Tag Archive | Manufacturing

Object: Apothecary bottle

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Apothecary bottle
M. J. Breitenbach Co.
New York
Materials: Glass, metal, paper

Before there were pharmacies, people would go to their neighborhood chemist and into their neighborhood apothecary. Inside this shop you could find liniments, ointments and other medicinals to help aid in healing. Apothecaries used plants and other substances to make remedies and were the place to go for medical treatment and information when doctors weren’t available.

A display of Chinese apothecary materials from the late 19th century. Photo by Ellin Beltz, via WikiMedia Commons.

Recipes for medicine have been found dating back to 1890-1100 BC in ancient Egypt, Babylonia and Greece. Chinese apothecaries wrote encyclopedias listing almost every herbal remedy available. Many people still use herbal remedies today. People who take natural herbal remedies do so because they trust that the traditional plant-based remedies that have been around for hundreds of years do have benefits. Though apothecary chemists did not always have formal medical training, they were aware of the medicinal effects of certain plants and substances and relied on that to concoct a remedy. Plants like garlic, opium poppies, willow, and chamomile have all been known for their medical properties for many years. Apothecaries were generally careful about their methods and instructions of how to use their medicines. Many of the techniques developed by apothecaries on how to properly store, organize and measure medicinal ingredients led to the creation of today’s medical laboratories.

Before there were dentists and surgeons, apothecaries would take care of things like amputations of limbs, dental needs, birthing deliveries and training new students in the medical arts. If you would walk into an apothecary shop you would see bottles of medicine, containers of liquids, creams and herbs needed to help with ailments.

The hexagonal shaped bottle in the Institute of Texan Cultures collection is filled with a remedy for anemia called Gude’s Pepto- Mangan and manufactured by the M.J Brietenbach Co. of New York. Anemia is a medical condition that effects the blood. Patients with anemia do not have enough red blood cells in their blood to properly distribute oxygen throughout the body. Pepto-Mangan was a compound of magnesium and iron peptonate which was intended to reduce stomach problems and acid reflux, and was thought to enrich the blood with iron. It was noted that once patients had taken Gude’s Pepto-Mangan their symptoms decreased, and after a few days they were back to their regular selves. Pepto- Mangan was a dark clear colored liquid but, was said to have had a light taste and not a harsh medicinal one. This is a surprising description, because it contained 16% alcohol. The recommended dosage for adults was four tablespoons a day, children over the age of 5 could have up to a teaspoon three times a day. [Marisol Martinez, edited by Kathryn McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Anderson, Stuart. Making Medicines: A Brief History of Pharmacy and Pharmaceuticals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2005.

Beasley, Henry. Apothecary Antiquities: Book of Prescriptions Containing 2900 Prescriptions. Place of publication not identified: M.E. Allion, 1993.

Francia, Susan, and Anne Stobart. Critical Approaches to the History of Western Herbal Medicine: From Classical Antiquity to the Early Modern Period. 2015.

Object: Cigar Box

Cigar Box
San Antonio, TX
Materials: Wood, paper, ink

This cigar box in the Institute of Texan Cultures collections was for a private blend of cigars, made especially for the exclusive Travis Club in San Antonio. They were produced by the Finck Cigar Company in San Antonio, Texas.

In an interview conducted by ITC, the grandson of Mr. Henry Finck, Bill Finck speaks of the history of his family and the formation of the cigar company. Mr. Ryan Finck, the great-great grandfather of Bill Finck came to San Antonio from Germany where he published a newspaper both in English and German. Following an outbreak of cholera, Ryan Finck and his family (including Henry) moved to New Orleans in 1856. However, when they landed there was an outbreak of yellow fever running through the city. The family stayed in New Orleans until Henry made his way back to San Antonio in 1893.

While living in New Orleans, Henry learned about tobacco and the many diverse cultures in the region. When he returned to San Antonio in 1893 it wasn’t for business purposes but because he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was told that the dry air and gulf breezes in Texas would be good for him. However, he eventually discovered that he had been falsely diagnosed with tuberculosis and he recovered from whatever illness he was suffering from in New Orleans.

Finck Cigar employees in 1936. Image via UTSA Special Collections Library, Image Identifier 100-0274

With a loan of $1000 he started his own cigar business with a shipment of tobacco sent from one of his former employers in New Orleans. Back then the cigar business was booming in San Antonio and he was just one of several cigar manufacturers starting up in the city. As his business grew he obtained his tobacco from Connecticut, Cuba and South America. The Travis Club blend was made exclusively for the local men’s club and contained a mixture of several types of tobacco from different locations. The club building is featured on the cigar box both on the lid and on the inside. The club was started in 1909 and was the old Elks Club but was transitioned into the Travis Club. The club was located on the corner of Pecan and Navarro St. across from the St. Anthony Hotel.

Liberata Fernandez, employee of Finck Cigar Company since 1916 (ca. 1980). Image via UTSA Special Collections Library, Image Identifier 100-0279.

According to the Finck Cigar Company website, the Dominican blend of the Travis Club exclusive cigar is hand rolled by only the most beautiful of Dominican women. It is considered a privilege to be chosen to roll these fine cigars. Many of the employees have worked for the company for almost 70 years, including Liberata Fernandez who worked with the company for 86 years and Rafaela Sanchez who worked there for 72 years.

It has been said that the cigars may have been the cause of the Travis Club’s closure. In its last years the Travis Club opened its membership to young officers and students. The cigars, at the time only available to members, were so popular with these officers and the students that they pushed to have the cigars available outside of the club. But, once men no longer had to be a member of the club to get the cigars, club membership rapidly declined. The Travis Club blend cigar is still available today. Now offered in both a light blend and dark blend, they still come in a special box featuring the Travis Club building, long after the closure of the club. [Marisol Martinez, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Finck, Bill. Interview with Bill Finck Mary L. Croft. University of Texas at San Antonio, 30 January 1991. 1-35.

Parscale, Giles. Finck Cigar Company. n.d. 2018. http://www.finckcigarcompany.com/about/our_history.

Shannon, Kelley. “Texas Clan Keeps Family Cigar Firm Rolling Along” 02 March 1990. LA Times. Associated Press.

Object: Cigar box


Cigar Box
Early 1900s
Materials: Wood and paper

The use of tobacco is centuries old, thought to have been discovered by the ancient Maya. There is evidence of smoking on Mayan pottery going back as far as the 10th century. In the 1600s, tobacco smoking became popular in Spain and was a symbol of wealth. Ironically, tobacco use was initially thought to be a cure for many illnesses. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the negative health effects of smoking began to be known, and it was first proven to cause cancer.

Employee hand rolling a cigar. Image from the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Employee hand rolling a cigar. Image from the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

In cigars the outer layer, or wrapper, holds the tobacco together into its signature shape. This outer layer also determines much of the character and flavor of the cigar. The exterior leaves were picked while still green and go through a special aging process depending on the color and cigar type desired. Cigars today come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, with tobacco produced in many different countries and regions. The tobacco leaves filling the cigar need to be arranged in a way that forms air passages, the size of which is important to the quality of the cigar. If the airways are too small, the cigar will not burn, and if they are too large the cigar will burn too fast. Prior to the 1950s all cigars were hand folded, and getting the correct arrangement of leaves took a skilled worker. Today machines have taken over that task, by replacing the painstakingly folded inner leaves with smaller pieces of chopped up tobacco.

Henry William Finck was raised in New Orleans where he worked in the cigar making industry and learned the trade. He managed a cigar factory in New Orleans until he came to San Antonio in 1853 and started his own business with $1,000, borrowed from his life insurance.

 Groundbreaking ceremony for Travis Club, northwest corner of Pecan and Navarro Streets, San Antonio, Texas, ca. 1911. Photo via UTSA Special Collections Library, Digital Identifier CD# 529; 075-1165.tif.

Groundbreaking ceremony for Travis Club, northwest corner of Pecan and Navarro Streets, San Antonio, Texas, ca. 1911. Photo via UTSA Special Collections Library, Digital Identifier CD# 529; 075-1165.tif.

The Finck Company made special “private label” cigars for the Travis Club, a private men’s club, founded in 1890. In 1906 the private label cigars were made only for the club, but during WWI the club members began inviting young military officers and trainees in San Antonio to join the Travis Club. These military men enjoyed the cigars so much they demanded they be sent to other military related men’s clubs. It became a widely popular brand and is still a top seller today, with an image of the original building printed on the label as a tribute to the history of the brand. Today the Finck Cigar Company is the only automated cigar factory in Texas. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Anwer Bati, The Cigar Companion: The Connoisseur’s Guide. Third Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 1997; pg. 27

Finck, Bill, and Mary Locke Croft. 1991. Interview with bill finck, 01-30-1991University of Texas at San Antonio.

“Our History – About – Finck Cigar Company – World’s Best Cigars.” Parscale Media. 2016. Finck Cigar Company.

Rogers, Kara. Substance use and abuse. Britannica Educational Publishing, 2011.

Object: Lamp

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Hanging lamp
Materials: Metal, & glass

This object is a hanging lamp made by Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company. Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company made many different types of lamps, some of them, like this one, had a detachable shade, which had a wire connected to it. The company was in business between the years 1852-1940. The company also manufactured bookends, matchbox holders, chandeliers, candlesticks and other metal household accessories. This lamp could be placed on a table and then moved to a hanging position when the owner needed it.

The Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company factory complex, ca1880. via http://www.si.edu/ahhp/bradley_hubbard

The Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company factory complex, ca1880. via http://www.si.edu/ahhp/bradley_hubbard

The Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company was originally named Bradley, Hatch and Company, until the Hatch brothers sold their piece of the company. The company started by manufacturing clocks up until the Civil War. At this time in history, metal companies started to expand and flourish because the country was expanding west of the Mississippi River. During this time Bradley and Hubbard expanded their company’s production line to include match safes for keeping matches dry, call bells for businesses with a reception desk, andirons for fireplaces, urns, and a variety of other items. The company was able to expand so much by keeping their prices lower than the competition, while maintaining the quality of their products.

When Colonel Edwin Drake discovered oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859, one of the partners of Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company, Nathaniel Bradley, saw an opportunity to expand their company’s production line to include kerosene lamps, like this hanging lamp. Once the kerosene business started to boom the company started to specialize in kerosene lamps, each lamp had a ‘B&H’ stamped on its base. Between the spring of 1868 and the winter of 1913 the company created 89 patents, which means they discovered new designs of lamps and had the right to legally exclude anyone from using the designs, similar to a copyright or license. The designs of lamps and chandeliers were the designs of Bradley and Hubbard.i-0026i-6

One of the patents was a design for a type of chandelier that could be lowered and raised. This chandelier was advertised in 1875 in the Crockery and Glass JournalFinding success in these chandeliers, they sold, them to churches, and banquet halls. Keeping up with the changing times, the company started to manufacture electric lamps and chandeliers when those became popular. Their products were in demand all around the country, and they are still valued today.  [Amanda Rock, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Wenrich, Jeanne. 1989. Bradley and Hubbard Manufacturing Company.

American Petroleum Institute. 1954. The story of Colonel Drake. New York, N.Y.: American Petroleum Institute.

Carey, Charles W. 2002. American inventors, entrepreneurs, and business visionaries. New York: Facts on File.

Cooke, Lawrence S. 1976. Lighting in America: from colonial rushlights to Victorian chandeliers. New York: Main Street/Universe Books.

Object: Lantern

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“Yellow Dog” Lantern
Alamo Iron Works
San Antonio, TX
early 1900’s
Materials: metal

Image via:Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography University of California, Riverside

Image via: Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography
University of California, Riverside

Lanterns like this “Yellow Dog” were used for night time lighting around oil drilling derricks in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were designed to burn crude oil, abundant on oil fields, and used two wicks to put out more light. They were made of iron or steel to be very sturdy, and unlikely to break or explode. A fire on an oil derrick could quickly become very dangerous.

This Yellow Dog was made by Alamo Iron Works in San Antonio. Founded in 1875, Alamo Iron Works was originally located in downtown San Antonio in the area that is now the Alamodome. Alamo Iron Works has a long history of producing and distributing steel, and was a key supplier for local projects like the Menger Hotel and Ursuline Academy.

Map via: Texas Almanac

Map via: Texas Almanac

Oil drilling has been big business in Texas since 1901, when the so-called “Lucas Gusher” struck oil in the Spindletop field, near Beaumont, TX. Before this the largest oil producing region of the country was in western Pennsylvania. Following the impressive find at Spindletop an oil boom began in Texas, with speculators setting up drilling operations throughout the state in hopes of striking in it rich. Wells sprung up in Corsicana, Burkburnett, New London, and many other boom-towns around the state.

The following video discusses the oil boom in Ranger, TX.

In less than a decade oil transformed Texas from an agricultural economy into an industrial powerhouse. The discovery of abundant oil supplies in Texas transformed transportation, making cars more practical and converting trains and steamships from coal to oil. It also brought a great deal of wealth to the state. Well owners became overnight millionaires, but the industry also created many jobs in all aspects of oil discovery, production, processing and transportation. State universities and public schools also befitted greatly from the oil boom in Texas, thanks to oil being found on lands appropriated to schools during the Republic of Texas. Even today oil and natural gas are an important part of Texas’ economy. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Boatright, Mody Coggin, and William A. Owens. Tales from the Derrick Floor; A People’s History of the Oil Industry. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1970.

Burrough, Bryan. The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes. New York: Penguin Press, 2009.

Olien, Roger M., and Diana Davids Hinton. Life in the Oil Fields. Austin, Tex: Texas Monthly Press, 1986.

Rundell, Walter. Early Texas Oil: A Photographic History, 1866-1936. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1977.


Object: Bullet Mold

I-0192b (2)
Bullet Mold
United States
Materials: Metal

This object is a single cavity bullet mold for a .58 minié ball muzzle-loading rifle. According to the donor this mold was used during the American Civil War by a man named John Jacob Thomas. According to family tradition, Thomas immigrated from Switzerland and served with the Refugio Home Guard, and also served as a Refugio County constable in 1864.

In the spring of 1861 the first shots of the American Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter. Although, Texas had worked hard to join the Union in 1845 they were concerned by the election of Abraham Lincoln and believed he was a threat to slavery. Texans tried to get Sam Houston to call a convention but Houston was devoted to both the Union and Texas and refused to take any steps that would aid secession. A convention was eventually held and Texas seceded from the Union in March 1861. The war would last until 1865 and result in more 600,000 casualties, making it the bloodiest war ever fought by the United States.


Various types of Minié balls. The four on the right are provided with Tamisier ball grooves for aerodynamic stability. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Bullets like the ones made from this mold were called minié balls and were one of the reasons why the causality number was so high. The minié ball was one of many technological innovations during this time period. The minié ball was invented by a Frenchman named Claude-Etienne Minié. However, the French never adopted the bullet design. It was James Burton a man from Harper’s Ferry, Virginia who perfected the bullet in the United States. “Burton simplified the design…and developed a hollow-based, .58-caliber lead projectile that could be cheaply mass produced.” One person could manufacture about 3,000 bullets an hour. Different from a regular musket ball the minié ball was cylindrical in shape with a hollow base that expanded when fired. “By the mid-1850s, the fully evolved minié bullet made it possible to build an infantry weapon as easy to load as the old smoothbore musket but with the accuracy and range of a rifle. The term rifle-musket was used to show the weapon’s lethal combination. A soldier using one could fire up to six shots a minute, and with more time to aim could hit a four square-foot target at 500 yards. The minié ball was used by both the North and South.


Amputation kit, ca. 1870. Image from U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Although, the minié ball was a new ground-breaking invention, musket fire was responsible for a large amount of the casualties. Because of the relative softness of the bullets, they would flatten and deform on impact, creating a larger wound and more severe injuries. With a regular musket ball the entrance wound was usually the same size as the exit wound. However, with the minié ball the exit wound was much larger. Minié ball bullets were also more likely to break and splinter bone than a traditional musket ball, and in turn cause more damage to muscle and tissue. Almost all direct hits from a minié ball were deadly, though some soldiers did survive.

The soldiers who survived being hit by one of these bullets would be taken to army surgeons, typically encamped near the battlefield. Cleaning contaminated wounds was time consuming and sometimes did not work. In a battle environment and a mounting number of injured men, amputation was sometimes the only option. An amputation was more successful if done before the wound became infected. With the poor sanitation available at the front, infection was a common problem during the war and caused twice as many deaths as the battle wounds themselves. One reason rate of infection was so high was because it was not yet common practice to sterilize medical equipment prior to surgery, and the concept of germ theory had not been completely accepted. Even though Civil War surgeons saved more lives than not, they had a bad reputation amongst the soldiers and were often called butchers. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

The following video shows how soldiers made paper cartridges for the .58 minié ball muzzle-loading rifle.

Additional Sources:

Davis, William C., and Russ A. Pritchard. The Fighting Men of the Civil War. New York: Gallery Books, 1989.

Dew, Charles B. 2001. Apostles of disunion: southern secession commissioners and the causes of the Civil War. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Howey, A. W. (1999, 10). The widow-maker. Civil War Times Iillustrated, 38, 46-51+.

Rutkow, Ira M. 2005. Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War surgery and the evolution of American medicine. New York: Random House.

Wooster, Ralph A. 1999. Civil War Texas: a history and a guide. [Austin]: Texas State Historical Association. 

Object: Drinking Bottle

Drinking Bottle
Unknown Origin
Materials: Glass

This object is a greenish-colored drinking bottle that most likely held wine or champagne. It is thought to date between 1850s and 1920s because of its lip. This particular lip has a sheared top with a tooled ring. The lip is the tip of the bottle where the liquid pours out. The tooled ring is a ring that goes around just below the lip. Since there were many variations of sheared tops and tooled rings throughout the years it can be difficult to narrow down specifically when this bottle was made. However, we know that this style became popular around the 1850s and was less common after 1920s. Around the time this type of bottle declined in production, the American alcohol industry went through a drastic change.


“Woman’s Holy War. Grand Charge on the Enemy’s Works.” An allegorical 1874 political cartoon print. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

In the early 1800s people in the United States started speaking out against the drinking of alcohol, this was known as the Temperance Movement. At first, supporters of temperance hoped to slow down public consumption of alcohol. After the Revolutionary War the American economy experienced difficult times. Citizens went through an economic depression, the Civil War, and hard working conditions. Men who worked in manual labor jobs, where physical strength was required, were offered liqueur to help them work through the day. People began relieving stress by drinking in public. Alcohol also was considered safer to drink than water, since many water sources were contaminated with bacteria. All of these factors led to an increase in alcohol consumption, and a greater number of people suffering from alcohol addiction. Later Temperance advocates began to support the total banning of alcohol. Many people, often wives of alcoholic husbands, took a pledge to never drink an alcoholic beverage. This movement eventually led to the country’s ban on all alcohol sales and manufacture. This time period was called Prohibition and it lasted from January 1920 to February 1933.

The temperance/prohibition movement had been quite active in Texas even before it became a state in the Union. The movement gained in power and support in Texas in the 1840’s. In 1843 the Republic of Texas passed what may have been the first local option measure in North America. The “local option measure” allowed individual cities and counties to decide if they wanted to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol within their borders.  In 1845 the temperance movement helped pass a law which outlawed saloons, but was largely unenforced and finally repealed in 1856. In 1895, fifty-three of the 239 counties in Texas were dry, and another seventy-nine counties were partly dry under the local option measure. In 1919 Texas voters approved a state prohibition amendment, which had already been passed by the United States Congress and was being ratified in each state.

Supporters of Prohibition hoped that the ban would increase economic and social productivity. It was thought that without alcohol, there would be no more public intoxication, less crime, and a healthier public. However, the results they hoped for did not materialize after alcohol was banned, instead prohibition led to a boom in organized crime. Many people took to crimes of “moonshining” and “bootlegging” during the ban. Moonshining is the process of making illegally distilled alcohol. Bootlegging is the illegal transportation and distribution of alcohol, whether it is produced legally or not.


Al Capone while incarcerated at Alcatraz. Image taken by Federal Bureau of Prisons and found on Wikimedia Commons.

During Prohibition bootlegging was the only way people could buy alcoholic beverages. Since alcohol was in high demand by many citizens, more and more people went into bootlegging as a way to make money. This is how organized crime quickly spread across the country, contributing to the rise in the now infamous criminals known as gangsters or mobsters. One of the most famous gangsters was Al Capone, also known as Scarface. He was one of the many outlaws that illegally sold alcohol. The government tried on a number of occasions to put Capone in prison for his role in bootlegging and organized crime, but had trouble successfully prosecuting him. In 1931, two years before the end of Prohibition, Capone was charged with tax evasion and violations of Prohibition. Later the Prohibition charges were dropped because witnesses feared to face Capone in court. However, he was still convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined $50,000. Although Capone and several other gangsters were imprisoned, the illegal sale and transportation of alcohol continued. Bootleggers and mobsters continued bootlegging alcohol until 1933 when Prohibition was repealed with the 21st amendment. [McKayla McCarty, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
Fentress, James. 2010. Eminent gangsters : immigrants and the birth of organized crime in America. Lanham, Md: University Press of America.

Iorizzo, Luciano J. 2003. Al Capone a biography. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Jurkiewicz, Carole L., and Murphy J. Painter. 2008. Social and economic control of alcohol: the 21st amendment in the 21st century. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Kyvig, David E. 1985. Law alcohol and order: perspectives on national prohibition. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood press.

Rumbarger, John J. 1989. Profits, power, and prohibition: alcohol reform and the industrializing of America, 1800-1930. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Object: Drinking Bottle

Drinking Bottle
Unknown Origin
Materials: Glass

This item is a drinking bottle that most likely held wine. This particular bottle is thought to date between the 1740s to the 1840s. By looking at the bottle’s lip and base we can estimate a date range. The lip is the tip of the bottle where you drink from while the base is the very bottom. Glass making is a form of art which has been practiced for thousands of years. It is hard to determine who first used glass or who discovered it, however, it was most likely by accident. Glass is formed when a combination of sand and soda ash (a chemical with sodium) is heated until it turns into a liquid. Soda ash is a natural chemical combination found in mineral water near lakes and springs. When the mix of sand and soda ash cools it solidifies into what we know as glass. The earliest traces of glass can be found in Asia, where scientists believe it was first made. Glass was created and used throughout the ancient world by many different cultures.


The Jamestown Glasshouse. Image from jamestownglasshouse.com.

The first glassware made in the United States was made in Jamestown, Virginia. The settlers used a technique called glass blowing. They used glass for everyday items like bottles, cups, and windows, but also made small beads to trade with Native Americans.  It wasn’t until the 19th century the glass industry began to thrive in the United States. After the Industrial Revolution, new factories, new advanced tools, and skilled workers helped to expand the glass industry.

The first glass factory in Texas was built at Three Rivers in 1922 as sand and the gas needed as fuel to melt it were plentiful. Powered by local natural gas, the plant used quartzose sand, mined in the area to make glass bottles for milk and other beverages, as well as jars for food and cosmetics. The company attained an annual gross sales of a million dollars. The Great Depression forced the sale of the factory to the Ball Glass Company in 1937, and the factory was permanently closed in 1938. Today there are several glass manufacturers/fabricators, glass blowers, and installers that operate in Texas. [McKayla McCarty, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Here is a video of a demonstration of glass blowing.

Additional Resources
Carberry, Edward. 2003. Glassblowing: an introduction to artistic and scientific flameworking. Marshall, MN: MGLS Pub.

Douglas, R. W., and Susan Frank. 1972. A history of glassmaking. Henley-on-Thames: Foulis.

Fones-Wolf, Ken. 2007. Glass towns: industry, labor and political economy in Appalachia, 1890-1930s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Pappalardo, Umberto, Rosaria Ciardiello, and Luciano Pedicini. 2012. Greek and Roman mosaics.

Rogers, Frances, and Alice Beard. 1937. 5000 years of glass. New York: Frederick A. Stokes company.

Schuler, Frederic, and Lilli Schuler. 1970. Glassforming; glassmaking for the craftsman. Philadelphia: Chilton Book Co.

Object: Cigar gauge


Cigar gauge
New York, NY
Date: Middle 20th century
Materials: Wood, Metal

This item is a device for measuring cigars, called a cepo in Spanish. This device has a notch that would measure length, and a ring though the middle of it that measures a cigar’s diameter, referred to as the ring gauge. The ring gauge in cigars measures the thickness of the cigar to a 64th of an inch. The ring through the center of this object is  44/64 of an inch in diameter, which translates to a 44 ring gauge.

This gauge was donated by Bill Finck Sr., of Finck Cigars. The Finck family has been making cigars in San Antonio since 1893, when Mr. Finck’s grandfather started the company. During that time, there were a lot of cigar makers in Texas, especially in German communities. Henry William Finck moved to the San Antonio area from New Orleans, after his doctors urged him to seek a drier climate to help treat an illness he was suffering from, thought at the time to have been  tuberculous. Henry had learned how to make cigars in New Orleans while working for cigar manufactures there, he only formed his own cigar company after moving to San Antonio.

During the late 19th century, cigars were more popular than cigarettes and most major cities in Texas had cigar manufacturers. There were cigar companies in San Antonio, Seguin, Round Top, El Paso, Shiner and Fredricksburg to name a few. Most of these companies have since shut down, and Finck’s is one of the few that remain. Perhaps it is the long-running association between Finck’s Cigars, and the now-closed Travis Club that is responsible for Finck’s long-term success. During World War I, the Travis Club opened its doors to the military officers to gather and relax while on leave. As a result, the Travis Club’s private label cigars, made exclusively by Finck’s for the club members, were in high demand by the soldiers. To this day, Finck’s Cigar Company continues to support the military and military veterans through various fundraisers.

From the late 19th through early 20th century, there were a number of inventions made to help speed up the process of making cigars. Gauges like this one, at the Institute of Texan Cultures, helped to ensure each cigar was made to the same standard length and diameter. This cigar gauge was patented by John J. Sander of New York, in 1884. Mr. Sander was known to have been in business with his father-in-law George P. Bruck. He he lived in Brooklyn, having arrived there in about 1880 with his parents who had emigrated here from Germany in 1874.

Most Finck Company cigars are made by hand, from start to finish. In the late 1800s when boxes started becoming a standard way of selling cigars, maintaining a uniform length became an important manufacturing issue. This gauge is one way to have a simple method of quality control for both the gauge of the cigar and the length. The finished cigar is placed in the wide gap at the top, to measure the cigar length. It is also passed through the ring in the center to verify the ring gauge. Finck’s no longer uses this type of gauge to measure cigars, instead they use a device with multiple size gauges so that one device can measure any type of cigar.

Cigar rollers, like many of the manufacturing workers in San Antonio during the Great Depression, were paid by the piece, rather than by the hour. This type of pay, called piecework, was meant to encourage workers to produce large numbers of items. At the Finck Cigar Company, workers were expected to use a set amount of tobacco to roll 500 cigars. Employees were penalized for each cigar that did not meet the size or quality standards, by having to roll extra “penalty cigars.” These extra cigars did not count toward the number of cigars made, and so the worker’s were not paid for any “penalty cigars” made. The number of penalty cigars, combined with pressures to unionize, led to several strikes in the 1930s. Several other industries such as the garment workers, pecan shellers, and launderers faced strikes in the 1930s over working conditions. At this time there was also an increased movement for unity among Mexican-American laborers, spearheaded by leading women in the community such as Emma Tenayuca and Manuela Solis Sager.

Photo via: University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections, “Finck Cigar Company Employees / Christmas Party / Dec. 23, 1936.” http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p9020coll008/id/3949

Needless to say, working conditions in San Antonio (and across the country) have undergone considerable reforms since then for safety, work hour limits, better pay, and protection against discrimination. These reforms came about for a number of reasons, including: mechanization of labor, increased numbers of women entering the workforce during World War II, as well as the workers’ and civil rights movements of the 20th century. [Christine Moscardini-Hall, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Finck Cigar Company. 1900. Finck Cigar Company: [catalog]. San Antonio, Tex: Finck Cigar Co.

Institute of Texan Cultures. The German Texans. University of Texas at San Antonio, 1987.

Mack, Russell H. 1933. The cigar manufacturing industry: factors of instability affecting production and employment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Manning, Caroline, and Harriet A. Byrne. 1932. The effects on women of changing conditions in the cigar and cigarette industries. Washington: U.S. G.P.O.

Object: Loom


Back-strap Loom
Latin American
Date: 20th century
Materials: Wood, textile


Photo via: WDICT

Weaving has been a valuable art practiced around the world for thousands of years, across many cultures. Although now widely replaced with mass production textile factories, the art of weaving has played a significant role in shaping the textile industry in Texas and other parts of the world today. Some of the earliest types of loom were believed to be the warp-weighted loom and horizontal ground loom. The warp-weighted loom gets its name from the small weights that were attached to the warp (vertical threads) of the weaving, to provide tension. Horizontal ground looms are extremely portable and require only a few stakes in the ground to create a simple loom, they have been particularly popular in nomadic societies since prehistory. Similar to the horizontal ground loom, back-strap looms are also very portable and have been in use in South America since at least 5800 B.C. Weaving, in its many forms has been an important part of New World culture for centuries, and looms of my types have been used by native peoples throughout the Americas. Back-strap looms like the one at the Institute of Texan Cultures, made in Fonart, Mexico are still common in Central and South America today. This type of weaving is particular popular amongst the Highland Maya, who produce impressive brocaded fabrics using these simple looms. A back-strap loom is comprised of several sticks, rope and sometimes a wide strap. The  loom is used by attaching the upper portion of the loom to something sturdy, like a tree or post, and the other end is strapped around the waist. The weaver can then adjust the tension in the fabric by moving nearer or farther from the tree or post.

The following video shows a back-strap loom in use.


Photo via: Eugene Textile Center

Other styles and techniques are used all over the world. Frame style looms allow for complex techniques and patterns and is the preferred style of loom in many cultures. Frame looms come in a variety of different sizes and use the structure of the loom to create tension rather than the position of the weaver. In one variation of a frame style loom, called a treadle loom, the pattern of the weave is determined by harnesses operated by foot pedals. The loom holds vertical threads while the weaver interlaces the horizontal threads through in a variety of different patterns. They are very versatile and, depending on size, can produce large pieces of cloth. Looms of this type tend to be used to produce lighter, thinner, fabrics than those produced using a back-strap style loom. [Jordan Kinnally, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Broudy, Eric. The Book of Looms: A History of the Handloom from Ancient Times to the Present. Hanover: Brown University Press, 1993.

Hecht, Ann. The Art of the Loom: Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Across the World. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001.

Hendrickson, Carol E. Weaving Identities: Construction of Dress and Self in a Highland Guatemala Town. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Martin, Christina. Weaving: Methods, Patterns, and Traditions of the Oldest Art. New York: Walker & Company, 2005.

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