Tag Archive | United States History

Object: Sewing machine

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I-0087a
Sewing Machine
American
1915
Materials: Wood, Metal

This object is a Singer Sewing Machine, it was made by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Singer is an American company, founded by Isaac Merritt Singer and Edward Cabot Clark, that has been making sewing machines since 1851. The Singer sewing machine was the first sewing machine that was designed for home use, rather than factory production. The first machine had the basic eye-needle and lockstitch that was patented by Elias Howe. The basic eye-needle, also known as the universal needle it has a rounded point and is used to sew on woven or knitted fabrics. The lockstitch is the most basic stitch that creates a straight line by interlocking two threads together one from the top and the other from the bottom.

Isaac Singer was born October 27, 1811 the eighth son of poor German immigrants in Pittstown, New York. Isaac went to work as a mechanic and cabinetmaker when he was a young man. He designed his first invention when he was working for a manufacturing plant that made wooden type for printers. He created a machine that was better at carving the wooden type. It was in 1850 that Isaac saw a sewing machine being made and decided that he could make a better version of the machine.

Violet’s daughter, Ailsa Trundle is working on a small sewing project beside her mother. Image from State Library of Queensland, via Wikimedia Commons.

The first sewing machine that Isaac made was too bulky and expensive to be attractive to housewives, which were his target customers. But after awhile Isaac was able to come up with a mass production version, which had interchangeable parts and brought the price down to $10. In the 1850s that was equivalent to around $295 today. Isaac continued to upgrade the design and his company began offering the assistance of repair mechanics and sewing instructors. The company and the machine became a household name by 1863 when Ebenezer Butterick, a tailor, started selling the first graded dress patterns. Singer still makes sewing machines today, the only times that the company stopped manufacturing them was during World War I and II, when the factory was tasked with making weapons to support the war effort. Once the wars were over the company went back to making sewing machines and other accessories for them. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Askaroff, Alex. Isaac Singer. Sussex: Crows Nest Publications, 2014.

Bausum, Dolores. Threading Time: A Cultural History of Threadwork. Fort Worth, Tex: TCU Press, 2001.

Brandon, Ruth. Singer and the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance. New York: Kodansha International, 1996.

Carlson, Laurie M. Queen of Inventions: How the Sewing Machine Changed the World. Brookfield, Conn: Millbrook Press, 2003.

Siegel, Beatrice. The Sewing Machine. New York: Walker, 1984.

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Object: Doll

I-0079j
Wooden Doll
American
1911 – 1928
Materials: Wood, Paint, Cloth, Thread,  & Metal

Portrait of Albert Schoenhut. Photo via German Historical Institute.

This object is Schoenhut Wood doll made by German immigrant Albert Frederick Schoenhut sometime between 1911 and 1928. Albert Schoenhut started making toys with his father and grandfather in Göppingen, Württemberg, Germany. In 1866 Schoenhut immigrated to the U.S. to work for John Wanamaker’s Philadelphia department store. While at the department store Schoenhut repaired the glass sounding bars in the toy pianos that were imported from Germany. Schoenhut left the department store in 1872 to build his own company, The Schoenhut Piano Company, which is still making toy pianos today. Schoenhut made the sounding bars in his toy pianos out of metal to make the pianos more durable, instead of the usual fragile glass sounding bars that the toys have been made of previously. This sparked Schoenhut’s idea to make other popular toys out of more durable materials. One of these toys was the doll.

The Schoenhut Wood Doll was a different type of doll than was being made in the early 1900s. Dolls made of wood and springs were durable and able to be put into different positions due to the springs in the joints. This was unheard of at the time, because most dolls were made from bisque porcelain, also known as china dolls. The Schoenhut Doll was made of wood with either carved hair or a wig, with two holes in soles of the doll’s feet to help it stand, clothes, and a paper label on its back marking that it was a Schoenhut Doll. The first set of dolls to be made was the Humpty Dumpty Circus in 1903. The set first consisted of a clown and some accessories. Later acrobats, a ringmaster, and a lion tamer were added. The set also included a variety of animals including an alligator, bears, a buffalo, an elephant, giraffe, horses, a lion, a monkey, and many other animals both exotic and domestic.

Schoenhut and his company became popular and his toys were in demand all over the United States. The company did so well with the Humpty Dumpty Circus doll set from 1903 to 1907 that in 1911 Schoenhut got a patent for jointed wooden dolls, the “All Wood Perfection Art Doll.” These dolls were so life-like at the time that they became even more popular than the Humpty Dumpty Circus set and other toy companies from the U.S. and Europe bought them to sell, even in Schoenhut’s home country Germany. The dolls outfits followed the fashion trends of the day and eventually had their own designer. The Schoenhut dolls were the Barbie dolls of the early 20th century.

Albert Schoenhut died the year after he got the patent for the “All Wood Perfection Art Doll.” His six sons (Albert, Gustav, Theodore, William, Harry, and Otto Schoenhut) took over the company after his death and the company did well for a number of years. However, like many other companies, it was hard for the company to flourish during the Great Depression. After the Depression, Albert Schoenhut’s youngest son Otto and grandson George tried to rebuild the company to its glory days by opening the O. Schoenhut Company and manufacturing the Pinn Family Dolls. But this did not last long and the company eventually was sold to Frank Trinca. The company was kept in the Trinca family with Len and Renee Trinca and the company name was changed back to Schoenhut Piano Company and returned to selling just toy pianos and other instruments. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Dubois, Muriel. The Great Depression in America. Amawalk, N.Y.: Jackdaw Pub, 2003.

Shannon, David A. The Great Depression. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1960.

Manos, Susan. Schoenhut Dolls & Toys: A Loving Legacy. Paducah, Ky: Collector Books, 1976.

St. George, Eleanor. The Dolls of Yesterday. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948.

Object: Sword

I-0230l
Saber
American
1860-1898
Materials: Leather, Metal, Wire

This object is a US Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber. This model of saber was used during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars by dragoons, mounted riflemen, and cavalry regiments in the Army. Dragoons and cavalry are both soldiers who fight from atop a horse, dragoons are a lighter form of cavalry. The mounted riflemen are soldiers who have been trained to shoot guns from atop of a horse, like the Texas Rangers, and once they are in the midst of a battle they dismount from their horses.

Lts. George A. Custer, Nicolas Bowen, and William G. Jones The Peninsula, Va., May 1862. Photograph by James F. Gibson, via WikiMedia Commons.

The M1860 Light Cavalry Saber was created to replace the M1840 Heavy Cavalry Saber, which was heavier and longer, but looked exactly the same as its successor. Cavalry from both sides during the Civil War preferred the M1860 Cavalry Saber for use in battle. George Armstrong Custer used the M1860 Saber throughout his military service. Custer started his military career by graduating from West Point and joining the cavalry two months after the Civil War began. Custer was promoted several times during the war, eventually rising to the rank of Major General by the end of the war in 1865. In 1866 he was promoted again to Lieutenant Colonel and placed in command of the newly formed 7th Cavalry Regiment. The 7th Cavalry was charged with protecting settlers from the Platte River in Nebraska to the Staked Plains in Texas, and from the Missouri River to the Rockies and the railroad that crossed the area from attacks from attacks by Native American tribes living on the plains.

The last U.S. saber was issued in 1913. Today officers only carry sabers as a part of their dress uniform. During the 1920s the M1860 saber could be purchased cheaply in bulk. This has made them one of the most commonly seen types of military sabers today. They are commonly seen in Hollywood western movies, Civil War recreation battles, and given as military retirement gifts.

Military Saber Arch at a Wedding, 2005. Photo by AzureCitizen, via WikiMedia Commons.

Saber teams also use the M1860 Cavalry Saber when they perform the Saber Arch at weddings and other ceremonies. This tradition started with the United Kingdoms Royal Navy and has carried over to multiple countries, including the United States. The saber arch is a tradition for military weddings and usually takes six people to perform but, can be done with as few as four people. The six line up into two rows with three on each side. The commander then orders them to present the sabers, in which they are to bring their sabers to their chins. After presenting the sabers the commander tells them to arch the sabers, thus creating an arch for people to walk under. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Custer, George A., and Stephen Vincent Brennan. An Autobiography of General Custer. New York: Skyhorse, 2013.

Smith, Graham. Civil War Weapons. New York: Chartwell Books, 2011.

Smith, David Paul. Frontier Defense in the Civil War: Texas’ Rangers and Rebels. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2010.

West, Elliott. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, & the Rush to Colorado. Lawrence, Kan: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Swartz, Oretha D. Service Etiquette. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press, 1997.

Object: Sword

I-0163a
Sword
Filipino
Materials: Cloth/Metal

This sword is a dress sword for the Philippine Constabulary, but was found here in Texas. This sword, though it is from the Philippines, represents an interesting time in American history, the Spanish American war and the subsequent occupation of the Philippines by the United States. During this occupation, there were conflicts between American and Filipino forces.

In the aftermath of the Spanish American war, the United States would find itself in control of the Philippines, which had up to that point been a colony of Spain. The Filipinos however, had already been fighting for independence, and on January 23, 1899 the First Philippine Republic was created, with Aguinaldo as its leader. The Americans had different plans for the Philippines however. President McKinley would release the “Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation,” which called for the United States to take over. This would lead to war between the two young republics.

The initial conflict between the First Philippine Republic and the United States lasted until 1902. After 1902 however, guerilla warfare would continue until 1913. To govern the Philippines as the revolt continued, Congress passed the Spooner Amendment, which authorized the president to create a civil government there. The first civil governor appointed was the future president Howard Taft.

 

The troops of the First Regiment, the Philippine Constabulary, swear allegiance to the U.S. Flag and to the cause of the United Nations. Office of War Information Collection, Feb-Mar 1942. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

From this new civil government was created the Philippine Commission, which was formed to look over the creation of local governments and maintain law and order. To accomplish this task, the commission saw the need to create a police force made up from the local populace. The Philippine Constabulary was created with the passing of Act No. 175 on July 18, 1901. The job of the Constabulary was to establish law and order, whether it was fighting revolutionaries and guerillas, or patrolling already pacified areas. They would accomplish this task over the next 16 years.

United States involvement in the archipelago would become substantial as the fighting continued. At its peak, the United States Army had 70,000 men trying to pacify the area, not including local forces like the police or the constabulary. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources

Blount, James H. The American Occupation of the Philippines, 1898-1912., 1973.

Linn, Brian M. A. The U.s. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Silbey, David. A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008.

Stanley, Peter W. Reappraising an Empire: New Perspectives on Philippine-American History. Cambridge, Mass: Published by the Committee on American-East Asian Relations of the Dept. of History in collaboration with the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984.

Zaide, Gregorio F. The Philippine Revolution. Manila: Modern Book Co, 1968.

Object: Newspaper

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I-0208pp
Newspaper article
“Confederate Soldier Walter W. Williams Dies in Houston, Funeral Held Wednesday” The Franklin Texan
American
Franklin, Texas
1959
Materials: Paper/Ink

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.

Edmund Kirby Smith. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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]

Additional Resources:

Bailey, Anne. Between the Enemy and Texas: Parsons’s Texas Cavalry in the Civil War. Fort Worth: TCU Press, 2013.

Gallaway, B. P., and Inc NetLibrary. Texas, the Dark Corner of the Confederacy: Contemporary Accounts of the Lone Star State in the Civil War. 3rd ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1994.

Grear, Charles D. The Fate of Texas: The Civil War and the Lone Star State. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2008.

Henderson, Colonel H. M. C. Texas in the Confederacy. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2015.

Howell, Kenneth W. The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas During the Civil War. Denton, Tex: University of North Texas Press, 2011.

Jewett, Clayton E., and Inc NetLibrary. Texas in the Confederacy: An Experiment in Nation Building. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. 2002.

Jewett, Clayton E. On its Own: Texas in the Confederacy. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. 1998.

Townsend, Stephen A. The Yankee Invasion of Texas. Vol. no. 8. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. 2006.

Object: Saddle

02105c

2016.4.12
Pack saddle
Kickapoo
Mid to late 19th century
Materials: Wood

“Girl with Burro”
by Ritzenthaler & Peterson, 1956. Photo via Milwaukee Public Museum.

This is a Kickapoo saddle, used for horse riding. This saddle is only the wood base of what would have been an elaborate piece of equipment. The horse’s back would have been covered with a saddle blanket and the saddle would rest on top. the blanket was made of leather, cotton, or wool which could be adorned with beads, and sometime feathers or quills. Often saddles like these are wrapped in leather, the stirrups and leather girth would be set in the space between the wooden sides of the saddle. The girth, sometimes called a cinch strap, wrapped around the belly of the horse to secure the saddle on the horse’s back.

The last prehistoric horses in North America died out over 11,000 years ago but horses remained and evolved in Asia, Europe, and Africa. In 1519 horses returned to the Americas with the conquistadors from Spain. In the land that is now Mexico, the Spanish began breeding their horses and taught Native Americans how to ride and take care of the herds of horses. These herders were the first vaqueros, or cowboys. Although the Native Americans were herding, riding, and caring for the horses, the Spanish kept the Native Americans from owning their own horses for many years. The first Native Americans to acquire horses were the Apache, in modern day New Mexico. As more groups of Native Americans adopted the horse, stealing, bartering and breeding horses became a significant part their way of life.

The Kickapoo are a group of Algonquian speakers originating from the Great Lakes area, east coast, and Canada. Before European contact they relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering roots, seeds and wild rice. The Kickapoo first encountered the French in the 1640s when they were still living in modern day northern Michigan. However, the threat of white expansion grew and the Kickapoo gradually migrated south. Resulting in the Kickapoo disbanding into the three distinct groups that exist today, the Oklahoma Kickapoo, the Kansas Kickapoo, and the Mexican Kickapoo (later Texan Kickapoo). During the Civil War Spain granted displaced Native Americans land in the northern part of the Spanish Territory of Mexico. These groups wanted to get out of the United States to get away from the American Armies who were either trying to recruit them to fight or massacre them for their resources. In 1865 a band of Kickapoo led by No-ko-aht traveling to Mexico to seek refuge, were attacked by Confederate soldiers and Texas Rangers, commanded by Captain Henry Fossett. The battle took place on a branch of Dove Creek, east of Mertzon, Texas. The Kickapoo were hunting when the battle began, chief No-ko-aht’s daughter was killed when she went to meet the troops with a white flag. The Battle of Dove Creek is well remembered because No-ko-aht’s account of the battle still exists, making it one of the rare occasions that the Native American side of these conflicts are heard. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Hunt, Frazier, and Robert Hunt. 1949. Horses and heroes, the story of the horse in America for 450 years. New York: Scribner’s Sons.

Latorre, Felipe A., and Dolores L. Latorre. 1976. The Mexican Kickapoo Indians. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Pool, William C. 1950. The battle of Dove Creek. [Place of publication not identified]: [publisher not identified].

Taylor, Louis, and Lorence F. Bjorklund. 1968. The story of America’s horses. Cleveland: World Pub. Co.

Wright, Bill, and E. John Gesick. 1996. The Texas Kickapoo: keepers of tradition. El Paso: Texas Western Press.

Object: Quilt

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2014.5.1
Quilt
African- American
United States
1950-1959
Materials: Cloth/Thread/Cotton

This object is a quilt, made in the 1950s, in the African- American tradition of quilt-making.   An appraiser from Antiques Roadshow was able to identify it based on the style, construction, and materials used.  It appears to be hand-quilted and pieced, assembled in the strip construction technique, in which strips of scrap fabric were sewn together to create a pattern.

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by r aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

African textile traditions have not been well-documented in comparison to other types of folk art, however, it is thought that their origins can be traced back to four civilizations of Central and West Africa.  In Africa, most textiles were made by men.  It wasn’t until African slaves were brought to the United States that women took over the tradition, with work being divided based on Western gender roles.

By the time African-American quilting had become a tradition, it had been combined with traditions from the Caribbean, Central American, and southern United States.  However, some distinct characteristics survived, and can still be identified in quilts today.  Bold colors, strips of fabric, and symbolism are all dominant features in African-American quilting.

Large shapes and bright colors were used in African tribes to distinguish people from far distances.  The ability to identify different warring tribes or hunting parties was crucial to survival.  This use of bold colors and oversized shapes has endured in African- American textiles.

Combined with that is a distinct tradition of asymmetrical patterns and improvised designs.  There are many reasons for this.  The ability to change or alternate the pattern allowed quilters to get the most use of scrap fabrics, as opposed to a repeating pattern, that required specific colors in set quantities.

More importantly, breaks in patterns held  great symbolism for African cultures.  A break in pattern could symbolize rebirth in the power of the wearer or creator of the quilt.  Pattern breaks were also believed to keep away evil.  It was believed that evil traveled in a straight line, and by breaking the pattern, evil spirits would become confused and be slowed down.  Improvising the patterning also ensured that the pattern could not be copied, and gave the creator and owner and strong sense of ownership and creativity.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Once in the United States, African quilts took on even more meaning.  Many women would create story quilts, in which they would applique pictures onto their quilts.  By doing this, they could record their family history- like a photo album- or tell a story in pictures. One of the most famous women to create story quilts was a freed slave named Harriet Powers.  In 1896, she created an intricately-crafted quilt which she entitled “Bible Quilt”, depicting several Biblical stories.  In 1898, she crafted the “Pictorial Quilt”, illustrating three rows of Bible stories, historical events, and significant weather anomalies.  The “Pictorial Quilt” now hangs at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the “Bible Quilt” is housed at the Smithsonian Institution.

Few examples of African- American quilting tradition have survived through the years.  They were considered necessities rather than luxuries, and most were worn out.  However, men and women of African descent have kept the essence of the traditions alive, and are illustrated in pieces such as this quilt from the 1950s.  What was once  simply a functional piece of bedding, we know know is artistry to be preserved and celebrated. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Hicks, Kyra E.  Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003.

Lyons, Mary E.  Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers.  New York: Scribner’s Sons; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993.

Wahlman, Maude.  Signs and Symbols: African Images in African American Quilts.  Atlanta, GA: Tinwood, 2001.

Wilson, Sule Greg.  African American Quilting: The Warmth of Tradition.  New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 1999.

Object: Wagon

 

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I-0120a
Conestoga Wagon
American
San Antonio, TX
1976
Materials: Wood, Canvas, Leather, Paint

Bicentennial Logo Commissioned by the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, via Wikimedia Commons

Bicentennial Logo Commissioned by the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, via Wikimedia Commons

This object is a reproduction of a 19th Century covered wagon.  It was gifted to the museum on November 20, 1976 by the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Texas. It was the second wagon in line as part of the Southern route wagon train for the Bicentennial Pilgrimage.

In 1976, the United States celebrated its 200th birthday with festivities across all fifty states.  In a monumental effort to bring the nation together, an idea was created that would involved every state, a year-long nationwide wagon train pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey in search of moral or spiritual significance.  For the Bicentennial Celebration, it was a way to reaffirm the founding morals of the country.  Each state sponsored an authentic covered wagon, which would be represented on a wagon train to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Bicentennial Wagon Train, Summer 1976. Image by bob_u, via Flickr.

Bicentennial Wagon Train, Summer 1976. Image by bob_u, via Flickr.

In total, there were five separate trains, recreating five distinct historic routes in westward expansion– the Northwest route, the Southwest route, the Southern route, the Great Lakes route, and the Colonies route.  The Texas covered wagon was part of the Southern route, along with nine other wagons. The Pilgrimage represented a replay of history in reverse, with all of the wagon trains meeting up at the birthplace of the nation in Valley Forge, on July 4, 1976.

During a time when the country was frustrated and tired from government scandals, the Bicentennial wagon train was designed to reach out to communities and rededicate the country to the founding ideals and principles of the United States.  This was a way to bring people together at every level- federal, state, local, and within communities.  Participants could commit themselves to the entire duration of the wagon train, or they could join for shorter periods of time.  The idea was particularly to get entire families involved- some families even pulling their kids out of school to participate.

The wagon now housed at the Institute of Texan Cultures was a gift from that pilgrimage.  It is the original Texas wagon, which was driven by Hazel Bowen, a native Texan and horse-handling expert.  After the Bicentennial celebrations ended, Hazel drove the wagon back to Texas, and a few months later, was able to drive it once again through the streets of San Antonio. On November 20, 1976 Hazel, escorted by the 1st Cavalry of the United States Army, drove the wagon from Freeman Coliseum, through the streets of downtown San Antonio, and parked it on the grounds of the Institute of Texan Cultures.  This historic covered wagon has been on permanent display since then.  [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Bicentennial Wagon Train Pilgrimage. Kenosha, WI: Jem Publishers, 1977.

Cirincione, Dominick J., and J’Nell L. Pate. Texas Sesquicentennial Wagon Train. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub, 2011.

Gabriel, Ruth, Harold Gabriel, Bicentennial Commission of Pennsylvania.  Trails and Tribulations: The Great Wagon Train Trek of 1976.  Livermore, CA: Alameda County Bicentennial Commission, 1976.

Kartman, Jean, Bicentennial Commission of Pennsylvania.  Wagon Trains East 1976.  Deer Lodge, Montana: Platen Press, 1978.

Object: Photographic Print

I-0014c (2)

I-0014c
Photographic Print
Texas
19th Century
Paper

This object is a photographic print of Richard Allen (1830-1901) a political leader in Texas. Richard Allen was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia on June 10, 1830. He was brought to Harris County in Texas, where he was owned until emancipation in 1865. While a slave he became skilled in carpentry and designed the mansion of Houston mayor Joseph R. Morris.

Depiction of a bureau agent standing between armed groups of whites and freedmen.

Depiction of a bureau agent standing between armed groups of whites and freedmen. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

After emancipation Richard Allen became a contractor and bridge builder. The first bridge to be built over Buffalo Bayou is said to have been Allen’s work. Allen first entered the political scene when he became a voter registrar, in charge of distributing and accepting voter registrations. He later became an agent for the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands or more popularly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau was established by the War Department in 1865 after the end of the American Civil War. The Freedmen’s Bureau was created to help former black slaves and poor whites in the American south. After the war many communities were left in ruins. The Bureau provided food, housing, medical aid, established schools, and offered legal assistance. The people who worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau were essentially social workers. Each district would send out assistant agents to communities in the south. However, once there they were exposed to ridicule and violence from whites which included terror organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.

The Ku Klux Klan or KKK for short was an organization founded in 1866 and in almost every southern state. The group largely rejected President Andrew Johnson’s reconstruction policies. The group ran a campaign of violence against Republicans, both black and white, hoping to reverse reconstruction and return to white supremacy in the South. 10% of black legislators who were elected during the 1867-1868 constitutional conventions were victims of violence from the KKK and some lost their lives. Due to the violence being spewed toward blacks, a movement to leave the south and head west toward Kansas became a popular.

Benjamin "Pap" Singleton

Benjamin “Pap” Singleton. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The movement was led by a man named Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, and the goal was to find a better life somewhere other than the south. Singleton was born a slave near Nashville, Tennessee. He was skilled in carpentry but never learned how to read or write. After attempting to escape from slavery several times he was finally successful in 1846 and headed north to Detroit using the Underground Railroad. Singleton witnessed the inequality that freedmen were facing and realized they would never get equality in the south. In 1874 Singleton founded a real estate company in the hopes of helping African Americans get land in Tennessee. This failed as many white land owners refused to bargain and sold the land for high prices. Singleton then turned his eye to Kansas, and after a few setbacks, the first wave of exodusters migrated to Kansas in 1879.

As for Richard Allen, after he led the short lived exodus movement he served as a delegate for the National Colored Men’s Convention. He also served as chairmen for black state conventions where African Americans voiced their concerns about civil rights, education, and economic issues. He became Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons once they organized in Texas. Richard Allen passed away on May 16, 1909. [Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Sources:

Athearn, Robert G. In Search of Canaan: Black Migration to Kansas, 1879-80. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1978.

Cimbala, Paul A., and Randall M. Miller. The Freedmen’s Bureau and Reconstruction. New York: Fordham University Press, 1999. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=16387>.

Crouch, Barry A. The Freedmen’s Bureau and Black Texans. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

Muraskin, William A. Middle-Class Blacks in a White Society: Prince Hall Freemasonry in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.

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