Tag Archive | Currency

Sneak Peek

The exhibits team at the Institute of Texan Cultures has almost finished the installation of a exhibition called Foreign by Land, Native by Heart. The exhibit officially opens tomorrow and features the stories of four refugee families who have settled in San Antonio. Below are a few sneak peek images from the exhibit installation, come join us at the Winter Celebrations Around the World family day on December 11th to see this great new exhibit in person!

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Object: Coin

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2015.9.4-6 & 2015.9.7 a-b
Coin, Coin, Token, Card
Polish, Russian & American
1831, 1861, & 1882
Materials:metal, paper, ink

On June 1, 1882 a group of friends and family gathered at the laying of the foundation stone for the new home of Edward Kotula and his family. As a tribute to their friend a time capsule was placed in the home’s foundation with different tokens of respects and affection.

Map via: Silesia Cancer Registry, http://www.rejestrslaski.io.gliwice.pl/en/index.php

Map via: Silesia Cancer Registry, http://www.rejestrslaski.io.gliwice.pl/en/index.php

Edward Kotula was born somewhere in the Silesia region of Poland in 1844 and immigrated to the United States with his parents Carl and Elizabeth Kotula in 1854. They immigrated to Panna Maria, Texas, the first Polish settlement in North America. The Polish priest Rev. Father Moczygemba had picked the location, which was about 55 miles southeast of San Antonio. Within a year of moving to Texas, Carl Kotula died; it was shortly after that Edward, his mother and his other siblings moved to San Antonio in 1855. During his time in San Antonio, Edward was educated at St. Mary’s College. During the Civil War he was a mail carrier for the Confederacy  where he passed messages between San Antonio and Boerne, Texas and between San Antonio and Victoria, Texas.

After the war he got his first job in a merchandising store owned by two brothers, Daniel and Anton Oppenheimer. In January 1869 he branched out on his own and with the money he had saved and opened a small goods store at the corner of Alamo and Commerce St., which later became the San Antonio Liquor Company. His business prospered and he became business partners with the Oppenheimers until 1893 when Kotula bought them out. Edward married Wilhelmina Seng in San Antonio, Texas, on June 4, 1872. Edward invested in wool and his sales of wool reached half a million dollars annually, which today would equal about nine million dollars. Due to his success and investments in wool the nickname ‘Wool King of Texas’ was given to him.  When he eventually retired he purchased the Valenzuela Ranch, a 43,000 acre ranch in Webb and Dimmit County where he focused more on cattle, Durham’s and Herefords. Even after retirement however, Kotula was still very involved in the San Antonio community and he owned a large amount of valuable city property.

Leonard Orynski, General Photograph Collection, Digital Identifier: CD# 905; 072-0134.tif, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Leonard Orynski, General Photograph Collection, Digital Identifier: CD# 905; 072-0134.tif, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Due to his strong work ethic and standing within the San Antonio community, he gained the respect and friendship of other business men in the area. One such man was Leonard Wojomir Orynski, a Polish born businessman who owned L. Orynski & Co. Wholesale and Retail Druggists and Dispensing Pharmacist store on Military Plaza.  Of the multiple items placed in Edward Kotula’s home the ones given to him by Leonard Orynski include one paper token from Orynski’s business, a commemorative card and two coins which directly relate to his and Kotula’s shared Polish heritage.

The commemorative card, with a personally written note by Leonard Orynski, features portraits of the rebel leaders from the January Insurrection (1863-1864) in Poland. The date on the 15 Kopeks Russian Empire silver coin also specifically relates to this uprising.  The January Insurrection was a time of unrest in Poland after Russia lost the Crimean War . The rebellion gained support for the next three years mostly from students and the youth. In 1863 a call was made for a national insurrection. For the next two years guerrilla fighting broke out between the rebels and the Russian army. However, lack of foreign support and poor leadership within ranks caused a loss of momentum that lead to the rebellion’s downfall. In 1864 and ’65 the last of the remaining leaders were captured and executed.

Image via: Wikimedia Commons

Image via: Wikimedia Commons

The second coin is a Polish 2 zloty dated 1831 and created during the November Uprising in Poland (1830-1831). The uprising began in November when a Polish secret society of infantry cadets attempted, and failed, to assassinate the Grand Duke Constantine, commander of the armed forces of Poland, but successfully took over the northern section of Warsaw. However the Poles were outnumbered, and due to the lack of leadership and training, the Polish rebels surrendered the section of the city they had taken over in October of 1831.  The revolutionary coinage of Poland, such as this item, was issued by the Polish government in 1831 and created by the mintmaster, the official in charge of the making of coins design, Karol Gronau. At the same time, Karol Gronau also oversaw the production of the Russian coinage which featured either Alexander I, the current emperor of Russia, or a double headed eagle on the obverse. [Carlise Ferguson, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Baker, T. Lindsay. The First Polish Americans Silesian Settlements in Texas. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1996

Jedlicki, Jerzy. The Vicious Circle – 1832-1864 A History of the Polish Intelligentsia – Part 2. Frankfurt: Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2014.

Silesian Profiles Committee, and Panna Maria Historical Society. Silesian Profiles: Polish Immigration to Texas in the 1850s. Panna Maria, Tex: Panna Maria Historical Society, 1999.

Object: Coins

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I-0530g
Coins
Levine Brothers General Merchandise
American
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: Coins

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I-0389a
Coins
English
Great Britain
1919-1967
Materials: Bronze

800px-New_Albion._English_galleon_'Golden_Hinde'_by_Sir_Francis_Drake._Oil_on_canvas._60_x_90_cm.

Painting of the Golden Hinde by artist Кожин С.Л. /Simon Leonidovitch Kozhin, 2007.

These are British Half Penny coins. The half penny is often referred to as a ha’penny and has been made from several different metals over the years. These particular half pennies are made of bronze. The coins are each from a different year: 1937, 1960, two are from 1965, and one is from 1967. There is another 1919 half penny currently on display in the English culture area of the Institute of Texan Cultures that also belongs to this donated group. British coins generally have the reigning King or Queen on the front of the coin. On the back of the coin there different designs are used for each denomination. For the half penny the backside either had Britannia or the “Golden Hind” on it. In this set, the coin from 1919 (which is on display on our exhibit floor) has the image of King George V with the image of Britannia on the reverse. The 1937 coin has the image of King George VI with the image of the “Golden Hind” on the reverse. The 1960, the two 1965’s and the 1967 all have Elizabeth II on the front and the “Golden Hind” on the back. These coins are also pre-decimal, meaning they are from before the British government switched their currency from a system based on weight to the decimal system. These pre-decimal coins are no longer considered legal currency in the United Kingdom.

YOURGUIDETODECIMALCURRENCY_0001_zps098c2d43

Image from the Decimal Currency Board Guide, via: Newcastle Historian on the Skyscrapercity.com forum

The half penny was introduced during the 13th century and is still in use today, though the value of the half penny changed after the British government switched the currency to decimalization. The pre-decimal currency that was used in Britain was based on the weight of a pound of sterling silver. A British pound was divided into 20 shillings and 240 pennies, which meant that to make a pound using half pennies you needed 480 coins. After Britain switched to a decimal currency system, one pound is made up of 100 pennies and one penny is made up of 2 half pennies.

Many half pennies came into Texas when British colonists brought over a popular pub game, called Shove Ha’penny, from their home country. The game is a smaller version of the aristocratic game shovel board, that was played during the Tudor times. Shovel board was played on on 30 feet long narrow tables. Players shoved metal weights down the tables, trying to get them as close to the other end of the table as possible, without falling off. In the smaller version, Shove Ha’penny, players take turns to push coins across a board with a series of parallel lines marked across it.   The areas between each line are called “beds.” The objective is to push the coin so that it lands inside a bed without touching the lines.  To win, a player needs to get a coin in each “bed” three times, which is no easy task for the “beds” furthest away from the front of the board.   If a player manages to score with three coins in one “bed” in a single turn, he is said to have scored a “sergeant,” and if all five coins score in a single turn, it is a “sergeant major” or a “gold watch.”

The game is still very popular in pubs across Great Britain and in pubs here in the United States. Below is a video showing some of the rules of the game. [Jennifer McPhail, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Further Reading:
British Museum, and Herbert A. Grueber. 1899. Handbook of the coins of Great Britain and Ireland in the British Museum. London: Trustees.

Cannon, John, and Ralph Alan Griffiths. 1988. The Oxford illustrated history of the British monarchy. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press.

Davies, Glyn. 2002. A history of money from ancient times to the present day. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Roche, T. W. E. 1973. The Golden Hind. New York: Praeger.

Object: Teller’s Cage

I-0198e scan

I-0198e
Teller’s Cage
American
Date: 20th Century
Materials: Metal, wood

The teller’s cage at the Institute of Texan Cultures would likely have been used in a bank lobby, connected to several other teller cages. The teller’s cage is made up of two parts. The bottom part resembles a wooden podium with drawers and a cupboard. The cupboard is equipped with a latch for the teller to keep bank notes, money, or other small items. The cage portion of the object is made of a metal frame that is meant to protect the bank teller. It leaves only a small opening through which to pass money or other small items to customers.

The first bank in Texas, the Banco Nacional de Texas, was founded while Texas was still a part of Mexico, and Mexico had only recently declared its independence from Spain. Before the first bank, Mexican officials were paid in gold, silver, or specie (coin money which was transported from San Luis Potosi, the nearest depository of the treasury for the Mexican government). These payments were shipped from Mexico. Sometimes the payment shipments were delayed due to unsafe travel conditions. During these long periods between paydays and shipments, Mexican troops and families relied on local merchants to supply them with goods by creating credit. Credit, at that time, was a trust between a creditor or lender and a borrower who was to pay back the creditor when resources or money became available. The Governor of Texas, Jose Felix Trespalacios, decided to establish a national bank to remove the credit system and remedy the long delays between shipments and payments of Mexican officials.

Emperor_Agustin_I_kroningsportret

Copy of a portrait of Agustin I, Constitutional Emperor of Mexico, made for the Iturbide Gallery (current Ambassador’s Hall) at the National Palace. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Governor Trespalacios wanted a Mexican banking system that was backed by specie and could issue loans, regulate gold and silver, pay its troops, and free the people of creditors. Feeling confident, Governor Trespalacios issued a decree on October 21, 1822 to establish this bank without authorization from Mexico. This bank, Banco Nacional de Texas, was to be the first national bank west of the Mississippi and the first institution of its kind in Mexico. In his decree to create the bank, Trespalacios also cleverly stated that its creation was subject to the ultimate approval of the Government. This plan eventually reached the emperor of Mexico, Emperor Agustin de Iturbide, who approved the decree. He gave the decree a national application and incorporated the plan into an Imperial Decree on December 29, 1822. The national treasury in Mexico City issued four million dollars in paper money to the bank, thus officially establishing the first bank of Texas. In 1959 the Banco Nacional de Texas, known as the First National Bank, was sold by the Beretta family and dissolved.

Following the establishment of the first bank in Texas, was the introduction of many famous Texan bank robbers. Two of the most infamous are the romantic and ruthless pair of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Champion Barrow. The couple is known for their violent string of bank robberies during the Great Depression, some of which resulted in murder. However, the amount the couple stole never actually exceeded $1,500 at a time. The couple traveled throughout Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois. Along their travels, the couple robbed, kidnapped, killed, and helped in the escape of prisoners from a Texas prison. On May 23, 1934, the couple drove into a trap set by the police that was near their hide-out in Black Lake, Louisiana which ended in their deaths. Their bodies were displayed in Arcadia, Louisiana and then eventually taken to Dallas to their families. [Elizabeth Volz, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

-Watch videos on Bonnie and Clyde.
http://www.biography.com/people/groups/bonnie-and-clyde#awesm=~oE3DPcd9evUQ5P

-Watch a video on the death scene of Bonnie and Clyde

Additional Resources:
Beretta, John W. 1959. The story of Banco nacional de Texas and 136 years of banking in San Antonio de Bexar, 1822-1958. San Antonio: [s.n.].

Guinn, Jeff. 2009. Go down together: the true, untold story of Bonnie and Clyde. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hendley, Nate. 2007. Bonnie and Clyde: a biography. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

 Iturbide, Agustín de, and Michael J. Quin. 1971. A statement of some of the principal events in the public life of Agustin de Iturbide. Washington: Documentary Publications. 

Object: Change Note

2010_2_1front

2010.2.1
Currency
American
Texas
Date: 1841
Material: Paper

This item is a $1.00 change note issued by the Republic of Texas in 1841. This particular type of currency consisted of low denomination ‘change notes’, which were commonly redeemed for larger denomination notes. Many stores, cities, and states commonly issued their own forms of currency during the 18th and 19th centuries.

H1Star_$5

Photo via: William Crutchfield Williams, II

The Republic of Texas began issuing its own currency in 1837. Due to limited supplies of metals throughout the United States at the time, the Republic of Texas did not mint coins, but rather only supplied paper currency. This early type of paper currency commonly bore the name “Star Money” due to the prevalence of star-shaped designs printed on the paper currency. Other common themes printed on the currency included: commerce, industry, agriculture, and other images specifically associated with Texas. Each bill was hand-signed by both the president and treasurer of Texas.

5redback

Photo via: Texas State Library & Archives Commission

The Republic of Texas printed other types of currencies, including: change notes, “redbacks”, and exchequer bills. Currencies issued by other states and foreign nations were still available to the general public, but the Texas government attempted to restrict the use of non-local currency through several laws and regulations.

The currency issued by the Republic of Texas had limited value. The currency could be used to pay taxes and government-related debts, but consumers had difficulty using the currency for everyday purchases, such as food and clothing. The Texas government placed too much currency into circulation, the government often changed the type of currency in circulation and the regulations surrounding the use of the currency, as a consequence, most of the currency issued by the Republic of Texas quickly lost its value. The currency issued by the Republic of Texas lost most of its value by 1842, so citizens of the Republic of Texas began to increasingly use non-local currency issued by other states or foreign nations. [Catherine Sword, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

A further discussion of Texas currency can be found in the following video, produced by University of Texas-Arlington Special Collections.

Additional Resources:

“Republic of Texas Currency” Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Edmund Thornton Miller, “MONEY OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS,” Handbook of Texas Online

“A Brief History of the Republic of Texas Money,” University of Texas at Arlington Library

Object: Change Note

2010_2_3 front
2010.2.3
Currency
American
Texas
Date: 1840
Material: Paper

RepTxmap

By Ch1902 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This $3.00 change note of Republic of Texas was issued in Austin on April 25, 1840. Its serial number is #1300. The Republic of Texas’ currency was often referred to as ‘redbacks’ due to the red ink that was used on their reverse. This term, however, is a misnomer for the $3.00 change note since it lacks red ink on its reverse. The imagery used on this change note holds specific meaning for Texas. On the left there is a picture of a cotton plant which was, at the time of this note’s issue, the most valuable crop in Texas. The Roman goddess Ceres, goddess of agriculture, is also depicted on this note. She is shown sitting on a bale of hay, leaning on a mirror, with agricultural tools to her side. The reflection in her mirror displays the Lone Star of Texas. Next to the promise of payment through the treasury, at the bottom of the change note is a young man riding a horse, a reference to the ranching industry in Texas.

shinplaster

Photo via: /library.thinkquest.org

When the very first Texan congress convened on October 3rd, 1836, several different currencies were being used; these included Spanish and Mexican currency, the United States dollar and a currency known as ‘shinplasters’. This period United States history is sometimes known as the ‘Free Banking Era.’  At this time the United States did not have a central bank system and private companies were able to issue currency. It is estimated that over 30,000 different notes, all referred to as shinplasters, were issued by private companies during this period.

461px-SHouston

Photo via: Mitch Featherston, http://www.thepublicdomain.net

The Republic of Texas struggled with the issue of debt from its earliest days. The Republic was estimated to have been more than $1.25 million dollars in debt in the forms of loans and payment owed for goods and services at its foundation.  In 1837 under the presidency of Sam Houston, Texas issued its first paper promissory notes. These notes were called star money, as it had a small star on the face of the bill.  Because Texas had very little silver or gold, these were interest bearing notes that would accrue value and be paid out at a certain time. In 1838, change notes of $1.00, $2.00 and $3.00 were issued that functioned like treasury bills. In 1839, redbacks were printed and issued. The treasury printed over two million dollars in redbacks that were initially worth 37 cents to a U.S. dollar.

Unfortunately, Texas sank further and further into debt. By the end of Houston’s second term the debt had increased to twelve million dollars. By 1842, the redback was entirely worthless and had almost nothing backing its value. The treasury issued more treasury notes under the new name ‘exchequer bills,’ but ultimately very few Texans used them. This caused the currency of trade in Texas to become the United States dollar or the shinplasters. This period of economic hardship was worsened in 1841 when Antonio López de Santa Anna reestablished himself as president of Mexico and renewed hostilities with Texas. The crushing public debt, Texas’ difficulty obtaining loans, the worthlessness of its currency and the renewed hostiles with Mexico, all contributed to the peaceful annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845. This process brought Texas under the protection of a strong nation and led to the demise of the Republic of Texas’ currency. [Lauren Thompson, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Nance, Joseph. Republic of Texas: The Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mzr02

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The Free Banking Era: More Than 30,000 Different Notes in Circulation. http://www.frbsf.org/currency/expansion/history/text2.html

Texas State Library and Archives Commission. 2011 Republic of Texas Currency. https://www.tsl.state.tx.us/treasures/republic/currency-01.html

Texas Commemorative 2010 $3 Currency Notes. http://www.texascommem.com/TC_notes_3.html

Object: Commemorative Coin

coin

I-0109a
Commemorative coin
French
Paris, France
Date: 1975
Materials: Bronze, silver

France has a long history of issuing commemorative coins, honoring significant members in French history. It was only in 1982 that the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) began issuing commemorative coins that were considered legal tender. The Monnaie de Paris is the French government’s oldest institution, created in the year 864. In more recent years, coins have been produced to commemorate a much broader range of topics, ranging from select wines, to the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, to various Disney characters, and everything in between.

lasalle-map

Map via: The Robinson Library

This particular silver-coated, bronze coin was minted in 1975 to commemorate French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle (and was therefore not considered legal tender). He was born in November 1643 in Normandy with a thirst for adventure. He swore his initial vows to the Jesuit religious order in 1660, though was released seven years later at his own request before taking his final vows. It was then that he took it upon himself to travel the world. Following in his brother Jean’s footsteps, La Salle sailed for New France in Canada and was granted a piece of land on the Island of Montreal. He named it Lachine (“La Chine” is the French word for China, and some believe this name choice was selected from a desire to find a direct route to China). He quickly picked up the native languages from surrounding peoples well enough to learn that the Ohio River flowed into the Mississippi River, which could ultimately lead him to the ocean. This would allow him to plan a western route to China, and thus an adventure was born. La Salle sold his Lachine to finance sailing down the Mississippi, though only made it as far as Kentucky due to harsh river conditions and crew illness.

Undiscouraged, La Salle returned to Canada 1673 landless. He was beginning to make a name for himself and was sponsored by the Louis de Buade de Frontenac, the Governor of New France, to oversee the construction of Fort Frontenac. It was soon to be the newest station in a complex fur-trading network. To further his cause, La Salle sailed back to France to gain royal financial support from the king, Louis XIV. Not only did he receive enough money to manage and maintain Fort Frontenac, but also received money and permission to build more forts to expand his network, as well as a title of nobility.

La-Belle_2310688b

Photo via: Texas A&M University, The Telegraph

La Salle now had the means to begin exploring again. He set sail in 1679 on a ship named Le Griffon with Italian explorer Henri de Tonti around the Great Lakes. They established Fort Miami, which was later destroyed by mutinous soldiers. In 1681, both explorers set sail for La Salle’s most famous mission. They traveled down the Mississippi River once more, naming the river basin La Louisiane in honor of King Louis XIV. This was the official declaration of Louisiana for France. La Salle embarked on several smaller expeditions for the Mississippi while staying primarily in Texas. His final journey, purposed to establish a French colony, Fort Saint Louis, in Texas. After suffering another mutiny, La Salle was killed by Pierre Duhaut in March 1687 at the age of 43. In 1688, Native Americans destroyed his final fort, killing the residing adults and capturing remaining children.

Today, one of La Salle’s ships, La Belle, as well as several of his artifacts, are on display as archaeological treasures at several Texan museums. [Jordan Kinnally, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

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