Materials: Paper, ink
In 1917, Gus Louis “Max” Levine opened up a small general store in Sealy, Texas. He was later joined by his brothers Abe and Maurice after WWI. They sold the usual items at their general store, things such as cloth, sacks of flour, kerosene and other household items. They kept an inventory of their merchandise and what was bought and sold was all recorded in a ledger. The ledger that was donated to the Institute of Texan Cultures has a list of items on each page that describes the goods or items that were sold at their store in December 1923. Some goods listed in the ledger are seeds, hats, hosiery, wheat, dress goods and of course groceries. In 1928 they added a partition that enabled customers to go into a separate area for dry goods. There you could purchase clothing for the family, fabric, sheets, towels some kitchen furniture and Samsonite luggage. The also sold farming equipment and supplies.
According to Max’s son, Melvyn, most of their customers were sharecroppers. In the early 1900s sharecropping was wide spread in the Sealy area and about 95% of the population were African American. The Levine family prided themselves on not being prejudice about who they did business with. According to Mr. Levine, “business was business” and one’s word and a handshake were a legal agreement.
The Levine Brothers were one of the first, if not the first, to offer coupon books to make purchases. However, unlike today’s coupons the coupons in the books were used more like credit cards than to get a discount on an item. This was also carefully documented in ledgers to keep track of lines of credit that were collected at the end of the month. The coupon books let people buy items on credit. The amount spent was removed from the coupon books and attached to the ledger. A tally of the months purchases was kept along with what was owed at the end of the month. The money was due when the harvest was sold at the end of the growing season.
In 1948, Max Levine died in a train crossing accident and after his death the brothers maintained the store. Max’s son, Melvyn and his mother moved to Houston, but during the summers he would return to Sealy to help out his uncles in the store. The Levine Brother General Store was very successful, after being in business for seventy-seven years the store closed its doors in 1994. [Marisol Martinez, edited by Kathryn McCloud]
Jinkins, John Edward, James M. McGrann, Stephen H. Amosson, Raymond C. Battalio, and Lawrence A. Lippke. The Impact of Share Leasing on the Financial Condition of Farm Operations in the Texas Panhandle. 1989.
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.
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.
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]
San Antonio, TX
Materials: Paper & ink
The San Antonio and Aransas Pass railway or “SAAP” was a railway system that connected San Antonio to Aransas Bay . It was chartered in August 28, 1884 with its first stop in Floresville. It was one of only two railroad systems that came out of San Antonio. The railway was built to compete with the Galveston Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad which was part of the Southern Pacific rail system. The “SAAP” also helped to connect San Antonio to Corpus Christi in 1887, the destination port of Aransas Pass was not reached till 1889. Vacationers rode the railway in comfort and style on their way between Corpus Christi and San Antonio. The cattle that used to be driven on this trail were now transported on the railway, which led to a healthier sleeker cow.
The SAAP was the dream of Uriah Lott, he was not a wealthy man but had drive and vision. His first rail was the Tex-Mex Railway, it began with only one mile of track and was built with the help of other investors such as the San Antonio Street Car Company and donors like Mifflin Kenedy from Corpus Christi . The “SAAP” railway pass in the collection of ITC belonged to Mr. Edward Kotula, an immigrant from Poland, who became known as the “Wool King of Texas”. He was also one of the first directors of the “SAAP” and was willing to invest to bring enterprise to San Antonio. He had a wholesale grocery store and a wool commission office off of Alamo Plaza and he also sold wool from the depot.
Most of the railway was made from parts of older railways no longer in use. Even the cars used were recycled, but they were needed to get this railway going. The only thing not secondhand was the depot, though not as impressive as the Galveston Depot, it had a steeple that gave the building its signature “look”. It opened in 1886 with the steeple at the front corner it had two floors. The ground floor was used for waiting, offices, lunch counters and had a telegraph service. The railway offices were situated on the top floor. It stopped functioning as a depot in 1925 and was the building was gone by 1935. The site, at the corner of Alamo St. and South Flores, is now home to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. This depot was where Teddy Roosevelt left with his Rough Riders in 1898, on their way to fight in Cuba. Today, if you want to sit in some of the old booths from the train depot you only have to walk to the Little Rhine Steakhouse which is only two blocks from the Alamo.
The San Antonio and Aransas Pass railway went under due to a financial crisis following numerous derailments and a deadly bridge accident. These accidents could have been due to the use of second hand materials or not setting a stable foundation under the tracks. Its last run was made in 1925. Most of the track has been abandoned but, as of 1994 some of it is still in use, running from San Antonio to Houston. [Marisol Martinez, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Guest Post – Archeologists Find Early Budweiser Bottle and Learn More about The German roots of Houston’s First Neighborhood
This week’s blog details a 19th century glass artifact – an early incarnation of a Budweiser beer bottle – discovered by archeologists in what is known as one of downtown Houston’s first neighborhoods, Frost Town. The details presented here by TxDOT provide additional insight into Frost Town and the early days of Budweiser’s original brew master. The institute’s upcoming “Brewing Up Texas” exhibit includes the Frost Town bottle and offers interactive content highlighting the state’s earliest breweries, the impact of prohibition, Texas beer memorabilia, home brewing, and today’s rich tapestry of modern craft breweries.
The modern landscape of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, is one of constant change. During the replacement of a bridge in downtown, archeologists from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) realized they were working on top of one of Houston’s original neighborhoods, Frost Town. It began as a community of predominantly German immigrants in the 1830s, and it later became home to many African American families following emancipation, then a vibrant Hispanic neighborhood during the early decades of the 20th century. While much is known about Houston’s founders and wealthy class, the archeologists were hoping to tell a new story of how Houston’s working class lived and worked.
During excavations they came upon an interesting feature: rows of upturned glass bottles buried in the ground outside of house foundations. Before (and even after) recycling programs existed, Germans would often use glass bottles as ornamental features in their yards. Archeologists date the style of one particular bottle to at least 1878-1882, giving an approximate date to when the bottle was placed in the ground. Given that both Frost Town was predominately German and Budweiser was brewed and named to appeal to German immigrants, it is no surprise that TxDOT recovered this artifact from the Frost Town site. It featured two logos; one reads “Original Budweiser” on one side and “CCC” on the base. It seemed the bottle had a deeper story to tell.
Message in a Bottle: Early Days of Anheuser-Busch
Budweiser’s early days started with a young German immigrant named Carl Conrad. He travelled to Belgium to become a brew master before bringing back a recipe to St. Louis, declaring that it was “the best he ever tasted.”
He built his company, Carl Conrad & Co., importing wine and liquor. Conrad marketed Budweiser beer, named after the Bavarian town Budweis, where he found the inspiration for his recipe. He contracted with several companies for bottles and his friend, Adolphus Busch brewed Conrad’s recipe through his company; the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association. Despite Conrad’s swift national success, he declared bankruptcy on January 15th, 1883 and Anheuser-Busch assumed the rights to brew, bottle, and sell Budweiser. Conrad then worked for the company for many years.
More about Frost Town
In 19th century Houston, the Buffalo Bayou river was an important transportation route. Along a horseshoe bend of the Bayou sat Frost Town. Instead of large farms that defined the time and location, Frost Town had houses and plots like the neighborhoods we see today. Years of development, first by railroad and then by roads, covered this historic site, which is just minutes from Minute Maid Park under the Elysian Street Bridge.
German laborers were among the earliest residents of the Frost Town community, and they would continue to dominate demographic of the neighborhood for many decades. Germans immigrants settled in virtually every area of Houston, but the Second Ward became an unofficial hub of German-American culture and social life during the 1800s.
Archeologists at TxDOT are building oral histories and interpretations of the archeology in order to share this unique story: Frost town’s rich ethnic diversity embodies the City of Houston today is revealed as not new, but a fundamental part of the city’s heritage. [Lee F. Reissig, TxDOT Environmental Affairs Division]
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This week’s blog is provided by the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Archeology Section, which discovers archeological evidence of human culture throughout the state when building roads. The blog details new and exciting Caddo findings in northeast Texas where TxDOT excavated portions of a Caddo village. The institute’s Native American exhibits and collections include a selection of Caddo artifacts and the details presented here by TXDOT provide additional insight on the Caddo tribe’s history in Texas.
Caddo Nation’s ancestral homeland encompasses northeast Texas, northwest Louisiana, southwest Arkansas, and southeast Oklahoma. Archaeologically, we begin to recognize their culture in the area c. AD 900. They lived in spread out, unfortified, agriculture-based communities; however they were a highly organized and strictly governed tribe. While the Caddo were known as a friendly—their word “tejas” means “friend” and is, of course, where the word Texas originated from—they retained a fierce warrior class for when diplomatic channels failed them.
A curious artifact was discovered among thousands of others at an archaeological site in East Texas. The historic artifact was found buried in a manner that suggests it held high value. It appears to be a metal box fragment consisting of two pieces from two different sides of a Spanish jewelry box. The metal is relatively heavy, made from either silver or pewter. The fragment features a mythological beast; either a griffin (front-half eagle, and back-half lion) or a wyvern (front-half dragon, and the back-half featuring a coiled tail like a seahorse). A coat of arms also appears on the artifact and is divided into four sections. Two adjacent sections feature a field of stars, and the other two depict a double headed eagle – a common symbol used in Western Europe by the Holy Roman Empire.
Spain was part of the Holy Roman Empire during AD 1519 to 1556. These years overlap with the Desoto expedition from 1539 to 1543. After Desoto’s death in 1542, his men abandoned the expedition and tried to get back to Mexico. Expedition member Moscoso led the men through Texas (1542-1543), and when he reached the Neches River they followed it south. They would have at least passed very close to the East Texas Caddo site. Moscoso and his men were unable to feed themselves so they began to raid Texas Indian farming settlements. So, it is thought that the artifact may be evidence of Caddo interaction with Moscoso and his men. Due to the artifact’s intentional damage and being of high enough value to be purposely buried, the fragment may be a war trophy. Further, this unique find potentially precedes the date of direct contact between Native Americans and Europeans in the area – that led to established trade starting in 1686.
Moscoso and his men eventually abandoned the attempt to pass through Texas and turned around and went back towards the Mississippi River. Following the admission of Texas as a state in 1845 the Caddo were relocated to Indian Territory north of their ancestral homeland. Today Caddo Nation capital sits in Binger, Oklahoma with approximately 6,000 enrolled members. This Caddo site was originally recorded in the 1930s but was forgotten until recently. The site’s rediscovery by TxDOT means they can move forward with preserving the location and artifacts recovered, which include engraved ceramics, rare obsidian artifacts, and other stone tools in addition to the fascinating metal fragment. [Lee F. Reissig, TxDOT Environmental Affairs Division]
Materials: Leather, wood, metal, plastic
This item is a clock made from a leather stirrup, mounted on a wooden base. It was made by an inmate of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice at Huntsville, Texas. For hundreds of years, prisons have used prison labor for a variety of reasons. Texas has had prisons utilizing prisoner labor since before the Civil War. In Texas, evidence for local governments wanting to use prisoners for labor can be seen as early as 1829, where officials of the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas looked to build two prisons in Bexar and Parras. These prisons were to provide labor and money to both the state and those running the prison. Ultimately, these prisons would not be built, but the idea would not be lost. On March 13, 1848 legislation was passed for new prisons to be built close to the water and provided with equipment and machinery so that goods could be manufactured and moved. The spot chosen for this new initiative was the town of Huntsville, the same town from which this clock was created.
In 1853, Governor P.H. Bell called for money to install cotton mill equipment at the prison. This was done in hopes to make the prison self-sustaining. This shift in production, and new equipment would prove to be valuable for Texas during the upcoming Civil War. During the Civil War, the penitentiary was a major source of revenue for Texas, amounting to $800,000 in the state treasury in just 1863 alone. After the Civil War, that would no longer be the case however.
After the Civil War, and the emancipation of slaves in the South, prisons and prison labor was used by many southern states and businesses to control the newly emancipated African Americans and their labor. During Reconstruction, laws called the Black Codes were put into place to achieve this goal. The most absurd of these laws made it illegal for African Americans to do things such as use insulting gestures or language, “mischief,” and not having written evidence of employment for the year. Under these codes, blacks could be arrested for these or other dubious reasons, and could be leased out as unpaid labor to plantations or southern business, or kept at the prison to work.
During the first half of the 20th century, The United States began phasing out commercial prison labor all across the country. Between 1929 and 1943 prison based industries and leasing prisoners to outside businesses were made illegal. By the 1950s, chain gangs and their like had disappeared. However, legislative acts within the past few decades shows that the idea of prison labor has not faded away completely. In 1995, the Prison Industries Reform Act and the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIE) have created an expansion in business and prison partnerships. This is due to several reasons, including the massive amount of prisoners and the cost of maintaining prisons in the United States. However, this reintroduction of labor into prisons was very controversial. In 1995 in states such as Alabama, chain gangs were seen for the first time since the 1950s. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
“Confederate Soldier Walter W. Williams Dies in Houston, Funeral Held Wednesday” The Franklin Texan
This is the December, 1959 edition of the Franklin Texan. In this issue, the story concerns the death of Walter Williams, a man who claimed to be a former confederate soldier and the last veteran of the Civil War. Texas seceded in 1861, alongside other southern states to form the Confederacy. The Civil War experience for Texas, was different from other states.
Despite the obvious threat of the Union army, there were other threats that were more serious in the minds of many Texans. With the withdrawal of Union troops at the start of the conflict, Texans were concerned that the immediate threat to Texas was from Native American raids. Texan and Native American relations had been complex in Texas, and at the time of the Civil War they had been very strained. Sam Houston, who was the first president of Texas, tried to build better relations. He attempted to enforce trade laws, remove trespassers from native land, uphold hunting rights, and establish fairer treaties. However, successive presidents would reverse these programs. Due to this strain between Texans and Native Americans, conflict would persist throughout the Civil War.
In 1862, Texas would be placed into Trans-Mississippi Department. This was a group of Confederate states, west of the Mississippi river, that were placed under the command of Kirby Smith in 1863. This department was seen as necessary because of the massive distance between these states and the Confederate capital in Richmond. When the Mississippi was taken in 1863, the department would effectively be cut off from the rest of the Confederacy.
In 1863, the invasion of Texas was headed by Nathanial Banks. This invasion was made possible by the Union control of Vicksburg, securing the Mississippi river for the north. Texas was a strategic target for the Union for several reasons. Texas’ border with Mexico allowed them to get around the Union blockade of Confederate ports. Cotton was transported across the border, and shipped to Europe, and supplies and guns were shipped back through the same route. The Union couldn’t blockade Mexico, so they would have to invade to stop the shipments. Another reason also had to do with Mexico. After the start of the Civil War, France invaded Mexico to place a friendly government on the throne. The Union saw this as a threat, and wanted to show force in the region. If Texas and other confederate states could continue to sell its cotton and buy goods, there was a risk that European powers would get involved in the conflict.
In 1865, the last battle of the Civil war would be fought in Texas. The Battle of Palmito Hill would mark the end of resistance in Texas and the remaining confederate states. Next would come reconstruction, and the emergence of a new Texas. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Mid-19th to early 20th Century
This object is an insignia pin for the 10th Cavalry of the United States Army. It was used to distinguish the members of the regiment. The 10th Cavalry was formed in the summer of 1866 as part of the Army Reorganization Act, which was enacted to rebuild the United States Army after the Civil War.
The Civil War had depleted the troops, and the Army needed to replenish their numbers for a peacetime military. As part of their reorganization, the Army created six regiments of black soldiers- two cavalry and four infantry– approved by Congress. These regiments consisted entirely of enlisted black men, but were led by white officers.
Many of the men who joined these regiments had served during the Civil War and were farmers, bakers, painters, and many other occupations. However, the military offered an opportunity for social and economic advancement. As soldiers, these men earned $13 a month, along with food, clothing, and shelter- much more than their other jobs offered.
The 10th Cavalry was formed in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was commanded by Colonel Benjamin Grierson. Their biggest assignment was to aid in westward expansion and protect American settlements. Tasked with keeping order, they were often confronted with raids by bands of numerous Native American tribes, who were growing more and more desperate due to buffalo- their main food source- going extinct from sport hunting by white settlers and soldiers.
Fighting bravely in over one hundred battles against the Native tribes, even when outnumbered, soldiers like those in the 10th Cavalry earned the respect of tribal leaders. To the tribes, the soldiers’ hair was thick and curly, like that of a buffalo, and the American Indians believed the soldiers were brave like a buffalo, so began calling the black soldiers “Buffalo Soldiers.” It was a term of respect toward what they considered a valiant opponent in battle. The symbol of the buffalo became the regiment’s official insignia in 1922.
Besides their contributions in battle, the soldiers of the 10th Cavalry, as well as the other buffalo soldier regiments, had countless accomplishments. Constantly subjected to racial prejudice, and making due with cast-offs like aging horses and worn out equipment from more prestigious regiments, the buffalo soldiers carried out missions that were vital to America’s success.
In 1871, the 10th Cavalry accompanied General William T. Sherman on an inspection tour of Texas. They were instrumental in mapping the uncharted territories of the state. In addition, they strung thousands of miles of telegraph line, opened new roads, escorted stagecoaches and wagon trains, protected railroad crews, and were the driving force behind building and renovating dozens of frontier forts, including Fort Stockton in west Texas.
The 10th Cavalry, and all buffalo soldiers, hold an enduring legacy in American history. Their success in the face of adversity makes them true heroes, and their contributions to the expansion of the United States can be seen throughout the stories of the American west. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Trivia Card Game
This object is a trivia card game called “Texas Heroes: An Instructive Game,” created by Sally Trueheart Williams in 1908. The cards have three to five questions listed with a picture of the answer above. The people on the cards are those widely known by Texans, such as James Bowie, Sam Houston, David Crockett and many others. There are also historic places included that also have an important role in the history of Texas such as San Antonio, Nacogdoches, and Austin. A pamphlet is included with testimonials from Texas educators promoting the game as a useful educational tool.
Sally T. Williams (1871-1951) daughter of Henry M. Trueheart and Annie Vanmeter Cunningham, was an active member of the Galveston, Texas community. She had a passion for history, education, and charity. She was member of the Equal Suffrage Club, the Wednesday Club, First Presbyterian Church, American Red Cross, Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Colonial Dames.
In 1900, a hurricane devastated much of Texas, in Galveston over 3,000 buildings were destroyed and around 6,000 people were killed. In the wake of the storm the American Red Cross, founded by Clara Barton, played a large role in the relief efforts. Women’s clubs and associations in the area also volunteered, thus women had more visible public roles in the community. The efforts of these women’s civics clubs evolved to a suffrage movement. As a member of the Equal Suffrage Club, Sally T. Williams stood for the right of women to vote and argued that municipal maintenance can be compared to public ‘housekeeping.’ The argument was an attempt to convince other women that participating in women’s suffrage was not violating the traditional roles of women in the home.
Women’s clubs in the late 1800s to early 1900s gave way to the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs (TFWC) which encouraged progressive movements and activism. The TFWC has accomplished and influenced numerous developments in Texas such as children’s health laws, traffic and highway safety, food purity standards, and historical preservation, to name a few. In its infancy, the TFWC consisted of mainly wealthy women and teachers, though today the membership is much more diverse. Many of the projects and activities of the federation have become the responsibility of the government in modern times, however the TFWC is still active and takes on projects involving aid to abused women and cancer patients and their families. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]