Tag Archive | Ceramic

Exhibit floor highlight



Exhibit floor highlight


Object: Decanter

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HemisFair 68 Jim Beam Decanter Souvenir
San Antonio, Texas
Materials: Ceramic and Paint

This object is a souvenir Jim Beam decanter commemorating the HemisFair of 1968. A decanter is a decorative ceramic or glass bottle, with a stopper, used to store alcohol. This Jim Beam decanter has the Tower of Americas and part of the state of Texas and its landscape sculpted into the shape of a decanter. The Tower of the Americas is a famous landmark in San Antonio, TX dating back to HemisFair of 1968. This decanter was mass-produced by Regal China Co., and sold during HemisFair, as a cross-promotion for the James B. Beam Distilling Co..

The HemisFair was a World’s Fair that was held from April 6, 1968 to October 6, 1968, in San Antonio, Texas. HemisFair welcomed over thirty nations and six million visitors. The Tower of the Americas was built especially for HemisFair, and was completed just days before the start of the fair. The tower measures 622 feet tall from ground to the highest architectural element, with the observation floor at 579 feet, making it the 29th tallest building in the state of Texas. It was the tallest observation tower in the United States until 1997, when the Stratosphere Tower was built in Las Vegas.

Blueprint of the Eiffel Tower by one of its main engineers, Maurice Koechlin (ca. 1884). Image via Wikimedia Commons

Blueprint of the Eiffel Tower by one of its main engineers, Maurice Koechlin (ca. 1884). Image via Wikimedia Commons

Observation towers have been associated with several World Fair venues. The 1889 Paris World’s Fair commemorated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and included the construction of the now world-famous Eiffel Tower. Built by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel‘s construction company, Eiffel et Compagnie, and largely based off designs by Maurice Koechlin. Observation towers were also built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, and others. [Adriana Christian, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Hodges, Justine. Tower of the Americas: Guidebook. San Antonio [Tex.]: Edward O. Goetz, 1968.

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

Lemoine, Bertrand. The Eiffel Tower. Cologne: Taschen GmbH, 2008.

Wallace, Thomas M. 2016. “The Tallest Buildings In The World”. The Civil Engineering Blog: Being Brunel. 2016-05.

Object: Commemorative Plate


HemisFair Commemorative Plate
San Antonio, Texas
Materials: Ceramic, glaze

This object is a painted commemorative ceramic plate, decorated with a scene of HemisFair ’68 within the outline of the State of Texas. This plate was made to commemorate the 1968 worlds fair in San Antonio. Memorabilia items like this plate are widely available on the internet for collectors today and were mass-produced for sale and distribution during the fair.

HemisFair was name of the World’s Fair that was held for six months, from April 6, 1968 to October 6, 1968, in San Antonio, Texas. The HemisFair commemorated the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio in 1718. The theme of the event was the “Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas.” This theme captured the variety of cultures, traditions, and heritages in San Antonio.

The HemisFair’68 had its beginning in February of 1958 when Jerome K Harris introduced the idea to the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He explained that the fair would celebrate the cultural heritage shared by San Antonio and the nations of Latin America. Henry B. Gonzales, San Antonio Congressman, eventually endorsed this idea, and initial planning for the World’s Fair began. The project officially began in 1965 when San Antonio received their official Fair status by the Bureau International des Expositions, who governs and runs the World’s Fairs. Their objective is to bring order to exposition scheduling and to make clear the rights and responsibilities of the host city and the participants.

An aerial view of the Institute of Texan Cultures and Fiesta Island at HemisFair'68. UTSA Special Collections Library, Digital Identifier CD # 850 ; 108-0157.tif.

An aerial view of the Institute of Texan Cultures and Fiesta Island at HemisFair’68. UTSA Special Collections Library, Digital Identifier CD # 850 ; 108-0157.tif.

HemisFair welcomed over thirty nations and six million visitors. This was the first designated international exposition in the Southwestern United States. Today, a number of buildings built for HemisFair remain, including the Tower of the Americas; the State of Texas Pavilion, the largest of the fair buildings, is now the site of the Institute of Texan Cultures; and the former U.S. Pavilion complex and circular theater were converted into the Federal Courthouse.

The first World’s Fair was held in London, England in 1851 in Hyde Park. The World’s Fair is a large international exhibition that showcases an array of cultural, industrial, and scientific items, at an assigned site from three to six months. This fair includes exhibit from countries around the world, along with entertainment, food and beverages, rides, and attractions. Throughout the centuries, the World’s Fair has been held at sites around the world such as Paris, Australia, Hanoi (French Indochina), Japan, the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, and several other countries. [Adriana Christian edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources

HemisFair ’68 History. University of Texas at San Antonio. http://libguides.utsa.edu/HemisFair68

Freymann, Carlos. “Interview with Carlos Freymann, 1979.” Interview by Ester G. MacMillan. UTSA Libraries Digital Collections. University of Texas at San Antonio, 1979.

Perry, Joseph A. “Interview with Joseph A. Perry, 1984.” Interview by Ester G. MacMillan. UTSA Libraries Digital Collections. University of Texas at San Antonio, 1984.

Sinkin, William. “Interview with William Sinkin, 1995.” Interview by Sterlin Holmesly. UTSA Libraries Digital Collections. University of Texas at San Antonio, 1995.

Object: Jar

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Pottery, Bowl
Artist(s): (Possibly) Maria and Julian Martinez
San Ildefonso Pueblo
New Mexico
Material: Ceramic

We have a pottery mystery here at the Institute of Texan Cultures. This piece of pottery was given to the museum with little historical background provided. After cataloging, photographing and inspecting its condition, a signature was found on the bottom and it appears to read: Marie + Julian. These are the names of one of the most famous producing pottery couples out of the southwest. They were masters of their craft, perfecting techniques that others today can only aspire to match. Yet, for being masters of their craft this pot is a bit underwhelming. It does not have the quality most commonly associated with Marie + Julian pottery. Thus, we must investigate further.


Map by Paula Giese, via http://www.kstrom.net

First we should start with what we know about the piece of pottery we have in the museum collection. In analyzing the piece we need to make note of as many details as we can, because no matter how big or small they could be a clue. Notice the color, shape and designs. Each of these characteristics can help identify where a piece of pottery came from. For example, the southwest is well known for its elaborately decorated pottery. Some pieces have distinctive designs, some are made of characteristic types of clay or finishes, others have symbolic shapes such as the wedding vase. The shape of a wedding vase is a symbol of unity, the unity between a man and a woman. It has a large round base for liquid and two spouts for the couple to drink from. This pot is 6 x 8.5 inches, black, with evidence of design work on the upper shoulder of the pot. The inside was left unfinished and there are signatures on the bottom of the pot that looks like Marie + Julian.

Maria and Julian Martinez are legendary names amongst potters, avid collectors and museums. Maria Martinez grew up in San Ildefonso Pueblo, just twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. San Ildefonso has a rich history with evidence dating back to as early as 1300 A.D. The San Ildefonso people had many struggles over the years, from an uprising in 1696 to later colonial encounters that would spread illness through the pueblo, such as smallpox and pandemics like the 1918 Spanish flu. A once thriving population was diminished to only ninety by 1918. Arts and crafts became essential to the San Ildefonso economy soon after during the 1920s as they lacked the people and resources to maintain a thriving agricultural economy. The influence and attention that Maria and Julian’s pottery brought to the community helped build the reputation of an otherwise suffering San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Maria Martinez learned traditional pottery techniques of the area from her family as a young girl. Later in an effort to prefect her craft, she studied the excavated pottery from local archaeological sites. Maria alongside her husband Julian Martinez would spend their lives designing and teaching pottery to others. The two married in 1897. Maria and Julian Martinez were a perfect team. Maria focused on making the pieces of pottery themselves while Julian would paint and add detailed designs to the pieces. Julian Martinez is known for mastering the technique that creates the black on black finish you see on this object.

Maria Martinez…San Ildefonso Pueblo video:

The inscription seems like a dead giveaway that this piece of pottery must be a work of Marie and Julian Martinez. The signature even has the ‘+’ symbol that is typical of their pieces produced between 1925 and 1943. Yet, the history of Maria Martinez signing pottery is a long one. When Maria and Julian first began producing pottery they didn’t sign their work. Even after they did start signing their works,  the style of the signature would periodically change. Maria, while not officially changing her name, would sometimes sign her name “Marie.” It is said she was advised to do so because Marie was a more commonly recognized English name and Julian’s name was omitted entirely at first because pottery making was the work of women. As their work developed and gain notoriety they began to sign each piece ‘Marie + Julian’ and this would remain their signature until 1943 when Julian Martinez passed away. Marie surrounded by the support of her children would continue to make pottery with her daughter-in-law and son who took on the black on black design work of his father.

The following video can tell you more about Maria Martinez signatures.

Compared to many of the pieces of pottery by Maria and Julian Martinez the craftsmanship of this piece is lacking. The black on black design is barely recognizable at first glance and has a rough, raised and bubbled look to it. This might be the result of damage, or simply a “bad batch” made of lesser quality materials or due to a problem with the firing conditions. The signature indicates that it couldn’t be one of their earlier works, when they were still learning their craft, as those pieces would have been unsigned. Of course, due to the popularity and value of Maria pottery, this piece could also be an attempted forgery. Unfortunately we don’t always get all the details when objects are donated as museum artifacts, and many authentications must be based on expert opinions. Without further research, we can only say that this piece might have been made by Maria and Julian Martinez. What do you think? Is this a Maria Martinez original? Let us know by writing a comment below! [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

C. Norris Millington. Modern Indian Pottery. The American Magazine of Art Vol. 24, No. 6 (JUNE 1932) , pp. 449-454.

Cody Hartley. Maria Martinez, Industrial Designer. IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology . Vol. 34, No. 1/2, IA IN ART (2008) , pp. 73-86. Society for Industrial Archeology.

F. W. Putnam. Archeological Frauds. Science . Vol. 1, No. 4 (Mar. 2, 1883) , p. 99. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

L. P. Gratacap. An Archeological Fraud. Science . Vol. 8, No. 196 (Nov. 5, 1886) , pp. 403-404. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Object: Commemorative Plate

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Commemorative Plate
Plate made by Pickard China, image painted by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk
United States
ca. 1986
Material: Ceramic

One cannot visit San Antonio without taking a trip to the Alamo. Usually after visiting the IMAX theater inside the Rivercenter mall where the movie Alamo: The Price of Freedom is continuously showing; here is a link of show times. In Texas, the Alamo is a top tourist destination visited by more than 2.5 million people a year. The object featured in this blog is commemorative gold rimmed plate commemorating the 1836 fall of the Alamo. Another popular way to commemorate the story of The Alamo  has been through film. To date there have been 15 films based on the Alamo, the first was a silent film made in 1911 and the most recent was made in 2004. Although, some of these films are historically inaccurate and sometimes surrounded by controversy “the Alamo makes a good backdrop to tell stories of patriotism, courage, sacrifice and duty.”


Image from “The Immortal Alamo.” Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The first known movie about the Alamo is titled The Immortal Alamo and was released on May 25, 1911. No known copy of the film exists, only still photographs and reviews in a journal titled Moving Picture World remain. The Immortal Alamo was 10 minutes long and was said to have been shot on location in San Antonio. However, this cannot be confirmed since no actual footage exists.  The Immortal Alamo follows a “pretty girl, shy hero, and villain.” Richard Flores author of Remembering The Alamo: Memory, Modernity, & the Master Symbol claims this film is one of the earliest attempt at a historical documentary.  Four years later a film called Martyrs of the Alamo was made. Compared to the film The Birth of a Nation, the film projected racist rhetoric, and reinforced white supremacy. The film given the subtitle The Birth of Texas and was re-released with that title in the 1920s. The film captured audiences nationwide and can still be seen on archive.org: Martyrs of the Alamo.

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Movie poster for the 1960’s “The Alamo.” Image from Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most popular movies depicting the Alamo is the 1960 film starring John Wayne. The film titled The Alamo is one of the most expensive Alamo films made. John Wayne’s vision was to make the a historically accurate film about the Alamo. However, he mainly succeeded in producing an accurate set. After looking at different locations to shoot the film including Mexico, Peru, and Panama. It was ultimately decided that the film would be shot in Texas. This decision came after people in Texas threatened to boycott the film if it was shot in Mexico, even though in 1836 the Alamo was located inside Mexican territory. The location for the film was a 22,000 acre ranch owned by James T. “Happy” Shahan. The film premiered at the Woodlawn Theatre on October 24, 1960 and received mixed reviews. It was praised by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas but some film critics stated it was boring and too long. The film did receive 7 Academy Award Nominations, including Best Picture, but only won one for sound. It has been argued that in the end the film had little to do with 1836 and more with John Wayne’s own vision and politics. The set of the 1960 film, called Alamo Village, remained open decades after the film was shot and became a tourist destination. In 2010 Alamo Village closed permanently and is currently for sale. The set is not well preserved and some of the buildings are succumbing to the elements. A businessman from Corpus Christi reportedly has plans to buy the set and turn it into a theme park.

In May 2002 director Ron Howard and Governor Rick Perry held a conference and announced that a new Alamo movie was in the works. According to Don Graham, the 9/11 attacks  “led to an urgency to the idea of a movie about Americans taking a stand.”  Ron Howard met with various historians in Austin who urged him to make the film as historically accurate as possible. Howard left the project due to differences with Disney over an R rating and budget. John Lee Hancock, a native Texan, took over as screenwriter and director. Hancock knew he would receive criticism whether he did a poorly researched film or a film that was well researched. Two historians were hired as consultants who would sit behind the camera and look for mistakes. For example, placements of flags and what kind of buttons should be on the uniforms. The film was shot on Reimer Ranch near Dripping Springs, Texas. The Curator of the Alamo, Bruce Winders stated “it’s probably the most accurate portrayal of the Alamo.” The film was set to premiere on Christmas day 2003 however, it was pushed back, making many question the film. Usually when a movie is pushed back it means there is a trouble, although that is not always the case. The film opened in San Antonio on March 27, 2004 and nationwide April 9, 2004. The film received mixed reviews but most were negative. Some called it a “dry history lesson” others an “over achieving made for TV movie and a dolled up history lesson.” So why did the movie fail? Don Graham states it could be because the film clashed with everyone’s collective memory of the siege of the Alamo.

As for future films depicting the story of the Alamo, a new TV mini-series called Texas Rising will premiere on television and some theaters. The series will air on the History Channel and is produced by ITV Studios America and A&E Studios. The release date is set for May 25, 2015. The mini-series will portray the Texas Revolution and the how the Texas Rangers were created. The series will star Bill Paxton, Chad Michael Murray, Ray Liotta, Olivier Martinez and others. How this miniseries will be received and whether it is historically accurate is something we will have to wait for. So what is your favorite Alamo movie?  Leave your responses in the comments below. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Sources:
Flores, Richard R. 2002. Remembering the Alamo: memory, modernity, and the master symbol. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Graham, Don. 2004. “Mission Statement: The Alamo And The Fallacy of Hisotrical Accuracy in Epic Filmmaking.” In Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas, by Gregg Canterll and Elizabeth H. Turner, 242-269. Texas A&M University Press.

Thompson, Frank. 2006. “Reprinting the Legend: The Alamo on Film.” Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television 20-25.

Thompson, Frank T., and Fess Parker. 1991. Alamo movies. East Berlin, PA: Old Mill Books.

Sneak Peek

The exhibits team at the Institute of Texan Cultures has almost finished the installation of a exhibition called Folklife in the Piney Woods of Texas. The exhibit officially opens on June 7th and features folk arts, crafts, and traditions from the Piney Woods region. Below are a few sneak peek images from the exhibit installation, come join us at Texas FolkLife Festival to see this great new exhibit in person!

Object: Pipe

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Caddo effigy pipe (reproduction)
Materials: Ceramic

This item is a modern reproduction of a Caddo effigy pipe. Effigies are a type of vessel or small sculpture that has been made to resemble a human or animal. It is common to see effigies in the form of pipes like this one and even bowls, plates, or other small vessels. Effigies are not limited to just the Caddo, they are seen all over the world, even today. The Caddo is a group of Native Americans who resided in northeastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana, southwestern Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and stretched up to parts of Missouri at one point in time.


A map showing the geographical extent of the Caddoan Mississippian culture of prehistoric southeastern North America and some important sites. Image via Wikimedia Comons.

The Caddo are considered to be a part of the Mississippian culture group. This group is defined by a time period called the Mississippian Period. This period was the last stage of Prehistoric America and lasted from 800 AD to 1600 AD. The group is labeled together by similar traits in culture, economics, language, and politics. Some of these traits included material culture such as pottery and vessels like the Caddo pipe effigy. The Mississippians were well known for being Mound Builders. These mounds were large platforms made with soil which are found in many areas of the southeastern United States. The reasons for building these mounds varied from tribe to tribe, the functions however, they were usually used to show political power or for use in religious ceremonies.

The Caddo tribes were one of the groups who participated in mound building. Here in Texas we have several examples of mound construction. These mounds tell us about the Caddo’s political and social order. In these many of these mounds, scientists have found human burials along with ceramics, shells, copper and other material items. This  might suggest these people were of a special social or political class, within Caddo society.


Caddoan Mississippian culture pottery. Image via Wikimedia Comons.

These mounds also provide us with important examples of Caddo pottery and other ceramics, such as the effigy pipe. This type of artwork helps archaeologists identify cultural groups, their territories and establish time periods, such as the Mississippian. Based on archaeological findings, we now know that the Caddo would make different jars, bowls, bottles, and other storage items for ceremonial use and a utilitarian type of bowls and jars for everyday activities. Both types had engraving, incising, and/or stamping for decoration. Decoration usually included a series of vertical and horizontal lines or geometric shapes. These lines and shapes changed over time, giving archaeologists a way create timelines and date objects.


Caddo burial mound at the Caddo Mound Texas State Historic Site Park near Alto, Texas. Image by © N. Saum.

Mounds have also provide us with important information about ancient Caddo housing. Archaeologists have found evidence that some houses were built on top of many of these mounds. They have found that Texas Caddo houses tended to be shaped like a cone. The frame of the house was made of wood, and  then covered with grasses. In the middle of the house a single pole supported the weight of the roof. Sometimes these houses had entryways, which help to identify the front and inside many of these houses were fire-pits.  [McKayla McCarty, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
La Vere, David. 1998. The Caddo chiefdoms: Caddo economics and politics, 700-1835. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

McKinnon, D.P. 2009. “Exploring Settlement Patterning at a Premier Caddo Mound Site in the Red River Great Bend Region”. SOUTHEASTERN ARCHAEOLOGY. 28 (2): 248-258.  

Milner, George R. 2004. The moundbuilders: ancient peoples of eastern North America. London: Thames & Hudson.

Perttula, Timothy K., and Chester P. Walker. 2012. The Archaeology of the Caddo. University of Nebraska Press.

Perttula, T.K. 2009. “Extended Entranceway Structures in the Caddo Archaeological Area”. SOUTHEASTERN ARCHAEOLOGY. 28 (1): 27-42.

Trubitt, M.B. 2009. “Burning and Burying Buildings: Exploring Variation in Caddo Architecture in Southwest Arkansas”. SOUTHEASTERN ARCHAEOLOGY. 28 (2): 233-247.

Object: Bowl

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Rose Gonzales
San Ildefonso/San Juan Pueblos
New Mexico
Materials: ceramic

I-0214h detailThis small ceramic bowl is in the style of the Po-woh-ge-oweenge pueblo tribe (aka. San Ildefonso Pueblo), and Ohkay Owingeh pueblo tribe (aka. San Juan Pueblo). Po-woh-go-oweenge means “Where the water cuts through,” and Ohkay Owingeh means “Place of the strong people” in the tribes’ native Tewa language. The bottom of the bowl is signed “Rose,” and likely indicates that the bowl was made by Rose Gonzales. Rose Gonzales was born into the Ohkay Owingeh pueblo but was later married to a man from the Po-woh-ge-oweenge pueblo. She is thought to have learned pottery making from her mother-in-law, Ramona Sanchez Gonzales, which influenced the style of her pottery to reflect both San Ildefonso and San Juan designs. Today both tribes are known for their polished red and black pottery. However, the San Ildefonso style has become famous for the black-on-black designs pioneered by Maria Martinez.


Photo via: Beth E. Peterson, pottery.about.com

Traditional pueblo pottery is not made using a wheel, but is formed using a coil technique. This style of pottery is made by forming long rope-like pieces of clay. These ropes are then coiled around on top of one another to form the basic shape of the vessel. The artist then uses their hands, or various scraping tools, to join the coils together and smooth the surface of the vessel. After the vessel is shaped it can be decorated in a number of different styles, depending on the artist’s preferences or tribal background. Some of the more popular pueblo pottery decorations include painted slip designs, carved designs, and burnishing. After decorating, the pottery vessels were traditionally fired in an outdoor bonfire-style kiln. [Kathryn S. McCloud]

The following video discusses pueblo pottery in greater detail.

Additional Resources:

Chapman, Kenneth Milton, and Francis H. Harlow. The Pottery of San Ildefonso Pueblo. Albuquerque: Published for the School of American Research [by] University of New Mexico Press, 1970.

Fox, Nancy. 1977. “Rose Gonzales”. American Indian Art Magazine. 2, no. 4.

Harlow, Francis H. Modern Pueblo Pottery, 1880-1960. Flagstaff, Ariz: Northland Press, 1977.

Peaster, Lillian, and Guy Berger. Pueblo Pottery Families: Acoma, Cochiti, Hopi, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Picuris, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, San Juan, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia, Zuni. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub. Ltd, 2008.

Sprague, Linda Ferguson. San Juan Ceramics. Thesis (M.A.)–University of Idaho, 1980, 1980.

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