Head West!

At the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is), many corporations, investors, and capitalists wanted to share a little something wonderful with you: THE AMERICAN WEST. Anywhere west of the Mississippi River was a latter-day Eden, and for a few cents on the acre you could own a piece of this unique prize. Only a fool would pass on thousands of square miles of: Bountiful harvests! Spacious ranches! Amazing weather! And plentiful railroads!

California Is the Place You Want to Be!

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Jerome Madden, Land Agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad (S.P.R.R.) Company, knew everything about California in 1890. His mission was to share that knowledge with you. In his publications, nary an acre of land nor the crops that flourished there were left unexamined (the orchards alone could conjure a man’s fortune!) No comparison to other regions was left unexplored, either. How did California compare to Europe? Madden knew this much: “the superiority of the climate of California over that of Italy has been mentioned by many noted travelers.” Why, even the London Spectator described California’s weather as “the nearest (to) perfection in the world,” comparable only to Tasmania!

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Now that Mr. Madden had potential buyers’ attention, it was time to tell them how to find to this coastal paradise. Fortunately, there were only three railroads headed west (that bore the S.P.R.R.’s seal of quality, at any rate), keeping the move to California as simple as possible. Pick one, and profit!

Colorado, Here We Come!

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California wasn’t the only paradise on earth in the United States, at least according to the Union Pacific Railroad. South Platte Valley, Colorado boasted soil vastly superior in depth and content to that of the “Eastern and Middle West States,” which was fortunate because there was cash money in that soil…in the form of sugar beets! “It is the belief of experts that the production of sugar beets will become the leading business of inhabitants of this valley” due to its “bright sunshine” and light summer rains. There were other financial opportunities in the area, to be sure, but for the discerning emigrant, beets were Coloradan gold.

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Not to be outdone by competitors such as the S.P.R.R. whose helpful directions were undoubtedly inspiring Americans to move west by the gross, the Union Pacific line’s publications shared their extensive travel information. The Union Pacific Overland Route was, after all, “the only direct line to all principal points West.”

Hurry On Out to Sunny Texas!

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The Caswell Brothers knew what the savvy homesteader really wanted: tillable land on the cheap! And, if you were feeling particularly cowboyish, there had a little ranch land to sell, too. But wait! Why not live in the city instead? After all, Fort Worth had boomed from a modest hamlet of 11,000 people with no railroad access in 1876 to a whopping 30,000 souls in 1880, every one of whom could boast that they now enjoyed eleven railroads leading out of town!

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Texas held more temptations than just the railroad-clogged metropolis of Fort Worth. After all, weren’t folks tired of the incessant blizzards plaguing them in, presumably, every other part of the United States? Look no further than Texas for sweet relief! This image, helpfully provided by the Caswell Brothers in their promotional material, shows the truth of the matter. The shivering masses turn their eyes to the Lone Star and its abundant crops, cattle, and cowtowns. Why, who wouldn’t point their wagon toward sunny Texas immediately?

The Southwest Collection is full of a variety of curiosities such as these promotional land pamphlets, many of which can be found in digital format here. Our Reference Department would be happy to help you find any others if you, the interested researcher, would like to see them.

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“Assassination of a President: An Exhibit to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Tragic Death of John F. Kennedy” at the Southwest Collection

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President John F. Kennedy and Congressman George H. Mahon at a event during Kennedy’s November, 1963 visit to Texas.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. To mark this occasion, the Southwest Collection has installed an exhibit in our east gallery displaying books, documents, photographs, and other materials from several of our collections that relate to the tragedy. We currently house over 200 books about the assassination, ranging from academic publications to explorations of conspiracy theories. Two of our finest manuscript collections–the papers of Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr and Congressman George H. Mahon–contain a wealth of documentary evidence related to this moment in American history.

Waggoner Carr, born in 1918 in Fairlie, Texas, moved with his family to Lubbock, Texas, as a young man. After serving as a pilot during World War II, he completed a law degree at the University of Texas, went into private practice, and soon after involved himself in local politics. He served as Lubbock Assistant District Attorney and Lubbock County Attorney before setting his sights on Austin. There he represented Lubbock in the State Legislature (1951-1961), eventually rising to Speaker of Texas House of Representatives (1957-1961) before moving on to serve as Texas Attorney General (1963-1967).

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These are the envelopes containing reels of sound recordings gathered by Waggoner Carr’s investigative team in the aftermath of the assassination.

Because he was the state’s Attorney General when Kennedy was assassinated, Carr oversaw the initial investigation into the murder, gathering evidence that he would later provide to the Warren Commission. Testimonies, police reports, photographs, and correspondence with investigators, witnesses, and government officials at all levels, as well as sound and movie recordings such as those in the above image, can be found among the many other fascinating items in his papers.

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This Admission Ticket for the dinner to be held in Kennedy’s honor on the night of the shooting is among the many artifacts available in the George Mahon Papers.

George Herman Mahon’s papers are another key component of our Kennedy-related holdings. Mahon practiced law in Colorado City, Texas, in the 1920s before serving as Mitchell County attorney from 1926. In 1934 he won the congressional seat for the Nineteenth Congressional District and remained in that office forty-four years. He retired in 1978 as the then-longest sitting member of Congress.

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Because he served as Texas’ Representative during Kennedy’s tragically shortened term, and because he ranked as one of the most influential Texas Democrats, Mahon joined the Texas delegation that traveled with the President throughout Texas. He found himself riding through Dealey Plaza only five cars behind President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally. During the flight back to Washington D.C. after the assassination, Mahon recorded his recollections of the event. These notes–a sample of which can be seen above–as well as copious correspondence and a host of other documentation, are a part of our collection of his papers.

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This is a telegram inviting the Congressman to the President’s funeral. Mahon’s papers are replete with such correspondence.

The John F. Kennedy exhibit will run through February, 2014, and is open to the public from 8am to 5pm on weekdays. Interested researchers may contact our Reference Department to take a look at the prized collections mentioned above, as well as the many other collections we make available.

World War I: Mothers, Sons, and Friendship

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On Monday, November 11th, 2013 the United States again celebrated Veteran’s Day. With this honored holiday in mind, we’d like to tell the story of a unique portion of one of our collections, the Julia Duggan Hart Papers, 1837-1970; specifically, the final folder in its final box.

Sadly, not every soldier’s story ends with his or her safe return to the United States. Such was often the case during World War I, and was certainly so for Julia Duggan Hart. Her son, Lt. Vernon Hart, served in France in 1918. He was slain along with many of his countrymen shortly after his arrival on the Western front. At that time, the U.S. military rarely returned the bodies of its fallen soldiers to their families back home. This ubiquitous obstacle led to the creation of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

Still in existence today, Gold Star Mothers is an organization dedicated to honoring all sons and daughters who have fallen while serving in the U.S. military. On May 28, 1918, President Wilson approved a suggestion made by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses that, instead of wearing traditional mourning for relatives who died in the service of their country, American women should wear a black band on their left arm adorned with a golden star for each family member who had given his life for the nation. In 1936, the organization’s impact had become so great that the U.S. government designated the final Sunday in September “Gold Star Mothers Day.”

Julia Duggan Hart, who was closely involved with organization’s creation, contributed the poem above to Gold Star Mothers in 1928, the same year the organization was formally established. Her connection with this group of other women was a close one, for years earlier she had engaged in a unique quest to both find and return her sons remains to his Texas home. That is the story revealed, document by document, in Mrs. Hart’s papers.

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Julia’s search began through official channels. Lt. Hart’s uncle, Malone Duggan, was a Major in the U.S. Army. At Julia’s request, he asked for any information available about his nephew’s burial site. Lt. Hart’s unit chaplain replied with brief details and coordinates, as seen in the correspondence above. While interesting, the results of this search would evolve beyond a simple bureaucratic investigation and into the poignant tale of two mothers–one French, one American–and the relationship they shared with Lt. Hart, the bond that his death forged between them, and the grieving process of a mother whose child has been taken from her.

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These two documents are a sample of the correspondence and accompanying translation (provided by the U.S. military) between Julia Duggan Hart and Thereze Collinot. Mrs. Collinot was a Frenchwoman at whose home Lt. Hart had lodged just prior to his departure for the front. He had become close friends with the Collinot family, who aside from his fellow soldiers were the last people to see Vernon alive. Mrs. Collinot became instrumental in the U.S. Army’s attempt to identify Vernon’s burial site. As a result of her involvement, Thereze and Julia began to correspond. One of their earliest exchanges, seen below, is the most incredible of this collection.

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Julia Hart knew that she might never retrieve her son’s body. Recognizing this sentiment in their early letters, Thereze Collinot made a pilgrimage to Vernon’s grave. There she took two photos (top and middle left, above) of his gravesite. This simple gesture on Mrs. Collinot’s part created a bond between the two women that would be reflected in their correspondence throughout the ensuing years. Although they eventually moved beyond reminiscences about Vernon and began to share the intimacies of their own lives, Vernon always stood at the center of their relationship.  Through the efforts of the nascent Gold Star Mothers to prompt the government into returning the bodies of fallen soldiers to their families whenever possible, Mrs. Hart would eventually receive the bittersweet gift of burying her son in his home town of San Saba, Texas. The organization provided to her a gold star card (right) acknowledging his sacrifice. After his burial, Julia took a photo of her son’s grave, a duplicate of which she quite possibly included in her correspondence with Thereze.

It is difficult to convey the poignancy of this collection without viewing it in person, but we encourage those interested in doing so to contact our Reference Department to arrange a visit.