Railroads!

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Webster’s Dictionary defines railroads as “a permanent road having a line of rails fixed to ties and laid on a roadbed and providing a track for cars or equipment drawn by locomotives or propelled by self-contained motors.” That definition is very boring. U.S. railroads have a rich, interesting history. Built through backbreaking labor over the course of decades, they were an essential element of 19th century commerce, whether via transportation or the sale of land. Travelers had few other options for crossing the continent, and no other method proved anywhere near as timely as railroads. The SWC is fortunate to have many documents created by railroad corporations and affiliated individuals that reveal intriguing portions of that industry’s history.

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The digitized images above come from a publication entitled The Great South-west: an illustrated monthly, published by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. The first image from volume 7, issue number 3 dates from 1879 and depicts the cover of the Great South-west, most of which is a description of the many sights observable on a train ride through their territory. The second image is of a timetable sheet designed to assist passengers in planning their trips and, of course, making it to the station on time. The rest of this issue can be found here.

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“For fine lands and cheap-priced lands, the State of Texas can, perhaps, beat the world,” reads the first line of volume 8, issue number 1 (just above). Much of the content in this 1881 issue, which can be found in its entirety here, concerns the sale of land along the railroad route. Land sales were often as important a method of income for railroad developers as the actual movement of freight. Real estate opportunities existed along all rail lines, the massive size of which can be seen in the image below, which traces the route of the Missouri-Pacific (MoPac) Railway.

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These images are but two among hundreds of similar materials at the SWC. Two full collections of records from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway (1905-1973 and 1910-1986) document that company’s activities for nearly a century. The Texas and Pacific Coal Company Records, 1889-1979 as well as the Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company Photograph Collection represent another large portion of our railroad holdings. Lastly, the Robert Wright Armstrong Papers, 1868-1975 contains correspondence, photographs, financial and legal material, and other items pertaining to Armstrong’s business, political, and personal activities as a railroad executive. Taken altogether, these collections provide a wealth of opportunities for interested researchers.

The entirety of the publications discussed above, as well as many other digitized collections, may be found here. Our Reference Department will happily provide access to our physical holdings as well.

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Correspondence & the Austin Wiswall Papers

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Correspondence is often one of the most fruitful research materials in a manuscript collection. Communication between the record creator and his or her family, colleagues, and others can provide insight into their lives. It also sheds light onto less personal portions of a collection such as financial materials or legal documents. The SWC’s Austin Wiswall Papers, 1863-1912, recently digitized and made available online, is an example of the potential benefits of correspondence.

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This correspondence dates from Wiswall’s service in the Army of the Potomac, and describes his activities just prior to marching to Gettysburg later that summer.

Austin Wiswall was born on April 5, 1840, in Princeton, Illinois, to Noah and Elizabeth Lovejoy Wiswall. He was the nephew of the famous abolitionist publisher and martyr Elijah Parish Lovejoy–whose papers the SWC possesses and has also made available digitally–and of U.S. Senator Owen Lovejoy. Wiswall served as a lieutenant in the 9th United States Colored Troops, 3rd Division, 10th Corps, United States Army during the Civil War. Captured by Confederate forces in August 1864, he was held at Andersonville and Libby prisons until released by exchange. After the war, he married Martha Francis Almy on November 15, 1865 with whom he had three children. He served on the Board of Trustees of Morgan Park, Illinois after the Civil War, where he died on September 9, 1905.

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This letter describes Austin’s release from Confederate custody and subsequent rejoining of the Army of the Potomac just prior to the end of the war.

The Austin Wiswall Papers consist of correspondence and a diary. The correspondence, often addressed to his mother, primarily concerns personal experiences during and after the Civil War. Of particular interest are letters describing the recruiting, behavior, fighting skills, and movements and activities of the 9th United States Colored Troops participating in the Civil War. When paired with the collected correspondence of his sister, Harriet Wiswall, as well as related collections such as those of Howard Hampton, Austin Wiswall’s correspondence reveals an intensely personal side of mid-19th century life both inside and outside of the U.S.’s most personal war.

Interested researchers can find much of Wiswall’s material, as well as many other digitized collection, here. Our Reference Department is always eager to provide access to our physical holdings as well.

Native American Collections!

NAblog001Among its collections, the SWC houses several related to Native American organizations. Altogether, these records document significant portions of the 20th century history of Native Americans in West Texas, as well as parts of New Mexico and Oklahoma.

NAblog002The Mescalero Apache Cattle Raisers Records, 1960s-1990s, for example, consists of two collections, the first of which is linked above, and second of which can be found here. The records were donated by N. E. Britton, the manager of the historic Block Ranch in Lincoln County, New Mexico, from 1952 to 1964. In 1964 he became manager of the Mescalero Apache Cattle Raisers Association where he remained until 1984. The first collection includes minutes of board meetings, cattle record ledgers, sales contracts, journals, newspapers, maps, and correspondence dating from the 1960s to the 1990s. The second contains detailed cattle and livestock expense documentation and market records as well as correspondence, journals, legal material, maps, memorabilia, and newspapers.

NAblog004The West Texas Native American Association Records (WTNAA), 1992-1996, is another such collection. It consist of articles, correspondence, journals, tables, and minutes. Many programs and other documentation regarding their annual Pow Wow, an intertribal festival wherein members don traditional costumes and participate in music and dance festivities, are included. Financial materials, by-laws, a copy of their constitution, insurance information, and photographs are also present in lesser quantity. All of these materials relate to the day-to-day operations and major events of the organization. The Association, headquartered in Lubbock, Texas, encourages the preservation and education about Native American culture. Some Association members are descendants of North American tribes, while other non-Native Americans join as a result of their interest in Indian culture.NAblog003Another frequently used collection is the Chilocco Indian Boarding School Records. Located in Chilocco, Oklahoma, the school closed its doors in 1980 after 96 years of providing service in vocational education and training to Native Americans from across the U.S.  Not only did the campus provide buildings with classrooms but also dormitories for boys and girls. The collection includes the original Chilocco Indian Boarding School student rosters for the years 1968-1975, as well as a 1963 Baccalaureate and Commencement Program, news clippings concerning the history of the school, and a list of former school employees. Interested researchers should note that two agencies, the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), have the largest and most complete holdings on Chilocco Indian School.

Lastly, the Indian Schools Collection, 1929-1945 consists of correspondence, financial material, original drawings by Indian children, literary productions, maps, schedules and lists, food and clothing allotment records, and scrapbook material. This collection is based around actions begun in 1824 by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA held jurisdiction over Native American trade, removal to the West, protection from exploitation, concentration on reservations, and education. Unsuccessful in preventing wars and eliminating corrupt practices, the focus of the BIA was changed by the Dawes Act of 1887, the Burke Act of 1906, and through the Meriam Report of 1928. Indian educated geared for all age levels eventually became the Bureau’s priority, resulting in the establishment of day schools to serve as community centers. Boarding schools were reformed, and saw the introduction of Indian culture into their curriculum. Materials related to these years make up the bulk of the collection, particularly from 1933-1948 when John Collier, a strong proponent of these reforms, served as commissioner of Indian Affairs.

To examine these collections, researchers may contact our Reference staff via email, phone (806-742-9070), mail (MS41041, TTU, Lubbock, TX 79409), or fax (806-742-0496).

Oral History 101 – A Basic Introduction

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Over the past sixty years, historians at Texas Tech have conducted over 6,000 oral history interviews that now reside permanently at the Southwest Collection. Some of the earliest interviews in our holdings date from the late 1940s and were conducted by the Texas Tech History Department’s Dr. William Curry Holden, who spoke with local businessmen and ranchers about life on the South Plains. While our recording technologies have adapted beyond analog devices into digital voice recorders and video cameras, we continue to capture the stories of people in this region. Today we carry on the tradition established by historians like Holden, Fred Carpenter, Richard Mason, and David Murrah. Our field historians reach out to persons of interest all across the Southwest and are especially interested in politics, the histories of minorities, cultural heritage (specifically the arts and creative processes), Texas Tech history, sports, science and technology, and agriculture. These interviews are an invaluable tool for researchers interested in primary documentation and personal accounts. Field historians frequently go into interviewees’ homes, allowing the interview to be conducted casually; stories of major historical events are told first-hand, by eye-witnesses in their own words.

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In the Fall of 2010, the Southwest Collection began a massive re-evaluation of our oral history holdings. One of the biggest concerns was preserving our “reel-to-reel” recordings. Consequently, for the protection of the original recordings we now require patrons who wish to access such interviews to make their requests at least two weeks in advance. Upon receiving the request, the Audio/Visual department digitizes each recording, performs any sort of audio restoration that is required for audibility, and then burns the recordings to optical disc for patron use. We hope to have all of our 6,000 interviews in a digital format within the next three years, which will allow patrons easier access and less wait time. In future blog posts in the upcoming months, we will discuss further the various formats and preservation issues that we have encountered with this massive collection.

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Digitally transferring one of our oral history recordings on a reel-to-reel tape player.

If you are interested in our oral history holdings, at this time you can access information on the interviews conducted from 1949-2001, as well as search the collection by keyword, on the Southwest Collection website. Interviews from 2001-2011 are found in our dspace holdings. We are in the process of creating a new web portal for our oral history collection that hopes to go live by the end of 2013. Continue checking back on this blog for updates on this exciting new chapter in the history of the Southwest Collection’s oral history collection!

-by Elissa Stroman, SWC Audio/Visual Department