Material: Wood, Iron and Ceramic
Exploration is how many countries were born, without exploration we would not have the United States, we would not have the technologies, foods or even cultures that we experience today. Yet, every good explorer needs tools to help them navigate across the worlds’ terrain or vast seas. At the very least an explorer should know which direction they are going, and the compass was one of the first tools created to help give us direction. This replica compass has a small cup on a wooden base, along with an iron and wood crosspiece. This compass design is used by filling the cup with water and floating the wood and iron crosspiece in the water. The iron, if magnetized, will be pulled toward the north. Rubbing it with a magnet or lodestone can temporarily magnetize the iron or any other metals.
The lodestone is a naturally occurring stone with magnetic properties. Suspending the lodestone from a string or floating it on a piece of wood allowed it to move toward the northern magnetic pole, the north, because of its magnetic properties. How the lodestone itself is created is still debated. One theory suggests that lightning magnetizes the stones. Evidence to support such claims is that lodestones are often found near the earth’s surface, where lightning would be able to reach them. The origin of the name lodestone comes from Middle English, lode meaning way or course. Thus, the literal translation gives us the way or course stone, used by early mariners to show them the way.
Learn more about the lodestone and its mysterious power from this short video:
Before the compass the stars in our solar system were the main tools used to identify north, south, east and west. With the sun rising and setting the same way each day and stars mapping out what we today call constellations, a pattern was formed and directions were set. Directions, before the compass, were based on landmarks, such as a tall mountain or common streams. Some even claim that these early ways of giving directions is how Europe got its name, from the Phoenician word Ereb, meaning ‘toward the setting sun’. As the business of trade was important to many counties, devising a way to determine direction was crucial. It is not known for certain when the first compass was discovered, but the Chinese were amongst the first to write about the compass. With the discovery of the lodestone we find evidence of the earliest directional tools. Interestingly enough, early Europeans thought they were being pointed north, meanwhile the Chinese, using early compass technology, thought they were being directed south. This leads us to another confusion at hand, the moving north.
Now the north isn’t actually moving, but the magnetic north is, which is the direction that a compass leads you. Our magnetic north is shifting because it uses magnetic properties from the magnetic field of the earth. As the earth’s hot liquid core shifts it sends out electrical currents that make up the earth’s magnetic field and this changes the location of our magnetic north. It is still accurate for general direction but the compass can’t lead you to the geographical north pole. The geographical north, also often referred to as the ‘true’ north, is a fixed point in our Northern hemisphere. It is believed that mariners, most often our earliest known compass using explorers, were the first to notice the deviation between the true north and magnetic north. Thus, by the 1500s we had substantial mapping of the earth’s magnetic field, but it was later explorer John Ross, along with his nephew James Clark Ross, that would first locate the magnetic north pole.
Geologists have watched the magnetic north travel ever since, through traces of paleo-geomagnetism, which is just a long word for the study of the history of earth’s magnetic field found in rocks and minerals. They found that the magnetic poles of the earth have actually traded places several times over thousands of years. So the north we see on the compass today was once actually the southern magnetic pole, but the poles will switch again, so keep an eye on your compass. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]
Roald Amundsen. A Proposed Expedition to the North Magnetic Pole. The Geographical Journal .Vol. 19, No. 4 (Apr., 1902) , pp. 484-489. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).
This object is a replica of the National Flag of the Federal Republic Germany that was given to the Institute of Texan Cultures by the German Consulate in 1988. While the flag appears to be of a simple design, the history behind the design and colors used have a long history behind them!
When and where was the first German national flag created?
The modern national flag of Germany was declared in 1949, but the roots of the design and color go back centuries. The area that is now modern Germany was historically made up of many independent states, and these states were only loosely held together as part of the larger Holy Roman Empire. Germany was not unified into its own country until the Congress of Vienna in 1814. Often toted as the first flag of Germany, the forerunner of today’s German national flag was first flown at a rally known as the Hambach Festival in 1832 at Hambach Castle in Hambach, Germany.
What’s Hambach Castle, and why is it important?
The castle as it is seen today was not originally called Hambach Castle—it was called Kastenburg (or roughly translated in the Palatinate dialect as the Chestnut Castle) in honor of the chestnut forests surrounding the castle’s location in the Forest of the Palatinate. Initially constructed in the early 11th century, the castle’s early history is relatively unknown. Nevertheless, the castle was signed over to the Bishopric of Speyer in the early 12th century, where it remained as the bishop’s base of operations until 1797 (when it became property of the French government). By that time the castle had survived the Thirty Year’s War relatively intact, but had been more or less destroyed by French troops in the Palatinate War of the Succession. It was returned back to German ownership in 1816, to the Hambach territory in the Kingdom of Bavaria (hence the name).
The castle played an important part in the formation of German democracy at the 1832 Hambacher Fest, where the very first German national flag was flown.
Hambacher Fest and the First Flag
While the area of Hambach Castle passed back-and-forth between French and German control, the people of the area struggled under heavy taxes and extreme censorship. Democracy and freedom of speech were banned by the state, as were political gatherings such as protests or demonstrations. In order to circumvent these restrictions, a “Hambach Festival” was advertised in the area, and on May 27th, 1832 about 30,000 people from all social classes (including women) marched up to Hambach Castle. The Festival featured impassioned speeches that called for German national unity, popular sovereignty, more civil and political rights, and liberty. The first flags in Germany to utilize the colors of black, red, and gold— which would later become the national flag and national colors of Germany—were also flown.
What do the colors of the National German flag represent?
The colors of the modern German national flag feature prominently in German history. The earliest historical account of these colors being used on a flag came from the imperial coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire was a vast, German-majority and multi-ethnic kingdom that dominated central Europe from 962 AD to the year 1806—that’s almost 1,000 years of power! The colors featured on the coat of arms were used to depict a black eagle with two heads, with red talons on a golden background, and it was said that these colors were chosen to reflect the power and influence of the Holy Roman Empire.
For the modern National Flag of Germany, however, the three colors have very particular meanings. Black was said to symbolize the dignity and determination of the German people. Red was said to symbolize bravery, strength and valor. The color of gold historically represented wealth, power, and prestige. However, some stipulate that the colors represent a valiant group of volunteers who fought in the Napoleanic Wars. It’s no wonder then that this positive variation of the National German flag has appeared multiple times in Germany’s long history!
Variations of the German National Flag
The German National Flag known as the Bundesflagge (boon-dess-flah-geh) or Federal Flag made its first formal appearance in 1848 as the de facto flag of the German Confederation (1815- 1866) and the Prussian German Empire. The war flag or Seekriegsflagge (see-kreegs-flah-geh) during this time period incorporated a double-headed eagle reminiscent of the coat of arms from the Holy Roman Empire.
Overtaken by the black, white and red flag of the German Empire of Prussia, the Bundesflagge would not be seen again until the Weimar Republic formed in 1919. While the national flag and its color scheme was back in style, the Dienstflagge zu Land (deenst-flah-geh zoo land) or State Flag was the first to have the eagle emblem in the center of the flag from 1921 to the end of Weimar Republic in 1933.
After the fall of Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich at the end of World War II, Germany was divided between the Western Allied victors (Great Britain, France, and the United States) and the Soviet Union. The combined sections that were run by the Western powers became known as “Federal Republic of Germany” – or West Germany, and the side controlled by the Soviet Union became known as the “German Democratic Republic”— or East Germany. The national flag of East Germany looked very similar to the national flag of Germany that was adopted in 1949, but with a coat of arms in the center that featured communist symbolism such as a compass, hammer and golden wheat.
The flag of Western Germany (that was adopted in 1949) is the same flag that flies today over Germany today, now a symbol of German strength, history and reunification. [Caira Spenrath, edited by Jennifer McPhail]
San Felipe Flag, modern reproduction
Original date: 1836
This item is a modern reproduction of the San Felipe flag which was carried in the Texas Revolution during Sam Houston’s retreat from Gonzales to San Jacinto. The front of the flag has thirteen stripes representing the stripes on the American flag. The star to the right of the stripes symbolizes Texas and its “spark of liberty.” The flag was carried by Captain Mosely Baker from the town of San Felipe to Gonzales in February 1836 where he and his men met with Sam Houston. From there they marched to San Jacinto where the flag led them into victory, and the end of the war.
The Texas Revolution began on October 1835 with the battle of Gonzales and ended with the battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The Texans gathered up nearly 10,000 soldiers to help fight for independence. Most of these soldiers had little or no military training. The battle of Gonzales was the official start of the war and is said to be “where the first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired.” Before the battle of San Jacinto began, San Antonio de Valero Mission in San Antonio, now commonly referred to as The Alamo, and town of Goliad had been brutally attacked by the Mexican dictator and president, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (also known as Santa Anna) and his armies. These attacks led to the fall of the Alamo and left many Texan soldiers dead or wounded.
The conflict at the Alamo started when Santa Anna and his troops arrived in San Antonio on February 23, 1836. At the time, only a couple hundred Texan forces defended the city. Santa Anna was able to easily push the Texans into the old mission called “the Alamo.” Less than 200 hundred men defended the mission against Santa Anna. The siege of the Alamo lasted nearly two weeks, however several letters asking for back up were sent out. The most famous letter written by Commander William Barret Travis was sent the night of February 25th. This is known as the “Victory or Death” letter.
In this letter Travis pleaded for help and stated that Santa Anna demanded surrender. Travis then said “I shall never surrender or retreat… VICTORY OR DEATH.” The commander declared that he would defend the Alamo or die trying. On March 6th Mexican forces took the Alamo and killed all defenders. The bodies of the defenders were ordered to be burned while the bodies of the Mexican troops were to be buried or tossed into the river. Mexican documents counted burning only 182-183 Alamo defenders, but buried close to 600 Mexican soldiers.
The battle at Goliad is not as well-known as the battle of the Alamo however it was just as important. After learning of the defeat at the Alamo, General Sam Houston gave orders to Colonel James W. Fannin to retreat from Goliad. For unknown reasons Fannin delayed in his retreat and was surprised by Mexican General José de Urrea. There Urrea and his men dominated Texas forces at the battle of Coleto (a spot just outside of town) and imprisoned Fannin and his soldiers after they surrendered. The prisoners were sent to the fort in Goliad named “La Bahía” where Urrea wrote to Santa Anna about the surrender. Santa Anna ordered Urrea to leave no survivors, so all the prisoners were executed.
After the battles of the Alamo and Goliad both Texas and Mexican forces marched near San Jacinto River. On April 20, 1936, while Santa Anna and his army rested, Houston and his 900 men attacked. The Texans took advantage of the Mexican Army’s unpreparedness and won the battle. The battle itself lasted only lasted 18 minutes but in the end helped win the war. Houston’s men were able to capture Santa Anna the day after the battle and talk him into coming to an agreement. He agreed to order all Mexican troops to leave Texas immediately. Soon afterwards treaties were signed at the town of Velasco declaring Texas independence from Mexico. [McKayla McCarty, edited by Jennifer McPhail]
Caddo effigy pipe (reproduction)
This item is a modern reproduction of a Caddo effigy pipe. Effigies are a type of vessel or small sculpture that has been made to resemble a human or animal. It is common to see effigies in the form of pipes like this one and even bowls, plates, or other small vessels. Effigies are not limited to just the Caddo, they are seen all over the world, even today. The Caddo is a group of Native Americans who resided in northeastern Texas, northwestern Louisiana, southwestern Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and stretched up to parts of Missouri at one point in time.
The Caddo are considered to be a part of the Mississippian culture group. This group is defined by a time period called the Mississippian Period. This period was the last stage of Prehistoric America and lasted from 800 AD to 1600 AD. The group is labeled together by similar traits in culture, economics, language, and politics. Some of these traits included material culture such as pottery and vessels like the Caddo pipe effigy. The Mississippians were well known for being Mound Builders. These mounds were large platforms made with soil which are found in many areas of the southeastern United States. The reasons for building these mounds varied from tribe to tribe, the functions however, they were usually used to show political power or for use in religious ceremonies.
The Caddo tribes were one of the groups who participated in mound building. Here in Texas we have several examples of mound construction. These mounds tell us about the Caddo’s political and social order. In these many of these mounds, scientists have found human burials along with ceramics, shells, copper and other material items. This might suggest these people were of a special social or political class, within Caddo society.
These mounds also provide us with important examples of Caddo pottery and other ceramics, such as the effigy pipe. This type of artwork helps archaeologists identify cultural groups, their territories and establish time periods, such as the Mississippian. Based on archaeological findings, we now know that the Caddo would make different jars, bowls, bottles, and other storage items for ceremonial use and a utilitarian type of bowls and jars for everyday activities. Both types had engraving, incising, and/or stamping for decoration. Decoration usually included a series of vertical and horizontal lines or geometric shapes. These lines and shapes changed over time, giving archaeologists a way create timelines and date objects.
Mounds have also provide us with important information about ancient Caddo housing. Archaeologists have found evidence that some houses were built on top of many of these mounds. They have found that Texas Caddo houses tended to be shaped like a cone. The frame of the house was made of wood, and then covered with grasses. In the middle of the house a single pole supported the weight of the roof. Sometimes these houses had entryways, which help to identify the front and inside many of these houses were fire-pits. [McKayla McCarty, edited by Jennifer McPhail]
EX2015.2.1 (formerly I-0587a)
Native American (inspired)
Materials: Bison hide, wood
This reproduction tipi was made in the style of the Sioux tribe of Native Americans, by the internationally recognized buffalo expert and tanner, Larry Belitz of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Belitz has been making tipis in the traditional Sioux style since he first began working near Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970’s, and is one of the best known buffalo hide tipi craftsman of the 20th century. His work has been displayed in over 30 museums around the world. Belitz also served as the technical adviser for a number of movies, including: Dances with Wolves, Hidalgo, Maverick, and Wyatt Earp.
Belitz utilized ten and a half buffalo hides in the making of this tipi. The hides were sewn together using an awl with sinew for thread. The structure consists of fifteen tipi-poles . Lodgepole pine is often used to make these poles because it is long, straight, strong and lightweight. When making his bison hide tipis, Belitz tries to only use materials and equipment that would have been available to Native Americans prior to 1880. After 1880 most Native Americans had been forced off of their lands and away from their traditional way of life, and as a result may have utilized different types of products and tools. In order to ensure that his reproductions are as historically accurate as possible, Belitz buys buffalo hides from ranchers who do not use brands and skin the animals in the field to reduce the risk of bruising. Following his acquisition of the hides, Belitz preserves the hide in a process called tanning. One traditional tanning technique used by Belitz, that was common among Native American groups, uses animal brains. In this process, called “brain tanning” the tanner mixes brains with water and rubs the mixture onto the hide. This mixture preserves the hide as well as making it soft and supple.
The following video further discusses the brain tanning process and the importance of buffalo to Native Americans living on the American plains.
The Sioux nation includes three main divisions: the Lakota (or Teton), the Dakota (or Santee), and the Nakota (or Yankton). These divisions reflect differences in dialect between these different sections of the Sioux nation. Each of these divisions are then sub-divided into smaller groups, sometime called bands. The Lakota has seven bands, the Dakota has four bands, and the Nakota has three bands. Each band has its own leadership and makes decisions independently of other Sioux bands. All of the Sioux are considered Plains Indian people, and their traditional way of life has some similarities to other Plains Indian tribes, like the Comanche. The Comanches were one of the dominant tribes the Southern Plains (and Texas) in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Comanche lifestyle was highly nomadic and depended on the use of horses. Comanches constructed tipis that were made of buffalo hide and stretched over poles, very similar to the tipis constructed by the Sioux
The Plains Indians lived on the Great Plains in the area from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to Mexico. The arrival of the horse, following European contact with the New World, made life on the vast plains much easier. The Plains Indians learned to be expert riders and utilized horses for raiding and expanding their territory. The use of horses also enabled advancements in buffalo hunting. Buffalo were utilized by the Plains Indians for bedding, canteens, clothing, food, fur robes, glue, parfleches, horse tack, spoons, and many other items. The Plains Indians lived in tipis because they were easily disassembled, allowing for a nomadic lifestyle. [Lauren Thompson, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]