Materials: Wood, Glass
This object is a washboard, which was used to wash clothes. Before there were a washing machines and dryers to clean and dry our clothes a washboard and a clothesline were everyday household items. But this was a step up from how clothes were washed before the washboard was introduced into Western Europe. They would have to soak and beat clothes with washing bats to clean them. Some Eastern European countries like Norway and Finland have had washboards made from wood with notches carved into them for centuries but it was not officially patented until 1797. The first washboards were made entirely of wood, but in the 19th Century steel and zinc ridges replaced the wooden ones, but they still had a wooden frame. Later into the 19th century and early 20th century glass washboards, like the one pictured above, were introduced but were not as commonly used as the ones made from metal.
The way to wash clothes with a washboard would be by setting up two tubs one with hot water and another with warm or room temperature water. Once the water is in the tubs you then add the dirty clothes to the tub with hot water in it. It is suggested that the clothes are allowed to sit in the water to loosen up any dirt or stains, but it is not a necessary step to the process. After putting the clothes in the water you will then set the washboard in the tub with the clothes. The soap is then applied; it can be applied in one of three ways. 1) By shaving some off of a bar of soap and adding it into the water. 2) By scrubbing a bar of soap against the washboard. 3) By scrubbing a bar of soap against the clothes themselves. Any way you want to do it you will be adding soap to the clothes and the water. After the soap is applied, the clothes are then be scrubbed one-by-one against the washboard until they are clean. After a piece of clothing has been scrubbed it is then wrung out of any excess water and soap, then rinsed and repeated until the all of the soap is rinsed away. Some people had a machine that would wring the clothes out for them instead of having to do it by hand. After the clothes have been washed they are hung up on a wash line, which consists of a wire or a piece of twine tied between two objects, usually two posts are used, but in cities the line is more often strung between buildings. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This object is a wood and metal icebox that was popular in homes before electricity was widely available. It is currently being exhibited in the sharecropper’s cabin in the museum. Iceboxes were developed and used before modern day refrigerators, and were designed to preserve foods.
Basic iceboxes were made of wooden frames, and had a gap on the inside, with a smaller metal lining. The iceboxes had separate drawers and shelves to store different types of foods. Ice would be packed in the space between the wood and metal, and then insulated with straw, sawdust, seaweed, or cork. Cheaper versions would just have a drip pan underneath to catch the melting ice, but fancier models would have a container that caught the water, and a faucet to drain it.
Every year when the weather turned warm, ice was delivered daily to homes by the iceman. The iceman would drive from home to home, on a wagon lined with straw and full of ice blocks. For each home, he would chip off pieces of ice for the icebox, and for an additional fee, he would insert the ice into the icebox for the homeowners. During the summer months, kids would hitch a ride on the wagon of ice, or chip off small pieces of ice as a treat. Icemen worked for ice houses, which stored ice year round. Every winter, ice was harvested from frozen lakes and stored in ice houses. Ice harvesting and storage became a huge trade for states in New England, with many people becoming rich from shipping ice to the Southern states and the Caribbean.
However, ice houses were around long before the dawn of the icebox. Records dating back to 1780 BC talk about construction of an icehouse in Mesopotamia. Starting as dug out pits lined with straw, ice houses evolved around the world over the years, into everything from brick buildings to underground tunnels. By 1930, electric refrigerators like we use now began replacing the old iceboxes. As the need for ice delivery declined, so did the business of ice houses. By 1960, ice houses no longer served a purpose, and most were closed. In Texas however, ice houses were more innovative and started selling groceries and beer. They became gathering spots for people to get together and relax. The national convenience store 7-Eleven developed from ice houses that were operated by Southland Ice Company in Dallas and San Antonio in the 1930s.
Though it’s easy to take ice for granted today, many things around us are reminders of our modern innovations. Modern refrigerators still contain many elements of original iceboxes, such as shelving and drawers; and every time we pass a convenience store- it sits as a reminder of a bygone era, when ice houses served an exclusive purpose, still present in the bags of ice sold there. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Late 19th- early 20th Century
Materials: Metal, Wood
This object is a Norwegian krumkake iron. Not to be confused with crumb cake, this Norwegian cookie is pronounced kroom-kai-kuh, and means bent or curved cake. The plural is krumkaker. Krumkake is a traditional Norwegian Christmas cookie. Krumkaker are made from flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and cream. They look and taste very similar to waffle cones, and are made in a device that looks similar to a waffle iron.
Krumkake irons are decorative two-sided iron griddles, with intricate patterns that vary based on what region of Norway it’s from. Older irons were designed to be held and turned over an open fire, and had wooden handles to be able to turn them without getting burned. Newer versions are electric, and allow bakers to make more, in a shorter period of time.
Once the batter is poured onto the griddle, it’s baked to a light golden brown. While still hot, it’s rolled into small cones with the use of a conical rolling pin. Krumkaker can be filled with virtually anything- from whipped cream, to chocolate, to berries, or can just be sprinkled with powdered sugar.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the term “Christmas cookie” became popular, possibly due to the fact that ovens became popular household appliances around that time. However, cookies in Norway were categorized as one of three types: those baked in an iron, those that were deep fried, and those baked in ovens. Cookies baked in irons- like krumkaker– can be traced back at least a thousand years.
In the pre-Christian Viking tradition, during the dark afternoons of the Winter Solstice, children would go from house to house looking for treats. Because Norway is so close to the North Pole, darkness came by 4 o’clock during the months of December and January.
Before Christmas began being celebrated in Norway, around 1000- 1100, Norwegians celebrated Jul (the English tweaked this to yule) a time to celebrate the last of the harvest, and a way to look forward to spring. It was a celebration of light manifested through the yule log thrown on the fire.
Norwegian Christmas is a celebration of more than a thousand years of beliefs and traditions, all tied together in a month-long celebration. The baking, the solstice, the celebration of light, and Christian faith, all come together for the holiday season.
Perhaps this explains why krumkake has endured. Today, it is a featured element in the tradition of “seven sorts,” which is a Norwegian holiday baking custom. Per tradition, seven traditional cookies are to be baked and served during the holidays. Although which cookies are included in the seven are disputed, krumkake is the most widely accepted, along with pepperkaker (gingerbread).
Norway’s holiday traditions are still honored by Norwegian immigrants and their descendants across the American mid-west, and communities in Texas. The krumkake is just one of many elements of Norwegian tradition that interlock the past and the present. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Date: 19th Century
Material: Metal and Enamel
Hearing aid technologies have a long history, going nearly as far as deaf culture and community itself. Hearing technologies over time have empowered the deaf culture in the fight to be recognized as able citizens, not individuals with a disability. As one might guess much of the culture and identity of the deaf community is centered on language, but it is also focused on shared knowledge and a large support system. The deaf community is more than a group of non-hearing individuals; it is made up of people who share a history, language and struggle, which is an integral part of cultural development.
This object is very similar to the early London Dome Ear trumpet or, as it was also known, the Grand Opera Dome (1850-1880s). This device got its name because of their popularity at the opera. The dome shape of the piece made them well equipped to pick up voice frequencies. It is a simple hearing device, with a large thin metal dome attached to a smaller metal tube that would fit into the user’s ear. Struggles for the non-hearing to be seen as normal in the eyes of a hearing society were evident in many of the hearing aid technologies throughout history.
In the earliest written records we find philosophers and saints giving the first perspectives on individuals who could not hear, and they felt they were inherently inferior to those who could hear. This notion was based on the idea that the deaf could not be properly educated because they lacked language. In the deaf culture’s formative years they were cast out of religious institutions because they were thought to be under the punishment of God and without language could not learn about faith. It was not until Saint Augustine that the deaf community was recognized as having the foundations of language. He claimed that their body movements and gestures could be considered language and thus they could learn about faith and find salvation.
Saint Augustine opened the door for the individuals with a severe hearing loss to be recognized as part of society and by the 6th century we saw physicians in Europe trying to ‘cure’ the deaf. It wasn’t until the 16th Century that schools for the deaf were developed. Doctors realized it was not something that could be ‘cured’ because being deaf is not always related to illness. These schools would become the foundations of modern deaf culture. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet in the 1800s traveled to Europe to learn about deaf education, after his to return to the United States he established the American School for the Deaf. His son Edward Miner Gallaudet would follow in his father’s footstep giving deaf culture their first university, Gallaudet University.
Over time we see technologies develop from the cumbersome ear trumpets of the 1700s to royal armchairs in Europe equipped with devices to amplify sound for whoever was occupying the chair. There were even end tables with vases or urns disguising amplifying technologies. Over time, with the drive to no longer be immediately recognized as non-hearing, technologies became smaller and more easily disguised. Developers tried everything, even fitting devices to glasses and shaping earpieces to fit directly into the ear canal, which leaves us with today’s most powerful and controversial hearing aid technology, the cochlear implant.
The cochlear implant is the most recent hearing aid technology developed and it has by far caused the most heated debate in the deaf community since its inception. This is an electronic device that is surgically placed under the skull flesh behind the ear. An external portion is attached and connects to the implant using a magnet. The external portion allows the individual to control the sound volume or turn the device on and off. For some this device gives them the opportunity to be a part of the hearing community, as well as the deaf community. Parents with children who are born with a severe hearing loss are encouraged to consider the implant at an early age so as the child matures they learn how to hear and speak. Often individuals who get the implant later in life find speaking to be a challenge, as they have to develop the muscles to speak as well as learning the language itself. The documentary ‘Sound and Fury’ (2000) outlines the controversy of the cochlear implant as it follow a family as they investigate the benefits and cultural consequences of this new technology. The deaf culture has overcome many struggles but must continue educating others to build an understanding of what it means to be deaf and help preserve their culture. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]
Video clips from the documentary ‘Sound and Fury’ can be seen here.
Bruce Kent; Sandra Smith. They Only See It When the Sun Shines in My Ears: Exploring Perceptions of Adolescent Hearing Aid Users. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. Vol. 11, No. 4 (FALL 2006), pp. 461-476. Oxford University Press.
We are in the final stretch of installing the new Los Tejanos exhibit for it’s big opening gala tonight. This exhibit explores the Tejano experience. It offering a glimpse of compelling Tejano stories from the early 18th century to the present day. It officially opens to the public tomorrow, but you can get a sneak peek of our progress below.
San Ildefonso/San Juan Pueblos
This 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.
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.
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.
Date: 19th Century
Materials: Ceramic, plant materials, cloth, metal
This is a Chinese teapot which was brought over from Southern China by the donor’s father’s family in 1926. The teapot is porcelain with a blue and white design which is similar to “Chinese Export Porcelain” and was a common way to decorate ceramics during this the early 1900s. The teapot fits inside a custom “cozy” which is a basket lined in straw with a fabric covering. The fabric was replaced by the donor’s grandmother, and is not original the basket. These types of baskets are thought to have been more popular in southern areas of China and were used like modern thermos, to help keep the tea warm.Tea is a common beverage around the world now, but it is thought to have originated in China. All types of tea come from the Camellia sinensisplant. Camellia sinensis can grow to over 30 ft in height but is usually trimmed to waist height so it is easier to harvest the leaves. The plants generally take about three to five year to mature and be ready for harvest.
Many different types of teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, the type of tea is determined by how the leaves are processed. White tea is the least processed of any tea produced. Tea “buds,” immature leaves, and the youngest tea leaves of the plant are selected for this type of tea for their mild and delicate flavor. The leaves are simply picked, steamed, and then dried. Green Tea is another non-fermented type of tea, and when prepared has a green to light yellow color, a mild aroma and a natural taste. For the production of Green Tea, the tea leaves are picked, dried, and heat treated to stop the fermentation process. A slightly more processed type of tea is Oolong Tea. This type is produced by partially fermenting the leaves. The exact amount of fermentation will effect the taste of the finished tea. The tea leaves are picked, then intentionally bruised by shaking, and then dried. During the drying process the edges of the bruised leaves turn reddish in color and the surface becomes light yellow due to fermentation and oxidation. After fermenting, the tea leaves are pan fired to stop the fermentation process and create a semi-fermented tea. Oolong is a cross between green and black tea in color and taste. Black Tea is the most processed type of tea and is made by fully fermenting the tea leaves. The tea leaves are picked, allowed to whither and then are either crushed or chopped. Next the leaves are laid out to oxidize and once this is completed they are dried to complete the process.
The following video shows the cultivation, harvest, and processing of black tea in India today.
Camellia sinensis was first cultivated in China possibly as early as the 4th century. Tea was traded to Europe via ship and the East India Company, though the plant itself and the process of how to cultivate the leaves was a guarded secret. During the early 19th century Chinese tea seeds were brought to India in an attempt by the British to break China’s monopoly on tea production. By the 1880’s the tea production and manufacturing in India was well established. Today tea is still a very popular drink, the United States alone is thought to consume over 79 billion servings of tea each year. While once a closely guarded Chinese secret, tea is now produced as far away as Argentina, Kenya, the United States, and Sri Lanka. [Jennifer McPhail, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Fang, Lili. 2011. Chinese ceramics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Date: Late 19th/Early 20th century
Materials: iron, wood
This is a small metal iron, referred to as a sadiron. It was donated by Sister Alexandrine, whose family immigrated to Texas from Silesia in the late 19th century. When her great-grandparents immigrated, her grandfather traveled to find work bricklaying and her grandmother, like many immigrant and ethnic minority women, took in laundry and ironing to support herself and her family. Hattie Elam Briscoe, who went on to become the first female African American lawyer in San Antonio, put herself through college by working as a laundress and cook for a local family.
Before European blacksmiths started making metal irons in the late medieval period, people would use stone, glass or wooden “smoothers” to press pleats or smooth fabric. More complex methods involved screw-presses and mangle boards which were very popular in Northern Europe and could be quite ornate. The early metal irons were mostly a flat piece of metal with a metal handle. The earliest irons were made to be placed directly into, or by, an open fire. Later irons were heated by being placed on a stove top to heat. The person ironing would need to be careful to use a rag or cloth to avoid getting burned by the handle of these early models.
Sadirons get their name from an older word, sald, which means solid. They were made with thicker metal and held heat longer. Though many households would have at least two so that one iron could heat while the other iron was being used. Over time, a number of clever inventors improved the sadiron in a number of ways. In 1870 a woman, named Mrs. Mary F. Potts, patented an iron that was pointed on both ends, making it more versatile. Later, 1871 she also patented an iron with a removable wooden handle. he removable handle was an important safety feature, helping to prevent burns by keeping the handle from getting hot while the iron heated. One handle could have been used with multiple sad irons of this type, and since the handle was removable, it was not necessary for the handle to be attached to the iron while it was heating. They were sold in sets of 3 or 5, so that they could be continually rotated while ironing large numbers of items. Mrs. Potts also produced as small set of “toy” irons that were marketed to children. These smaller irons, like the one at the Institute of Texan Cultures, were fully operable irons and many women preferred these smaller irons for lace, doilies, and handkerchiefs.
Mrs.Potts traveled to a number of events to promote her invention, including the 1893 Columbia Exposition. There she demonstrated her irons in the Women’s Building, which was designed by Sophia Hayden Bennett, the first woman to graduate with a degree in architecture from MIT. This is the first time that there was an entire building dedicated for women at the World Fair.
Despite all of the innovations, ironing with sadirons could be tedious. The nature of the metal is such that it rusts, or oxidizes when in contact with water. The irons had to be sanded and polished to keep them from damaging or staining the fabric. Naturally any item being used on a daily basis such as an iron is going to be reinvented repeatedly as people discover new ways to make a tedious task less difficult. A later innovation was to make a reversible sadiron, made with the idea that if heat rises then rotating the top side to the bottom would enable the person ironing to always keep the hottest side of the iron on the clothing.
Around 1900-1910 charcoal irons, which had been used in Asia for quite some time, began to catch on in the United States. At that time door to door peddlers performed a valuable service in rural regions like much of Texas, traveling between communities, carrying news and a pack full of items that otherwise might not be available in those regions. Some peddlers carried charcoal irons, the American versions of which were very similar to sad irons, but hollow and filled with hot coals instead of heating over a fire. Some had a chimney for the smoke to vent away from the clothes.
Later slug irons replaced charcoal irons. Instead of using hot coals, a removable metal slug was heated and placed inside the iron. After slug irons, asbestos irons became extremely popular, until the electric iron became widely available. Asbestos irons were a steel case lined in asbestos, used to attach to a hot metal core. The asbestos and airspace between the hot metal core and the handle ensured that the handle for the iron would be cool, while staying hot longer. Overall, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries there were a wide variety of irons on the market. [Christine Moscardini-Hall, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]