Each of the thousands of collections housed at the SWC contains its share of unique material, but some are so bizarrely diverse that they deserve a closer look. Take for example the recently-processed Earnest Langley Papers. Earnest Lee Langley, Jr., was born in 1920, which set him up not only to attend Texas Technological College during the 1930s, but also to enlist in the Army following the United States’ entry into World War II. After the war, Earnest graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and subsequently built a prominent West Texas law career. As a result, we have stacks of day books and appoint books, legal documents, and correspondence related to his law practice. But we also have an alarmingly sharp World War II era bayonet!
Depicted in the photo above, this item was found among boxes full of more mundane material. Needless to say, we were surprised (and inordinately excited) to discover it. The blade has since been inventoried among the many other artifacts in his collection…many of which seem equally out of place. For example, several boxes were full of Campfire Girls booklets, pamphlets, uniforms, and t-shirts. Most prominent among the items was this charter incorporating the Hereford Council of Campfire Girls. What did all this have to do with Ernest Langley? Had we confused this with another collection (note: we have never done that.) It was time for research! It turned out that after Langley moved to Hereford, Texas, his wife became an active supporter and leader of the Camp Fire Girls and was integral to their presence in that region. Mystery solved.
In retrospect, maybe the Campfire Girls items weren’t really that odd, but the three linear feet of stamps that we found produced a lot of head-scratching. There were thousands upon thousands of stamps, some loose, some attached, and some cut off of envelopes. In a typical collection you might find evidence of a hobby or two that a person enjoyed, but three boxes packed full of postage is pretty rare. Earnest Langley: philologist!
Finally, we found a simple and unadorned jewelry box. Its piles of lapel pins, most of them Army rank insignias, jived with what we knew about him. Some pins were difficult to identify…until we pulled out the Shriner’s fez (not pictured, sadly) that had been tucked below the jewelry box. A quick survey of his other materials unearthed a box full of papers about his membership in the Masons! Masonic materials are always fascinating, and would probably make for some good reading for interested researchers. Also, the fez is cool (although nobody tried it on, we promise.)
So, after sorting this stuff out, we now knew that Earnest Lee Langley, Jr.: stashed weaponry; helped establish some Panhandle Campfire Girls; loved stamps; and spent his free time practicing Freemasonry. Not pictured are the awards he received from over a dozen state and national law organizations, documentation of his efforts to found a local Methodist Church, and scrapbooks full of wine labels. Oh, and according to a plaque we found, he was also Hereford Citizen of the Year in 1969.
The Earnest Langley Papers were a fun one with which to work. There are other eccentric collections in our stacks as well, and if you’re interested in tracking some down then don’t hesitate to contact our Reference Department.