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.
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]
Materials: Metal, Wood
This object is a charcoal iron from Hungary. A charcoal iron is an early version of a modern clothes iron that we use today. The reason it is called a charcoal iron is, because it has a container inside its base where burning charcoal is placed to heat it up. The holes that line the base allow air to circulate and keep the charcoal embers burning. Sometimes there is a funnel or a chimney that directs the smoke through the top of the iron keeping the it away from the clothes.
The charcoal iron is a step up from the stones, glass, and presses that were used in Europe when people first started ironing clothes. But there was a similar contraption used in Asia as early as the 1st century B.C. Women would iron clothes with a pot heated with coals, while stretching clothes taut. In the Middle Ages sad irons, also called flat irons, were being made out of stones and metals that are able to hold heat for a long period of time. Some of these materials were cast iron and soapstone. The way that these irons are used is by heating them up in a fire or on a stove top. The reason that this iron is called a sad iron is because; sald is an old English word for “solid.” In modern English the sad iron would be solid iron. Sad irons were still used even after the invention of the charcoal iron, up until the 1880s when the first electric iron was invented.
Between the charcoal iron and the sad iron, the sad iron was preferred, because although the charcoal iron was easier to use, it produced a lot of smoke from the coals. The sad iron had its faults too. For one it was not easy to use. It was solid piece of metal with an attached metal handle, meaning that the handle would also heat up. To keep from burning your hands a cloth pad, like a pot holder, had to be wrapped around the handle. The iron would also cool down fast, which meant that you would have to wait for it to reheat, or you would need to have two for continuous ironing; one heating up while you ironed with the other. But around 1870 Mary Florence Potts of Ottumwa, Iowa made an iron with a detachable handle and a base with two points. This made it easier to handle without burning your hands and made it possible to move the iron back and forth without having to pick it up. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Materials: Wood, Glass
This object is a washboard, which was used to wash clothes. Before there were a washing machines and dryers to clean and dry our clothes a washboard and a clothesline were everyday household items. But this was a step up from how clothes were washed before the washboard was introduced into Western Europe. They would have to soak and beat clothes with washing bats to clean them. Some Eastern European countries like Norway and Finland have had washboards made from wood with notches carved into them for centuries but it was not officially patented until 1797. The first washboards were made entirely of wood, but in the 19th Century steel and zinc ridges replaced the wooden ones, but they still had a wooden frame. Later into the 19th century and early 20th century glass washboards, like the one pictured above, were introduced but were not as commonly used as the ones made from metal.
The way to wash clothes with a washboard would be by setting up two tubs one with hot water and another with warm or room temperature water. Once the water is in the tubs you then add the dirty clothes to the tub with hot water in it. It is suggested that the clothes are allowed to sit in the water to loosen up any dirt or stains, but it is not a necessary step to the process. After putting the clothes in the water you will then set the washboard in the tub with the clothes. The soap is then applied; it can be applied in one of three ways. 1) By shaving some off of a bar of soap and adding it into the water. 2) By scrubbing a bar of soap against the washboard. 3) By scrubbing a bar of soap against the clothes themselves. Any way you want to do it you will be adding soap to the clothes and the water. After the soap is applied, the clothes are then be scrubbed one-by-one against the washboard until they are clean. After a piece of clothing has been scrubbed it is then wrung out of any excess water and soap, then rinsed and repeated until the all of the soap is rinsed away. Some people had a machine that would wring the clothes out for them instead of having to do it by hand. After the clothes have been washed they are hung up on a wash line, which consists of a wire or a piece of twine tied between two objects, usually two posts are used, but in cities the line is more often strung between buildings. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This comb was donated by a descendant of Dr. Aureliano Urratia, who was an exile from Mexico during the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Before the revolution, Mexico was led by Porfirio Diaz. Diaz and his government was essentially a dictatorship, running Mexico from 1876 to 1911. During his years in power, Diaz achieved a level of political stability and economic development that had yet to have been seen. This fast development caused many changes in Mexico, some of these changes would eventually lead to the revolution.
One of the avenues for economic development was commercial agriculture. Mexican and foreign entrepreneurs expanded their land holdings and focused their efforts on raising cash crops such as sugar, henequen, and cotton. However, this would lead to problems with smaller villages and peasants. These massive estates controlled all the farm lands in rural Mexico. Prior to the growth of commercial agriculture, some of the land had been rented out to the local villagers and peasants to use for food and grain production, but now the landlords devoted all their lands to cash crops which were more profitable than renting the land. Without access to land, rural villages and peasants struggled to get food to support themselves. The size of these estates and the amount of land taken was so great, that a quarter of the land in Mexico was held by only 834 people.
The takeover of vast amounts of peasant and village land was not the only reason for the revolution, but it was a major one. As Diaz’s reign continued, many started to become frustrated with the regime. Early in the 1900s, the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) was formed which called for a four year presidential term, minimum wage, eight hour workday, and an end to child labor.
The call for a four-year presidential term limit shows the frustration that was being felt by many. In the 1910 election, Francisco Madero would choose to run against Diaz. Diaz would go on to arrest Madero, and this would spark the revolution. In the early days, Madero would escape the reach of Diaz by hiding in many towns in the southern United States, including San Antonio. But despite not being in the country, many rose up and lead forces in his name, or in the name of revolution.
Many of those who rebelled against the government were poorer agricultural workers. This can be seen in the makeup of revolutionary leader Pascual Orozco’s men, who were primarily ranchers, peasant farmers, shepherds, or muleteers. This shows the resentment that the poorer agricultural workers had for the commercial farming program.
This revolution would take years and much bloodshed to reach its conclusion. In 1920 Alvaro Obregon would become president after ten years of conflict. With the signing of the Constitution of 1917, laws were put into place that addressed the issues that groups like the PLM were most concerned about. The constitution gave peasants the right to their land, a minimum wage, right to education, and more. The Revolution of 1910 in Mexico was very important in making the country we know today. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
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.
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.
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]
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]
Unknown date, likely 20th Century
Materials: Cloth, hair, Ceramic
This Japanese doll is a depiction of princess Yaegaki-Hime, the heroine of a five-act drama called Honcho Nijushiko or The 24 Models of Filial Piety. This drama was originally preformed in 1766 as a Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theater originating in Osaka, and then became a popular drama in the live acting Kabuki theater. The character of the princess Yaegaki-Hime has gained fame through the Bunraku and Kabuki plays. The Yaegaki-Hime doll presented depicts her holding the legendary helmet that had been gifted to a samurai lord named Takeda Shingen by a fox god called Suwa Myojin. The helmet is enchanted to protect the samurai who wears it so that the samurai will always win and, when in need, the helmet would summon 808 foxes to protect the owner. In the famous scene of heroinism, Yaegaki saves her lover, Katsuyori, from the wrath of her father. He had sent two men to kill Katsuyori because of a family feud, Yaegaki prayed there was something she could do and mourned for her lover. She touched the enchanted helmet and became possessed by its power, with the protection of two white foxes she ran across a frozen lake to warn Katsuyori. The climax of both Bunraku and Kabuki plays is Yaegaki’s dance as she becomes possessed by the fox spirit and saves Katsuyori. The story ends as the family feud is resolved, the lovers marry and live happily ever after.
In the Bunraku tradition, scenes are narrated by musical chanting with the accompaniment of a shamisen, which is a stringed instrument of the lute family. The narrator voices the characters using a unique emotional vocal style for each character, sometimes for important scenes there may be multiple narrators chanting together. The puppeteer, or chief handler, also plays a role in narrating the story with his own exaggerated facial expressions, he would operate the head and right hand while 2 assistants, dressed and hooded in black, control the left hand and lower body movement.
The tradition of puppet theater in Japan stems from 11th century traveling story tellers and may have been influenced by Central Asia. The style of puppets has evolved from simplistic, hand-less and leg-less puppets to intricate full bodied puppets with moveable mouths and eyes. Japanese puppet theater was considered a sophisticated, adult pastime and was immensely popular the during the Tokugwa, or Edo, Period (1600-1868). The Japanese puppet theater did not gain the name ‘Bunraku’ until the late 18th century, it derives from the troupe established by Uemura Bunrakuken in Osaka, Japan. The plays for the puppet theater were written playbooks, published in authorized editions and, at the height of the puppeteering tradition over 1,000 plays were written and performed.
A new type of Japanese entertainment emerged in the beginning of the 17th century called Kabuki, where women would play both male and female parts in storytelling with song and dance. Many of the stories in the original Kabuki tradition were those of everyday life however, many of the successful Bunraku plays were adapted for the Kabuki stage. During this period, when women played the roles, Kabuki was not deemed as sophisticated as its puppeteering counterpart. The themes of these stories were often comical, suggestive and the women were usually prostitutes. The Shogunate banned women from acting to discourage prostitution and became a tradition of performance with a completely male cast. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Visit the Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures on February 4th to see live performances of Asian music and dance.
Salvatore Ferragamo Shoes
Materials: Leather, Thread
This object is a pair of black and white leather spectator pumps, designed by the Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo and owned by Lady Bird Johnson. They were loaned to the Institute of Texan Cultures for a temporary exhibit called “Footprints and Imprints” showcasing famous and influential people through their shoes, and later donated to the museum.
Lady Bird Johnson became the 36th First Lady of the United States when her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Born Claudia Alta Taylor, Lady Bird received her nickname at an early age, when a nursemaid stated that she was “as purty as a lady bird.” The nickname stuck, and for the rest of her life she was known as Lady Bird. Though her father and brothers called her “Lady,” her husband called her “Bird,” and that’s what she signed on her marriage certificate.
In the 1930s, Mrs. Johnson attended the University of Texas in Austin, earning degrees in History and Journalism. During that time, she met Lyndon B. Johnson, and in 1934 they were married in San Antonio at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
When Johnson became President in 1963, Lady Bird focused her energies on her first love- the environment. The country was facing uncertain times, and Washington, D.C. was in need of a facelift. Having grown up in the outdoors of far East Texas, Lady Bird had an appreciation and respect for the natural beauty of landscapes and wildflowers.
As First Lady, she embarked on a beautification project, which was named the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital. The project consisted of planting millions of flowers throughout Washington, D.C., including tulips, daffodils, roses, and the dogwood and cherry blossom trees that the Capital is so well known for. She stated at the time that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
This proved to be just the start of what became a national campaign, and in 1965, the Highway Beautification Act was passed. Through this Act, Lady Bird was instrumental in restricting junk yards and limiting billboards along highways throughout the country, in addition to promoting wildflower plantings along interstates all over the country.
Mrs. Johnson wasn’t just interested in beautification, but also in conservation. One method she used to bring attention to her campaign was to visit historic sites, national parks, and scenic areas. By taking along the head of the National Parks Service, dignitaries, and media, Lady Bird was able to shine a spotlight on the natural beauty that was in danger of being destroyed all over the country.
After leaving Washington, Lady Bird Johnson focused her attention on Texas. She was the force behind developing ten miles of beautiful hike and bike trails around Town Lake in Austin. In 1982, she teamed up with her friend, actress Helen Hayes, to found the National Wildflower Research Center. In 1995, it was moved to 279 acres in southwest Austin and renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center is dedicated to conservation, education, and beautification through the use of locally available plants and flowers. It is now one of the country’s most credible research institutions, and is run by The University of Texas.
Lady Bird Johnson saw a need to preserve and protect our nation’s natural beauty before it was destroyed by industry. Her imprint can be seen every spring, driving the roads of Texas, or visiting the nation’s Capital. She was instrumental in making environment issues a priority for our country. She lived a legacy foretold by her nanny when she was given the nickname “Lady Bird.” Lady Bird Johnson truly left a lasting impact through her work, and because of her, we can still call our country “America the Beautiful.” [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]