Painstakingly Preserved Political Paraphernalia

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Election Day is coming up (or might have just passed, depending on when you’re reading this!) The SWC has a tremendous number of political collections, but some of the coolest parts of those aren’t correspondence or signed proclamations or whatever else it is politicians wind up gathering during their careers. No, the best things are the memorabilia!

Take these buttons and pamphlets attempting to drum up support for Gordon Barton McLendon. “The Maverick of Radio,” McClendon nailed down the Top 40 radio format in the 1950s and through that made a fortune. He didn’t stop there, though. As an offshore pirate radio broadcaster, he bombarded the coasts of Scandanavia and Great Britain with the music he loved, whether they wanted to hear it or not. Most of this is documented in his papers (which we have), as is his heavy involvement in politics during the 1960s. In 1964, for example, he ran in the Democratic primary against U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough. He lost, but on the trail he managed to bring along some famous folks, including John Wayne! The buttons above are from that campaign. 2AFL1398Scattered cross various collections are campaign relics related to four-term U.S. Congressman Lloyd Bentsen, Jr. From 1948 to 1955, Bentsen served Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then in the Senate from 1971-1993. While a Senator he chaired the Senate Finance Committee, which he parlayed into a position as U.S. Treasury Secretary during Bill Clinton’s early years as president. He even accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for Vice President of the United States in Michael Dukakis’ failed campaign against George H. W. Bush in 1988. But to do all that, he first had to get elected, and so his understated buttons and bepamphleted, smiling face grace the SWC’s collections.catalystV2I4-1-2Here’s an alternative view of campaigning, presented by Texas Tech’s own The Catalyst, a controversial, underground student newspaper during the 1960s and 70s. It contained articles, reviews, editorials, satires, parodies and political statements about the Vietnam War, racial discord, and drug use, among other topics. It was also the cornerstone of a 1970 lawsuit that became one of the most notable court cases in the area of freedom of the press for school newspapers. Legal problems aren’t surprising, given the anti-establishment tone of the articles in this October 22-November 5, 1970 issue. Check out the decidedly irreverent account of Spiro Agnew’s visit to Lubbock. They also editorialize on the senatorial contest between George H. W. Bush and Lloyd Bentsen. Those parts are good, but the rest of it is even better, rambling across a boycott of Purex products, campus police acquiring tear gas, and the benefits of hallucinogens.2AFL1401 We’ve saved the Presidential stuff for last, and boy do we have a slew of it! First up is a message card from LBJ’s 1964 campaign. It’s hard to tell whether or not this item is arguing for or against a vote for him. We’re open to your interpretation, if you’d like to comment below. Next, in direct opposition to The Catalyst’s viewpoints, we have a small button supporting the Nixon/Agnew ticket. Lastly, a run-of-the-mill bumper sticker for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign against Gerald Ford. Our American Agricultural Movement Papers suggest some definite opposition to Carter after his election, but the owner of this bumper sticker, at least, felt that Jimmy was the man to beat.

Interested in taking a peek at any of our numerous political collections? That’s what our Reference Staff is here for. Give them a call, before or after you’ve voted. They’d be happy to help you out.

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San Jacinto Day and the Temple Houston Morrow Papers

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San Jacinto Day is today, Monday, April 21st, and that’s why we’re sharing with you our Temple Houston Morrow Papers. Morrow was a longtime president of Traders and General Insurance Company of Dallas, Texas, and more importantly the grandson of Sam Houston. Sam Houston was a leader of the Texas Revolution (which we also wrote about here), the 1st and 3rd President of the Republic of Texas, a U.S. Senator, and the 7th Governor of Texas. Forces under his command defeated the Mexican Army led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21st, 1836. Among other things, the Papers contains letters to and from Houston, his wife Margaret, and his son Sam, Jr.

The letter above is one of the most precious of our materials related to Sam Houston. Written by Governor Houston on December 2nd, 1860, to state Comptroller Clement R. Jones, this letter requests the transfer of funds from Texas University Land Sales in order to supply soldiers fighting along the frontier, which was, in Houston’s words, “being savaged by Indians.”

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As you can imagine, Houston was a national celebrity for much of his life as evidenced by this March 1861 note. Theo Sutherland (about whom our collections sadly provide no further mention than this note) asks herein for Houston’s autograph. Note Sutherland’s use of the title “General” when addressing Houston. This title, rather than Governor or Senator, is by far the most frequently used in any our documents written after 1836 regardless of the office he held at the time.

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Correspondence between Sam Houston, Jr. and his father and mother comprise more than a third of the Papers. This is one such written in Huntsville, Texas, the city in which Houston would eventually retire in the midst of the Civil War. Houston passed away in Huntsville in 1863, and not coincidentally Sam Houston State University is now located there. In this 1859 letter, Sam Jr. encourages his father, who had been absent from home for some time while serving as a Senator and campaigning for Texas governor, to return for a visit with Sam Jr. and his mother.

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Not all items in the collection were familial. This is a receipt of purchase written by F. D. Elberfield. Apparently the Houston family needed a sewing machine, and they got one for a mere $125 (which might correlate to as much as $2,000 today, although calculating currency across 150 years is not an exact science.) Elberfield also provided a warranty for replacement of the machine…provided it “is kept clean and oiled, the loop check is in order, the tension and lenght [sic] of stitch properly regulated.”

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Our final example comes from the hand of Margaret Lea Houston, Sam’s wife. It was written on April 18th, 1837, nearly a year to the day after the Battle of San Jacinto. Fittingly, Mrs. Houston mentions a speech that Sam was recently invited to give at Independence, Texas on the anniversary of the battle a few days later.

There are so many more incredible items in this collection that this blog could easily stretch much, much longer. Rather than do that, however, we encourage you to get ahold of our Reference Staff to arrange a look the Papers. Fortunately, many of them may soon be digitized and made available online among our many other digital holdings. Keep an eye out for that!

African American Collections at the SWC!

Daniel BensonThis Monday, January 20th, the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. With that in mind, we’d like to share a little about our collections documenting African American history. The Southwest Collection (SWC) houses a tremendous amount of material on this topic, including books, oral histories, photographs, newspapers, and the papers and records of people and organizations. In fact, because we preserve so many items, we’re going to highlight this week only items related to the Lubbock, Texas area (where the SWC lives, in case you didn’t know yet!)

The SWC contains more than two-dozen manuscript collections that refer to African-Americans from the slave era until the present day. As an example, the image above is an excerpt from the Daniel H. Benson Records, documenting the career of the titular Lubbock area lawyer. The subject of this material was described as a “class action suit on behalf of all Black and Mexican American citizens in the City of Lubbock…(challenging) the at large election system [then] used to elect council men to the City Council.”  The original suit was filed in 1976 and the ruling was appealed in 1979. The summary shared above is just one of nearly 1,000 pages of documentation that can be viewed not only in our Reference room, but also among our digital collections.

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In our files are well over 130 professionally conducted oral history interviews relating to African Americans throughout Texas spanning nearly 45 years! In addition, photographs of African Americans appear in numerous collections. The photo shared here is of a cook who worked at the College Inn, a Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) women’s dormitory.

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Our newspaper collections are vast. In addition to the general run of dozens of regional and local newspapers available on microfilm and digitally, the SWC maintains a virtually complete set of issues of the West Texas Digest, published since September 1977 by Eddie Richardson and T. J. Patterson. Its goal was, among other things, to inform the world about the African American community of Lubbock, Texas, and the surrounding region. The publication went through many titles (such as the Lubbock digest, as the above image shows,) but what any researchers really needs to know is that regardless of title we have nearly 1,600 images of the publication spanning 1977 to 2010.

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There was another African American newspaper in Lubbock, this one active during the 1960s. The Manhattan Heights Times was created by Scott and Norman Williamson, and it began publication in 1961. The first African American newspaper in town, it briefly ceased its run in 1965. It didn’t take long for it to return with a new title, appearing as The Manhattan Heights and West Texas Times that same year. This iteration of the paper ran until the late 60s.

We can’t overstate how many materials we have on this subject. Fortunately, our Reference Staff can help any interested researcher navigate through them. Don’t hesitate to give them a shout!