Texas Independence Day in the (19th Century) News!

Staunton Spectator_March 24, 1836-3

March 2nd : 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. President of the Republic of Texas, Governor of Texas, and later U.S. Senator Sam Houston was born on that day, too. That last one is fitting, because March 2nd is also Texas Independence Day, celebrated statewide since 1836. With that in mind, we’re once again sharing the best of our newspapers dating from that era!

Here’s page 3 of March 24, 1836’s Staunton Spectator, sharing all the news out of Virginia. They knew all about the Mexican army headed by former President of Mexico General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. But news traveled slowly back then: by the time this issue was published the Battle of the Alamo had occurred nearly three weeks earlier.

Albany Journal_April 15, 1836-1

Two weeks later in the Albany Journal of Albany, New York, related the tale of the Battle of the Alamo. 150 men killed, their bodies thrown into a heap! Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie: dead! Commander William Travis committing suicide rather than surrender! 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.)

Staunton Spectator_May 12, 1836-2

Here’s May 12th’s Staunton Spectator, reminding its readers that the Texas Revolution was doomed. As we’ve seen two times already, 19th-century newspaper information had a habit of being out of date.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. 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….” Wow.

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-Letter. We have the Battle of San Jacinto, the routing of Mexican forces, and the capture of Santa Anna, which came along with its own dubious tale. 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, (Santa Anna 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 even know who they’d nabbed until the Mexican troops began hailing their commander as 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 melodrama 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 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 facts about 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, many 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.

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Conan: The Exhibit!

phenom

A few months ago we told the tale of the Robert E. Howard westerns that were published in his hometown newspaper, the Cross Plains Review. But to be honest, Howard wasn’t really famous for his westerns. The world knew him for his fast-paced tales of sword and sorcery, and among those one character stood above the rest: Conan the Cimmerian. The Southwest Collection has installed “Robert E. Howard: Creator of Conan the Barbarian,” an exhibit curated by our favorite cataloger and metadata librarian, Rob King. It describes the many materials the SWC holds related to the author and his world-famous barbarian, and will be on display through the first of the year.

walked alone

Who was Robert E. Howard? A writer, of course. An avid boxer. A West Texan, too. But one young woman, Novalyne Price Ellis, kept extensive diaries about her years with the author that she later used to write One Who Walked Alone (the cover of which can be seen above.) Her insights into the man are wroth a read. Price was a school teacher who moved to Cross Plains, Texas, in 1934. She wanted to become a writer, and became interested in Howard both as an author and some-time partner. In the words of her Howard biography, she and Robert enjoyed “a unique, if often tempestuous, relationship.” Still, in between her teaching, his writing and boxing, and their quarreling, they rode horses across the countryside while discussing politics, Texas history, and the difficulties of living in West Texas during the Great Depression. They remained very close until Howard’s suicide in 1936, when he was only 30 years old.

Robert Howard Framed

Conan wasn’t the only character that Howard (seen here wearing a stylish hat) wrote to life. The young man spun yarns about Solomon Kane, a 16th century English adventurer; Bran Mak Morn, king of the Picts; and Kull of Atlantis, who we have some more to say about later. But really, Conan is what Howard’s legacy is all about, so here’s the short, short version of the barbarian’s story. Having traveled south from Cimmeria to seek his fortune in southern lands, Conan “trod the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandaled feet” until he rose to become king of the ancient land of Aquilonia. There, as many know, he wore its crown upon his troubled brow. Our exhibit features compendiums of the Conan (and other Howard) stories, accounts of Howard’s life as both an author, amateur boxer, and lover of the American West, and analyses of the Conan phenomenon, such as…Conan the Phenomenon (the awesome cover of which can be seen at the beginning of this blog!)

Oh! Also, we have Conan comic books!

Garden of FEAR

Conan had many forerunners in Howard’s fiction. Take for example Hunwulf the wanderer and his adventures in the “Garden of Fear.” This tale’s narrator reveals that he has lived countless past lives. During one particularly Conan-esque lietime many millenia ago, he traveled as Hunwulf, a barbarous fellow who, as barbarians often do, became mired in high adventure. Assaulted by mammoths! Beset by a black-winged demon-man! Rescuing a damsel in distress! And what a lady she was: Gudrun. “Not for a millennium of millenniums have women like (her) walked the earth. Cleopatra…Helen of Troy, they were but pallid shadows of her beauty….” Yeah, Hunwulf had fallen pretty hard.

Kull

Another Conan precursor can be seen posing, axe in hand, on this cover. Kull the Conqueror (aka Kull of Atlantis) only saw 3 short stories published in Howard’s lifetime, but another 9 were published posthumously. Other Kull adventures were also rewritten into Conan tales by Howard over the course of his career. There’s a lot we could say about Kull, but “By This Axe, I Rule,” the title of one of his short stories, pretty succinctly sums him up. Fun fact: Conan wasn’t the only of Howard’s creations to make it into the movies. Kull was the titular character of a film starring Kevin Sorbo in 1997. It might be wiser to stick with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian (1982) for a host of reasons, though, if you’re forced to choose between the two.

So come check out this new exhibit! Also, if you’re interested, read some of Howard’s stories in our digital copies of the Cross Plains Review. And for anything else Howard related at the Southwest Collection, our Reference Department would be happy to help you find it.

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.

cook at the college inn

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.

Untitled

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.

Manhattan Heights 2

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!