Raiders of the Lost Archives!

A new map of Texas BEST

There are several archives in the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library: The Southwest Collection (of course!), the Crossroads of Music Archives, Rare Books Collection, Texas Tech University Archives, and Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World. And every single one of us just contributed artifacts to the final SWC/SCL exhibit of 2018: “Raiders of the Lost Archives.” Below is a mere sample of what currently decorates our halls.

Guitar-Sonny West

The guitar above belonged to Sonny West, a rock-n-rollin’ Lubbock, Texas, native whose principal claim to fame was that he wrote “Oh, Boy!” and “Rave On” for another famous Lubbock musician: Buddy Holly. This item is found in our Crossroads of Music Archive, which is also the official repository for the archival collections of Michael Martin Murphey, the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Tommy and Charlene Hancock Family, Jesse “Guitar” Taylor, Odis “Pop” Echols, and over 100 other music collections.

Tarahumara-Image67

Some collections deal with the indigenous peoples of the Southwest and Mexico. Among them is the Tarahumara Photograph Collection, consisting of over 25,000 photographs of this isolated people. Taken over the course of fifty years by Jesuit priest Luis Verplanken during his work in southwestern Chihuahua, Mexico, many of the photographs were digitized and placed online for all interested researchers.

Milton Fore-edge BEST-Gold+

Few collections in our building rival the over 35,000 books, journals, manuscripts, maps, and other items in our Rare Books Collection. They range from 3,000 year old Assyrian cylinder seals to contemporary artists’ books, including this 1851 early edition of the poems of John Milton. It is adorned with a fore-edge painting, which was created by first fanning the page block of a book, then painting an image on the stepped surface. Many times the illustrations relate to the subject of the book itself; in this case, the rustic scene of a pond with an unknown town in the background that might refer to one of Milton’s poems.

GhostRider1941

The Texas Tech University Archives is the second largest archival unit in the Special Collections Library, boasting over 5,200 linear feet of manuscript and published material produced by the university, its staff, and students. Not a few items pertain to the Masked Rider, TTU’s oldest and most popular mascot. The precursor to the Masked Rider, the Ghost Rider, is depicted in this logo found in a 1941 game program.

John Lane Book-1

Although we don’t have a photo of it here, the Sowell Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World contributed a large wooden paddle used by John Lane during his travels, some of which led to writing Chattooga. In his words:

“. . . Silver Creek wooden paddles, made from local North Carolina mountain woods, were used by many great kayak and canoe paddlers all over the country. They are flexible, long lasting, tough, and just feel so right in your hand, like you are paddling with a living thing. I bought this one in 1984 and paddled with it for 20 years. I cracked it twice . . . . Once I was driving out I-40 to paddle in Colorado and the bungee holding the paddles snapped and they flew off the car.  The Silver Creek somehow survived. Another time I somehow got a blade of it lodged under a rock rolling in the middle of a rapid on the Chauga River in South Carolina and it was ripped out of my hands. It took up an hour but we were able to recover it.”

The Sowell Collection contains the personal papers not only of Jon Lane, but also some of the country’s most prominent writers, all of whom are deeply engaged with questions of land use, the nature of community, the conjunction of scientific and spiritual values, and the fragility of wilderness.

“Narrative of the travels and adventures of Monsieur Violet in California, Sonora, and western Texas” (1843)

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This month we’re sharing excerpts from a title found among our many well-preserved old books: the fictionalized narrative of one man’s travels throughout the U.S. southwest entitled the Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of Monsieur Violet in California, Sonora, and Western Texas. Written in 1843 by Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), Monsieur Violet was based loosely on Marryat’s own North American journey. He had been quite the world traveler before the book’s publication, however, serving in the British Royal Navy and sailing all over the globe for several decades.

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Marryat was a widely published novelist, and is credited with being one of the first to write “sea stories” (think Master and Commander, or Moby Dick), with his most popular being the semi-autobiographical novel, Mr Midshipman Easy (1836). His authorial popularity even landed him the acquaintanceship of Charles Dickens. Oh, and in his free time Marryat invented a maritime flag signaling system.

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In 1839, four years before Monsieur Violet, Marryat published his relatively-less-fictional Diary in America. It was replete with criticisms of nineteenth-century America’s alien–to his eyes–way of doing and looking at things. Suffice to say, in the U.S. it was not uncommon to see the book publicly getting burned alongside effigies of Marryat. If he was trying to capitalize off the popularity of Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 sensation, Democracy in America–and let’s be honest, he was–then he failed spectacularly.

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But back to Monsieur Violet. It was also written after Marryat’s stint in North America, and is fairly detailed in its descriptions of the southern and southwestern U.S., including the Native American tribes that inhabited those regions. We’d describe it further, but it’s not a bad read, and you may peruse it at your own leisure here: http://hdl.handle.net/10605/947. And if you’re adventurous, then perhaps you could search around the internets to see if you can locate it under its other title, The Travels and Romantic Adventures of Monsieur Violet among the Snake Indians and Wild Tribes of the Great Western Prairies.

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Texas Independence Day: In the News in 1836!

Staunton Spectator_March 24, 1836-3

Last Sunday, March 2nd, was a date that many hold dear. Among other things, it is the birthday of Mikhail Gorbachev, Jon Bon Jovi, Dr. Seuss, and the author of this blog. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in one game on March 2nd, 1962. One-time President of the Republic of Texas, Governor of Texas, and later U.S. Senator from Texas Sam Houston was born on that day as well. That last one is fitting, because March 2nd is also Texas Independence Day, celebrated statewide since 1836. With that in mind, we’re sharing many of our newspapers dating from that era!

For our first example we have page 3 of March 24, 1836’s Staunton Spectator, the newspaper of record for Staunton, Virginia that ran almost continuously from 1823 to 1916. This brief snippet reports the arrival in south Texas of the Mexican army headed by former President of Mexico General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. News traveled slowly back then, as by the time this issue was published the Battle of the Alamo had occurred nearly three weeks earlier.

Albany Journal_April 15, 1836-1

This article, published two weeks later in the Albany Journal of Albany, New York, relates the tale of the Battle of the Alamo. This report doesn’t shy away from melodrama: 150 men killed, their bodies thrown into a heap! Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie dead! Alamo commander William Travis committing suicide rather than being captured! Every Texian inflamed with a passion to fight until “every Mexican east of the Rio del Norte should be exterminated!” (Texian, by the way, was the name for residents of Mexican Texas and, later, the Republic of Texas.) It’s doubtful that anyone in Albany could verify these claims, nor were they aware of the fact that the town of Goliad, mentioned toward the end of the article, had fallen on March 27th. Regardless, as we read these we often wonder what images were conjured in reader’s minds about events transpiring over 1,600 miles away.

Staunton Spectator_May 12, 1836-2

The next article, once again appearing in the Staunton Spectator, portrays the Texas Revolution as a slowly-losing cause. As we’ve seen two times already, 19th-century newspaper information had a habit of being out of date. Sam Houston’s army had defeated a portion of general Santa Anna’s forces at San Jacinto, Texas back on April 21st, forcing the end of the conflict and freeing Texas from Mexican control. The most entertaining part of this article, however, is the lionizing of Davy Crockett. Check it out: “Crockett was found (within the Alamo)…on his back, a frown on his brow, a smile of scorn on his lips–his knife in his hand, a dead Mexican lying across his body, and twenty-two more lying pell-mell before him….”

Exeter News-Letter_May 31, 1836-2

Word finally caught up with the east coast by the end of May 1836, as we can see here in Exeter, New Hampshire’s Exeter News. It details the Battle of San Jacinto, the routing of Mexican forces, and the capture of Santa Anna. The latter event contains more of the entertainment that we’ve come to expect. After over 600 Mexican troops laid down their arms, mounted riflemen began chasing a few attempted escapees. Only one continued to elude them, a chase that lasted 15 miles and ended when one pursuer guessed that “like a hard pressed bear, (the fugitive might) have taken a tree. The tree tops were then examined when lo, the game was discovered snugly ensconced in the forks of a large live oak.” The captors allegedly didn’t know who they’d nabbed until the Mexican troops began hailing the prisoner as Gen. Santa Anna when his captors walked him through the camp.

Vermont Gazette_June 14, 1836-2

We’re ending this with a more sedate piece, free of the drama of Davy Crockett, generals in trees, and Texans hell-bent on exterminating every last one of their enemies. The Bennington Vermont Gazette instead describes events as they transpired from San Jacinto onward, culled from other news sources such as the New York Courier & Enquirer. Nope, no melodrama at all…oh, wait: “The poor devils…would hold up their hands, cross themselves, and sing out ‘me no alamo,’ but nothing could save them; the blood of our countrymen was too was too fresh in the memory of our people to let one Mexican escape, until worn down with pursuit and slaughter, they commenced making prisoners.” Perhaps the real magic of these papers was not so much contemporary takes on the Texas Revolution as it was the histrionics of 19th-century newspapers!

We have a vast newspaper collection here at the Southwest Collection, some of which can be found in digital form. We also have manuscript materials about the Texas Revolution and its participants, most notably the Temple Houston Morrow Papers, a series of letters and documents collected by Sam Houston’s grandson, some of which were items composed by Houston himself. And, as always, our Reference Staff would be happy to help you peruse these or any of our other fine collections.