves as men in order to enlist for military service. The estimated number of women who did so are somewhere between four hundred and seven hundred and fifty. It was not hard for women to pass as men during the Civil War. Men were required to pass an initial examination in order to enlist, but the exam was often very basic and women were not found out. In 1861 United States Sanitary Commission reviewed the sanitary and medical conditions of two hundred federal regiments. The commission found that 59 percent of the regiments failed to sufficiently examining their recruits at the time of enlistment. Even though soldiers lived in close proximity, they rarely removed their clothing and due to the constant movement of their regiments, the outdoors provided ample cover for bodily functions. Additionally, a number large number of young men and children enlisted, allowing women to go undetected with their higher voices and lack of facial hair. On occasion women were discovered during service when they became pregnant or during the treatment of certain wounds. When they were discovered, they were immediately discharged, though records indicate some women went to other regiments and reenlisted. When the enemy captured a female soldier, many times she was exchanged or returned to her army and then discharged.

Sarah Edmonds as Frank Thompson

Sarah Edmonds as Frank Thompson via Wikimedia Commons

At least five women are known to have fought at the battle of Gettysburg and ten at the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg. A survey conducted of over two hundred and forty known female soldiers provides some information regarding their lives during service. It found that twice as many women served in the Union army compared to the Confederate army. It also showed that 15% of those female soldiers suffered wounds and they were more likely to have died on the battlefield, or from wounds received during battle, rather than from disease. The study found their term of service lasted on average 16 months and they were often promoted at a rate 14% higher than their male compatriots. Besides Cathay Williams, a few famous female soldiers during the Civil War include Sarah Edmonds who served as Franklin Thompson, Jennie Hodgers who served as Albert D. J. Cashier, and Sarah Rosetta Wakeman who served as Lyons Wakeman.

Today women who fought in the Civil War are getting more attention. There have been a good amount of books published on these women.  J.R. Hardman decided to participate in Civil War reenactments and made a documentary called Reenactress about her experience. A Civil War reenactment is when individuals act out a famous battle of the civil war with fake artillery and weapons but dressed in the clothing of that period. In a effort to get the story of these women out there filmmaker Maria Agui Carter made a film about Loreta Velasquez who also fought in the Civil War. [Ashton Meade, Edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Blanton, DeAnne, and Lauren M. Cook. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. 2002.

Glasrud, Bruce A., and Michael N. Searles. Buffalo Soldiers in the West: A Black Soldiers Anthology. College Station, Tex: Texas A & M University Press, 2007.

Leonard, Elizabeth D. All the Daring of the Soldier: Women of the Civil War Armies. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 1999.

Object: Drawing


Jack “Herc” Ficklen
20th century
Materials: paper, ink

Known as one of the greatest commanders in U.S. history, this object is a drawing of Dwight D. Eisenhower also known as “Ike.” Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas in 1890 and would go on to be the 34th president of the United States. He is also the last president to be born in the 19th century. Dwight Eisenhower was the son of David Jacob Eisenhower and Ida Elizabeth (Stover) Eisenhower. The family moved to Abilene, Kansas  in 1892 and Dwight considered this his hometown. He attended Abilene High School  and graduated in 1909, but was not able to attend college due to financial reasons. Ike’s brother also wanted to attend college so the brothers made a deal that one would work while the other attended college. After his first year Ike’s brother wanted a second year so, at the urging of a friend, Ike applied to the naval academy because no tuition was required. Ike requested consideration for West Point or Annapolis from his U.S. Senator and although he won the entrance exam competition, he was too old for Annapolis.  Eisenhower accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy of West Point in 1911, and graduated in 1915. Following graduation Eisenhower was stationed in San Antonio, Texas where he met his wife Mamie Geneva Doud.

1024px-Eisenhower_d-dayDuring World War I Ike served with infantry in both Texas and Georgia. He was denied an overseas assignment and was instead placed with a new tank corps and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. During this time Ike showed exceptional organizational skill and was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. However, he was disappointed because he did not see combat. He would however, have a big role to play oversea during World War II. Following WWI Eisenhower served as an aide to Douglas MacArthur and was stationed in the Philippines until 1939, right before the Nazi invasion of Poland. After the attack of Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was called to D.C. to be a planning officer. He would command the Allied Forces landing in North Africa known as Operation Torch. He was also Supreme Commander on D-Day of the troops invading France, this was known as Operation Overload.

After the war Eisenhower became the President of Columbia University in New York City. However, he was then commissioned by President Truman to take command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe also known as NATO. In 1952 he was persuaded to run for President of the United States with the support of President Truman. He resigned his command at NATO and ran as a Republican, using the campaign slogan “I like Ike.” I_like_IkeEisenhower won the Presidency by a landslide becoming the 34th President of the United States. In November of 1956 he would be elected for his second term. Throughout his Presidency Eisenhower had to face issues dealing with ending the Korean War, containing Communism, and try to strengthen relations with the Soviet Union, as well as the civil rights issues present in United States. As President he was able to ensure a secure economy and kept many New Deal and Fair Deal programs. Perhaps his most enduring project was the creation of the Interstate Highway System, which was responsible for 41,000 miles of roads across the country. After the launch of Sputnik, Eisenhower launched a campaign to support space exploration, science and higher education. This would result in the creation of NASA.

Eisenhower left the White House in 1961 and although he received criticism from both sides he had favorable approval ratings overall. He retired to his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with his wife. After a long illness Dwight D. Eisenhower passed away on March 28, 1969. Today he is remembered for his role in WWII, ending the Korean War, and the creation of the Interstate Highway system. Throughout the United States multiple memorials can be seen dedicated in his name, and his farmhouse can still be visited. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources: 

Ambrose, Stephen E. Eisenhower. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Eisenhower, Dwight D., and Robert H. Ferrell. The Eisenhower Diaries. New York: Norton, 1981.

Eisenhower, Dwight D., Alfred D. Chandler, Louis Galambos, and Daun Van Ee. The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970.

Mieczkowski, Yanek. Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment: The Race for Space and World Prestige. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

Object: Pamphlet

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Mexican & American
San Antonio, TX
Materials: Paper, ink

In April 1968 the city of San Antonio celebrated its 250th anniversary by having a 6 month long International Exposition. The exposition was part of the World’s Fair, World Exposition or Universal Exposition as they were known. This International Exposition would be the first held in the southwestern United States. The exposition became known as Hemisfair ’68 and the theme was “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas.” The exposition hosted about 30 national pavilions from all over the world. This object is pamphlet for the Mexican Pavilion, one of the many pavilions at the exposition.


Logo of HemisFair ’68

The tradition of World Fairs or expositions can be traced back to France where national expositions were often held. These expositions eventually led to the French Industrial Exposition in Paris 1844. After this fair, countries around the world such as United Kingdom started having their own expositions. The first major international exposition was held in London and has been called “The Great Exhibition.”  It was this exposition that set the precedent for the expositions which would go in to be called World Fairs.

The character of World Fairs has changed throughout the years and can be categorized into three eras, industrialization 1851-1938 , cultural exchange 1939-1987 and nation branding 1988-Present. Hemisfair ’68 would have fallen into cultural exchange era. With the theme being “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas” Hemisfair aimed to show San Antonio’s ethnically mixed cultural heritage and placed an emphasis on the city becoming a future center of international commerce and cultural exchange between the United States and Latin America. With almost thirty pavilions at Hemisfair ’68 the Mexican Pavilion was one of the biggest.med_res

However, there were a few issues that had to be resolved before Mexico agreed to attend the fair. Mexico had felt insulted and felt that the creators of the HemisFair were competing with Mexico. This was because Mexico was hosting the Olympic Games being held from October 12-October 27 of 1968, which would have coincided with HemisFair. Mexico threatened to not attend unless the dates of the fair were changed. HemisFair was then rescheduled to April 6th through October 6th, so as not to conflict with the Mexico City Games. The Mexican pavilion was “divided into several areas displaying Mexico’s rich history through art, artifacts and multimedia.” Some of the most memorable features of the Mexican pavilion were giant Olmec heads, a floating stage, a Mexican restaurant, and the many artists that could be seen performing throughout the day.

When Hemisfair ’68 came to an end, many of the structures were taken down.  However, after many world fairs some structures are left standing and become iconic landmarks for the city. For example the Seattle space needle, and Eiffel Tower are two structures that remained after a world fair and are still popular landmarks today. In San Antonio there are several structures that are still in use today including the Tower of the Americas, The Institute of Texan Cultures,  and the Mexico Pavilion which is now known as the Mexican Cultural Institute.

Floating stage at the Mexican pavilion.

Floating stage at the Mexican pavilion.

Today the Mexican Cultural Institute is still in the same location it was in in 1968. The structure has since been remodeled and expanded. The institute hosts art exhibits, music concerts, plays, and academic events that showcase Mexican culture. The institute has 4 galleries of changing exhibits and an auditorium, and admission to the institute is free to the public. Although, it has been nearly 50 years since HemisFair ’68 the impact it had on San Antonio can still be seen today. With the city of San Antonio’s 300th anniversary just around the corner in 2018, and the current revitalization at HemisFair Park well underway, it will be exciting to see what celebrations the city has in store to mark this milestone. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Fisher, Lewis F. Saving San Antonio: The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage. Lubbock, Tex: Texas Tech University Press, 1996.

Holmesly, Sterlin. Hemisfair ’68 and the Transformation of San Antonio. San Antonio, Tex: Maverick, 2003.

Mattie, Erik. World’s fairs. New York City, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

San Antonio. Sculpture, Murals & Fountains at HemisFair ’68: An Anthology of Contemporary Art from the Works of One Hundred and Sixteen Artists from Twenty-Nine Nations and Six Ontinents. San Antonio: San Antonio Fair Inc, 1968.


Object: Cut Paper Work

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“Papel Picado”
20th Century
Materials: Paper

Every year from September 15 through October 15 Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States. The month commemorates “the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.” In San Antonio the influence of Mexican culture is prominent and can be seen throughout the city. Historic Market Square in San Antonio is one of the best places around town to see decorations, art, and try delicious food.  This object is what is known as papel picado which translates to punched or perforated paper. Usually seen at various Mexican and Mexican-American celebrations such as birthday parties, Mexican Independence Day and Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead.

The history of papel picado can be traced back to the Aztecs who used the bark of mulberry and fig trees to make a rough paper called amatl or amate. Amatl was used during rituals to create flags and banners that would then be used to decorate temples, streets, and homes. A popular ritual involved having the amatl paper sprayed with liquid rubber in a ritual having to do with the rain gods.  Amatl paper was popular until the Spanish conquest when the production of amatl paper was banned and only European paper was allowed.

Papel picado tools

Papel picado tools

Papel picado can be made using a number of different techniques. A simple way of making papel picado is to fold tissue paper and cut it with scissors. This is usually the same way paper snowflake decorations are made. However, trained craftsmen use tools such as awls, chisels and special blades to cut stacks of paper, cutting as many as 50 sheets at a time. These men have been doing the job for generations and can produce complex designs on the paper. The designs can include flowers, skeletons, foliage, birds, angels, crosses, historic figures, or words. The borders usually also have pattern that is either scalloped, straight, or zig-zagged.

Dia De Los Muertos Alter

Dia De Los Muertos Alter

Today papel picado is very popular during Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. This holiday is mainly celebrated in Mexico but other forms of this holiday are celebrated around the world. In communities in the United States with Mexican-American residents, such as San Antonio, the holiday is extremely popular. The holiday focuses on families getting together to pray and remember friends and family who have passed away. Traditions for the holiday include making altars. These altars often include papel picado along with photographs and food offerings. Many of these offering include objects that deceased enjoyed during life. So the next time you are in San Antonio’s Historic Market Square be on the lookout for these colorful works of art.  [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Newson, Linda A., and John King. Mexico City Through History and Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 2009.

Pomar, María Teresa. El Día De Los Muertos: The Life of the Dead in Mexican Folk Art : Essays. Fort Worth, Tex: Fort Worth Art Museum, 1987.

University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. The Mexican Texans. [San Antonio]: [The Institute], 1971.

Object: Lantern

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“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.


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