This object is a Swedish women’s vest. It is part of a traditional costume made in 1922 in County Skane, Sweden. Costumes like this can still be seen worn by women of Swedish descent during celebrations of Swedish culture.
The first Swedish immigrant to enter Texas was Swen Magnus Swenson in 1838. He was an entrepreneur who started many businesses throughout his life, and founded SMS Ranches in west Texas- consisting of more than 300,000 acres. He became a wealthy man due to his cotton plantation, and in 1844, he was joined by his uncle- Swante Palm– who was the first person to emigrate from Sweden with the goal of living in Texas. Up until that point, most Swedish immigrants entered through Ellis Island in New York and established communities in the Northeast and Midwest.
In 1848, Swenson was convinced by his friend, Sam Houston, to bring more Swedish families to Texas. The first group he brought over consisted of twenty-five people, mostly family and friends. Swenson and his uncle then began operating an informal immigration company, initially paying people’s travel expenses to Texas from Sweden. In turn, these people would pay back their credit by working as indentured labor on Swenson’s ranch.
By 1850, Swenson sold his ranch in west Texas and purchased 100,000 acres around Austin. He continued his efforts in immigration throughout his life, establishing the strongest concentrations of Swedish-Americans, first around Austin, then fanning out to Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Waco.
People left Sweden mainly for economic and political reasons. Population growth made farmland scarce, and the overpopulation made it nearly impossible for families to support themselves. Another factor was the growing resentment against the Swedish Lutheran State Church, which was repressing the citizens and emphasizing the snobbery of the Swedish monarchy. As with most other immigration groups, the promise of personal freedom, open spaces, and uncharted land attracted many to a new life in Texas.
By 1900, more than 4,000 Swedes were in Texas. They proved to be hardworking and successful in business as well as ranching and farming. Swedish immigrants were responsible for building churches and colleges, including Texas Wesleyan College in Austin and Trinity Lutheran College in Round Rock.
More than 160,000 Texans claim Swedish ancestry today. Through organizations such as the Linneas Society, Vasa Lodges, New Sweden Cultural Heritage Society, and the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, Swedish-Americans have both assimilated to the United States cultures, and kept their heritage alive. These organizations were designed to give support to new immigrants, help them learn English, and provide an extended family in a new land.
Today, these organizations strive to provide education about Swedish culture, and preserve their heritage. Though the Swedes of Texas value the culture of their homeland, they also embrace their life as Americans, and most prefer to be known as Swedish-Americans. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Bottlers Specialty Mfg Co.
This object is a beer bottler from the Peter Bros. Brewery, which was in business from 1905 to 1910 in San Antonio, Texas. The brothers, John, Augustus “Gus”, and Edward bought a small house on East Commerce street in 1903 and began their brewing business in 1905. During prohibition the brewery no longer made beer, but operated as a soft-drink stand instead. In 1933, after the repeal of prohibition, the brothers open a lunchroom and sold local beers instead of producing their own.
The tradition of brewing in Texas began as early as the 1840s, when a large influx of German immigrants moved to Texas. For Germans, beer-drinking was an integral part of everyday life. When they began moving to Texas, it became important for them to have beer available to them, so people started brewing businesses.
One of the first known breweries in Texas was Julius Rennert’s, which he licensed in 1849 in the town of New Braunfels. The beer he made supplied many surrounding town’s saloons, including those of San Antonio. He stayed in business until the added competition of William Menger ‘s Western Brewery, or Menger Brewery, and the Lone Star Brewery caused him to close his brewing company in the 1880s and his son became a distributor for Lone Star.
Rennert was only one of the many people to start up brewing companies in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Most stayed small and were only in business for a few years, with exceptions like Menger’s Western Brewery, Anheuser-Busch of Lone Star, Pearl Brewery, and the still operational Blue Star. Large commercialization of these companies, as well as prohibition in 1919 caused most of the small brewing companies to go out of business fairly quickly. The Peter Brothers’ Brewery was one of those short-lived businesses, but it seemed to enjoy a great deal of popularity in its time.
Be sure to visit the Institute of Texan cultures this fall to learn more about the history of beer in Texas in our upcoming exhibit Brewing Up Texas, scheduled to open on October 14th, 2017. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Greek Bishop’s Miter
This object is a Greek Bishop’s miter, or ceremonial headpiece. It’s an elaborate headdress made from brocade, with elaborate embroidery and embellishments, and depicting Christian symbols and figures. It belonged to Bishop John of Amorion, who was the first American-born bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. He was ordained in 1971 at the Annunciation Cathedral in Houston, Texas.
The Greek immigration story into Texas is a colorful and adventurous one. The first recorded Greek immigrant, known only as Captain Nicholas, entered Galveston Island with the well-known pirate, Jean Lafitte in 1817. He married a woman from the Karankawa tribe, but lost her in a storm. He then sailed with Lafitte around the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, before finally returning to Galveston in 1842.
By 1860, Captain Nicholas was one of only two Greeks registered in Texas. He lived out his life selling fish and oysters, and transporting charcoal from the mainland to the island until his death in the Galveston storm of 1900. He was nearly 100 years old when he died.
Many Greeks emigrated out of Greece to escape political, social, and economic problems. Despite gaining independence after almost 400 years of Turkish rule, many people were still feeling oppressed, and by 1910, almost 10% of Greeks had emigrated out of their homeland.
Greek immigrants to Texas didn’t come as families, but rather as single men, looking for opportunities in the cities. The first Greek colony in Texas was in Galveston, where 37 Greeks worked in saloons, markets, and cotton gins. They saw opportunities to move up the economic ladder, working entry level jobs while learning English, saving money, and eventually opening their own businesses- often as restaurant owners, real estate investors, and owners of confectioneries– shops where candy was made and sold. By the early 1900s there were several thousand Greeks living in Texas, but they were scattered over 250,000 square miles of the state.
The first Greek Orthodox Church was finally established in Texas in 1910, near the Ft. Worth stockyards. It didn’t take long to determine that one parish serving the entire state was impractical, and soon, several more churches were built in cities around the state. In San Antonio, the untimely death of a small child due to illness was followed by a two week delay in burial because there wasn’t a Greek Orthodox priest nearby. The local Greek community, grieving the loss of the child, knew this wasn’t acceptable. In response, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church was finally established in San Antonio in 1924.
Today, there are more than 32,319 Greeks in Texas. They celebrate their heritage and customs proudly. Through decades of growth and change, they have had one enduring source of stability and connection to their roots- the Orthodox Church. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Materials: leather, brass, lacquer
This object is a helmet, specifically a pickelhaube, from 1904. This helmet is believed to have been worn by the 67th infantry regiment of the Prussian army signified by the eagle shaped plate (or wappen) on the front of the helmet.
The Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm invented this style of helmet in 1842. The original design of the helmet was highly impractical for use when it was first designed – it was much too tall and unbalanced. Soldiers had problems with the helmet falling off and it being much too heavy for use during battle or even drills. In 1856 when King Wilhelm took over from his brother King Friedrich, adjustments were made the helmet so that it was more functional for military use. The height was lessened and the materials adjusted to the style that was kept by the military up until the end of World War I.
The helmet itself consisted of a leather shell with visors on both the front and rear, the latter being used for neck protection. Both visors had brass reinforcement on the trim to help the helmet and visors keep their shape. The leather was covered in a black lacquer that could be polished and kept shiny. Each regiment in the army would have its own wappen, or insignia, in brass or silver on the front of the helmet above the visor. The distinguishing feature of this style of helmet was the spike on the top of the helmet – it was immediately recognizable to everyone at the time as belonging to the the German military.
During World War I, the image of the pickelhaube was used as propaganda against the Germans, as it was something everyone understood to be distinct to German soldiers. There is an iconic image from World War I of a large gorilla wearing a pickelhaube and carrying a unconscious woman with the words “Destroy this Mad Brute” across the top. It was a propagandist poster to encourage people to enlist in the army. The pickelhaube was the most iconic part of the German uniform and was easily incorporated into the idea that Germans were brutes that needed to be stopped.
Propaganda against Germans spread quickly in America. Suspicion of anyone of German descent grew as the war went on and Americans began to become fearful of the thought of German spies living among them. Any German societies, newspapers, or services of any kind were shut down. There are even records of German-Americans getting lynched.
In 1916, the pickelhaube was replaced with the similarly iconic stahlhelm, or steel helmet, because the pickelhaube was not suitable for trench warfare; it was not durable and was very expensive to produce because of the British blockade of South America, where Germany imported the leather for the helmets. The stahlhelm was made out of a single sheet of steel – it was inexpensive, easy to produce, and provided much better protection for the soldiers in combat. The pickelhaube, however, remains one of the most recognizably German styles of World War I military dress.
Visit the Institute of Texan Cultures today to see an exhibit about Texas in the First World War [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud].
This object is an Italian travel trunk that was owned by Pompeo Luigi Coppini, a renowned Italian sculptor. Travel trunks were originally used as luggage for long trips by steamship, train, or stagecoach.
Pompeo Coppini was born in Mantua, Italy in 1870. By the time he was 10 years old, his family had moved to Florence, where Pompeo got a job making ceramic horse-shaped whistles. After that, he worked for a sculptor who made knock-offs of famous artworks for tourists. When he was 16 years old, Coppini studied at the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno, a world-renowned art and design academy in Florence.
In 1896, Coppini immigrated to the United States with only his trunk of clothes and $40. Almost immediately, he got a job in New York, sculpting figures for a wax museum. Happy with the work, but frustrated with the lack of fame and recognition, Coppini moved to Texas in 1901 to work as an apprentice under the German-born sculptor Frank Teich. Civil War memorial statues had become a popular request, and Teich needed help filling orders. Coppini was commissioned to create a statue of Jefferson Davis and other confederate soldiers, which now stand at the state capitol. Those sculptures were so well recieved that Coppini decided he could make it on his own, rather than working under Teich for seventy-five cents an hour.
Coppini lived and worked in San Antonio for the next fifteen years. By 1910, he had recruited his own apprentice and “foster daughter”- Waldine Tauch– who he worked with for the rest of his life. Around 1919, Coppini moved to New York, where he oversaw the casting of the Littlefield Fountain Memorial, a centerpiece of the University of Texas campus in Austin.
In 1937, Coppini won the bid to commission the Alamo Cenotaph, also known as the “Spirit of Sacrifice,” a memorial to the heroes of the Alamo. He won out over other well-known sculptors, including Gutzon Borglum, who went on to carve the faces of Mt. Rushmore. To complete the Alamo cenotaph project, Coppini opened a studio in San Antonio, which later became the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, which is still in operation today. Believing that art training should be a branch of learning at universities, he also became the head of the art department at Trinity University in San Antonio from 1943-1945.
Pompeo Coppini’s work spans multiple countries, but the vast majority of his sculptures can be seen in Texas. His work consists of thirty-six public monuments, sixteen portrait statues, and seventy-five portrait busts. Though his sculptures have elicited some criticism through the years, they stand as a three-dimensional history of our state, and the country. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]