The Dust Bowl, Photographically

20

Over 80 years ago, fierce winds and sky-high clouds of dirt assaulted the Great Plains in a decade-long disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Texas’ Panhandle was not spared, as the stark reality of these photos from the Southwest Collection prove.

11

Caused by a combination of overfarming in the 1920s and severe droughts throughout the 1930s, the Dust Storms blacked out the sky and covered whole towns in dirt. News accounts and oral histories conducted with survivors claim that oftentimes the air was so thick with dust that nothing was visible five feet away. There were even accounts of people choking to death on the dust.

12Some consider Black Sunday one of the worst events of the Dust Bowl. On April 14, 1935, over a dozen storms—called by some survivors “black blizzards”—scoured the Great Plains from the Dakotas to Texas. Its dust traveled as far as New York and Washington, D.C., where lawmakers were attempting to juggle Dust Bowl relief solutions alongside numerous other New Deal programs. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939) told the tale of this intersection of nature, the economy, politics, and the realities of those who fled the storms—in this case, the Okies that traveled to California en masse to find work in a land that wasn’t actively trying to kill them.03

Over one hundred million acres of land in Oklahoma, Texas, and several nearby states were affected by the Dust Bowl over the course of the 1930s. This included towns and cities, of course, but farmlands were the primary victim. It would be many years before the Great Plains recovered. The land values and agricultural production of the 1920s would not return for decades.

08

“Governor Coke Stevenson: Mr. Texas” – An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection

coke-s-for-lt-gov

The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library will soon be exhibiting portions of the papers of Texas Governor Coke Stevenson. Documenting his life and career from childhood to retirement in Junction, Texas, the exhibit will run from mid-spring to mid-summer.

Coke Stevenson was born on March 20, 1888, at his grandparents’ home between the little towns of Katemcy, Fredonia, and Pontotoc, in Northeast Mason County, Texas. Throughout his life Stevenson was an entrepreneur and civic leader: a cowboy at ten; the owner of a freight-line between Junction and Brady, Texas, at sixteen; a janitor who worked his way up to bank clerk by 18. Ultimately, he became a member of the bank’s board, and later became president of several banks. He was part owner of grocery, drug, and, hardware stores, the Junction Eagle newspaper, the Fritz Hotel, and Llano River Irrigation and Milling Company, along with water, electricity, ginning, grist mill, and irrigation businesses. He apprenticed under a former state judge, and the Fourth Court of Civil Appeals admitted him to the bar in 1913. Remarkably, he only completed twenty-two months of formal education.

4-house-of-representatives-certificate

Stevenson served two terms as Kimble County Attorney and County Judge, but soon was was elected to the Texas House or Representatives, where he became its first two-term Speaker.  In 1938 he was elected Lieutenant Governor and was reelected in 1940 before assuming the governorship in August 1941, when W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel resigned to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the deceased Morris Sheppard.  Stevenson served two gubernatorial terms during World War II, during which time he supported the war effort and President Roosevelt, and inspired the Good Neighbor Commission.

war-time-gov

Affectionately known as “Mr. Texas,” after the war he ran for O’Daniel’s vacated U.S. Senate seat against Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson.  He lost a contested run-off when George Parr, the so-called “Duke of Duvall County,” allegedly had Voting Box Number 13 stuffed with 202 ballots that tilted the election to LBJ.

Politics wasn’t the entirety of Stevenson’s life. In 1913 he married Fay Wright, and soon they were blessed with a son, Coke Robert Stevenson, Jr. Fay died in 1942 while Stevenson was governor. After leaving public office he married in 1954 the Kimble County District Clerk, and widow, Marguerite King Heap, with whom he had a daughter, Jane Stevenson. After the failed Senatorial campaign, Stevenson returned home to his Kimble County law practice, friends, and ranch. There he cowboy’d for a while, and took extensive road trips with his family, visiting all 48 contiguous states. He died at 87 years of age on June 28, 1975.

That’s the biography, but the exhibit is so much more! Come by and take a look at it if you have the opportunity. Also, if you’d like to view the Coke Stevenson Papers, they will be available for research use before the exhibit ends. Our Reference Staff will always help you find what you need.

autobiographed-photo-of-coke-stevenson

Dirk West: Sports Cartoonist

d-west-book-more-best-of-frontback

It’s time for a new exhibit at the Southwest Collection! This fall we’re sharing a tribute to Dirk West, a Texas Tech alum and famed sports cartoonist of the Southwest Athletic Conference (among many other accomplishments.) On the evening of Friday, October 14th, we’ll be hosting a reception celebrating the exhibit’s opening. Come on by and visit! Or at least check out some of the exhibit’s fabulous images below.

dirk-west-fixed-2

Gerald Glynn “Dirk” West (October 23, 1928-July 26, 1996) was a businessman, television personality, and former mayor of the City of Lubbock, Texas. Shortly after his birth in Littlefield, Texas, Dirk’s family moved to Lubbock, Texas. There, while attending Lubbock High School, Dirk created “Westerner Willie” for the school’s Westerner World. Dirk’s widow, Mary Ruth West, recalls Dirk stating that this was also the beginning of his nom de plume. After graduating high school Dirk continued cartooning at Texas Tech University (TTU).

toreador-1953-03-31

At TTU, Dirk created an oafish character named “Smedley” (above) for the Toreador, the Texas Tech student newspaper. Mary Ruth believes “Smedley” served as the precursor to “Ol’ Red,” the grizzled version of Raider Red that decorates the image below. The figure graced the Toreador’s pages until Dirk’s graduation in 1954 with a degree in Advertising.

dirkwest-ttu2-sm

Some years later Burle Pettit, sports editor of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, asked Dirk to consider drawing a Southwest Athletic Conference (SWC) cartoon for the paper. And so it was that on September 24, 1964, the first SWC cartoon appeared therein. It featured Texas Tech Football Head Coach J. T. King and his men preparing for the arduous task of playing the defending National Football Champions, the Texas Longhorns. He would go on to develop the mascots of all the SWC schools into recognizable caricatures, such as UT’s Bevo, below.

9-d-west-ut16x18

So come on by and check out our exhibit! And if you’d like to see more of Dirk West’s work, as well as his archival papers, don’t hesitate to get ahold of our Reference Staff. They’re always ready to help you out however they can. We also hold the records of the Southwest Conference, the Big XII Conference, and a host of other sports organizations. They too are available to interested researchers.

Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: An Exhibit of the Crossroads Music Archive

SPChrisGunsupADJ

Among the many collections located at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library the Crossroads of Music Archive is unique. Comprised of the papers of West Texas musicians, Crossroads also contains recordings, artifacts such as posters and instruments, and other materials documenting West Texas’ rich musical history. “Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air” is an exhibit showcasing the work of Chris Oglesby, who can be seen throwing a dramatic Texas Tech “Guns Up,” above. More specifically, it focuses on the book from which this exhibit gets its name.

Oglesby book cover

Chris Oglesby grew up in Lubbock where his father was a coach and his mother an English professor, both at Texas Tech University.  While earning his bachelor’s degree and doctorate of jurisprudence from Texas Tech, Chris immersed himself in Lubbock’s musical nightlife. However, it took moving to Austin in 1991 for him to learn how greatly artists from his hometown had affected the music and art scenes of Texas and the world beyond.

hatch taylor elyLloyd Maines, Jesse “Guitar” Taylor, and Joe Ely

In 1998, Chris began interviewing musical artists with ties to Lubbock. He paired those with articles, photographs, and other research materials to augment the amazing stories from the talented musicians. Posters and playbills similar to the one below were not neglected.

Bob Livingston Poster

After seven years of research, Oglesby published Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air. The book highlights twenty-five musicians and seeks to discover what it is about Lubbock and West Texas that feeds the creative process and spirit. More than a few notes were scribbled down in the notebook below.

edited stenographic note book cover - (fire in the water earth in the sky)

September 1, 2016 will be the tenth anniversary of the book’s publication. In conjunction with that, we are proud to announce that the Chris Oglesby Papers are now housed in the Crossroads of Music Archive. They are open for research, and a simple call or email to our dedicated Reference Staff can get them into your hands.

The Tale of Thomas “Red Tom” Hickey

SocialistMassMeeting

Thomas Hickey’s papers aren’t the only records of early 20th-century socialism that we house at the Southwest Collection, nor are they the first we’ve talked about on this blog, but they have proven to be some of the most colorful. Situated among correspondence, financial records, and similar items are several periodicals and posters that we hadn’t yet seen anywhere else.

Thomas Aloysius Hickey was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1869. In the 1890s he emigrated to the U.S., and within a year he had joined the Socialist labor Party, eventually serving as private secretary to none other than notorious International Workers of the World (IWW) founder Eugene V. Debs. Hickey left the east coast after being blacklisted by the bosses, and soon found work in Montana on behalf of its miners. That failed to pan out, too, so he ambled off to Texas in 1904. That’s where, from humble Hallettsville, he arranged speaking engagements on behalf of the Socialist Party all over the state, such as the one promoted in this bill.

johndavisSenate_1916

In 1916 Hickey supported Dallas U.S. senatorial candidate John Davis. Trounced in the election by former Texas governor and Senate incumbent Charles A. Culberson by a margin of 8 to 1, Davis nonetheless fared better than every other socialist who ran for office at the state or federal level in Texas that year. This was small consolation to Hickey, who was about to face still more adversity. In 1911 he had become editor of The Rebel, a weekly newspaper published in Hallettsville. “The great appear great to us only because we are on our knees. Let us arise,” was its slogan, which was adopted by Texas’ Socialist Party. That may have had something to do with the government’s suppression of the paper in 1917 via the Espionage Act.

wilshire

Hickey was one to collect national socialist publications, as well. Wilshire’s was among them, and Hickey’s Papers teem with issues of the periodical. Gaylord Wilshire, after whom the Boulevard in Los Angeles is named, was a nationally prominent socialist. Before being chased from California as an outspoken Red, he began publication of Wilshire’s (previously known as The Challenge, Wilshire’s Monthly Magazine, and Wilshire’s Magazine) in 1900. When he moved to New York, the magazine grew in circulation, eventually evolving into a tabloid newspaper (and, subsequently, discontinuing publication in 1915.) Check out the covers of Wilshire’s above and below: top-notch examples of early 20th century political cartoonery!

wilshires2

 

thesuffragistBasement

Not least among Hickey’s causes was women’s suffrage. In the poster that began this blog, you might have noticed that women were encouraged to attend his lectures. This was by design. Hickey had copies of (and may well have facilitated the distribution of) numerous magazines about women’s enfranchisement. New York’s The Suffragist and Chicago’s The Progressive Woman are just two among several in the Papers.

TheProgressiveWoman

Hickey passed away in 1925, but not before publishing his own Tom Hickey’s Magazine for several years. We have more than a few of those in our holdings, each a fascinating look into an often-forgotten aspect of Texas political thought. Those, as well as all of Hickey’s other papers, are made available to visiting patrons by our excellent Reference Staff.

The Women Who Shaped Texas Tech – 2016 Edition

For the last two years, our University Archives Women’s History Month exhibit entitled “The Women Who Shaped Texas Tech” has graced our hallways. It celebrates several women whose influence on Texas Tech University is still felt today. This year is no exception, and the exhibit has received several new additions for 2016! Check them out:

Hortense Dixon poster-sm

The first of this year’s celebrated Red Raider women is Hortense Williams Dixon, the first African American to graduate from Texas Tech with a doctorate degree. Born in 1926 in Houston, Texas, Dixon received her first degree, a B.S. from Prairie View State College, in 1946. An M.S. from the University of Minnesota followed in 1949, and in1970 she finally received an Ed.D. degree from Texas Tech. She specialized in education with a minor in home economics, which led to several academic positions including: Director of the Home Management Residence at Bishop College; Assistant Professor of Home Economics Education at Texas Southern University; and Part-time Instructor in Home Economics Education at Texas Tech University. After graduating from Texas Tech, Dixon returned to Houston to continue serving as an Associate Professor in home economics at Texas Southern University.

EdnaGott-Adj

Edna Maynard Gott was born on March 19, 1920, in Chandler, Texas. After receiving a B.S. in Economics from the University of Texas in 1942 and an M.S. from Texas Tech in 1954, she became an instructor in Economics at Tech. For more than a decade she battled with the department and university administration for equality in teaching rank, promotion, and tenure. In the spring of 1973 she was promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor, and nine years later became the first woman to achieve tenure in the Department of Economics.

Her work focused on the economic status and challenges facing women and minorities. To advance the cause for women’s rights she not only unmasked the inequities toward female faculty in academia, but also coordinated the Lubbock Chapter of the National Organization of Women. Gott was also an active member of the International Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Land Studies where she served on the Women in Development committee and was a founding member of the Women’s Studies Program.

MaxineFryPoster

Born on July 5, 1917, in Lockney, Texas, Maxine Fry enrolled in Texas Tech in 1934 to study journalism. An active participant in campus life, Fry was a member of The Forum (later renamed Mortar Board), president of the Las Chaparitas sorority (later renamed Kappa Kappa Gamma), an occasional reporter for the Toreador newspaper, and winner of several school beauty contests including being named a 1938 Sun Bowl Princess.

In May 1937 she became the first elected female president of the Student Council. Under her leadership, Fry was able to successfully reinstate the school’s bonfire tradition. Bonfires had been banned by school administrators following outrage by Lubbock citizens over vandalism and theft of wood by Tech students. Her administration also wrote a revision of the Student Council’s constitution.

Fry went on to teach journalism for two years in Littlefield and Grandfalls, worked on The Midlander Magazine for its first seven years in publication, and was a charter member of the Midland Symphony Guild.

Marsha Sharp Cutting net

Marsha Sharp grew up playing three-on-three basketball in Tulia, Texas. During her junior year at Wayland Baptist University she began her basketball coaching career when she took charge of the freshman team. After graduating with a master’s degree from West Texas State University, Sharp transferred to Lockney High School as head coach of the Lady Longhorns.

In 1981 she joined Texas Tech as an assistant coach, and during her tenure became one of the most celebrated coaches in the history of women’s college basketball. Coaching the Lady Raiders from 1982 to 2006, Sharp elevated the program to national prominence.

Though she retired from coaching in 2006, her legacy continues. Established in 2004, the Marsha Sharp Center for Student-Athletes provides student-athletes with academic services. Currently serving as Associate Athletic Director of Special Projects, Sharp oversees the development of the Fearless Champions Leadership Academy and the Marsha Sharp Leadership Circle.

Anne Lynch Poster-sm

As an Animal Science major, Anne Lynch participated in Texas Tech’s Block and Bridle Club and Rodeo Club. While working in the horse barn of the Texas Tech Farm, Lynch became familiar with Happy V, the horse serving as the university’s animal mascot, and began riding him. She auditioned for the role of the Masked Rider, and in 1974 became the first female chosen to ride the sidelines for Texas Tech.

Although she had grown up riding horses and was familiar with Happy V, Lynch’s selection was met with skepticism. In the minds of some, women did not have the strength to handle the reins. Lynch had to convince football coach Jim Carlin and Animal Science chair Dale Zinn that she could indeed ride. Reaction to a female Masked Raider was mixed, but she had a successful year representing Texas Tech. Her proficiency in this role paved the way for future women to try out for the Masked Rider. Anne Lynch Hanson graduated from Tech in 1975.

Lucille Graves Poster-sm

40 years ago, Lucille Graves sat down with one of our oral historians to share her story as the first African American student at Texas Technological University. Having already received her bachelor’s degree in 1961, Graves tried to attend Texas Tech to receive her masters but was repeatedly refused entrance on the grounds that its charter stipulated that the university was established for white students only. With the help of the NAACP, she confronted the university and was at last admitted after a phone call from Texas Tech President R. C. Goodwin. Soon Tech saw a peaceful, non-violent integration of the traditionally white college. In 1955 Graves was also the founder of Mary and Mac, the first black private school in Lubbock, Texas. She chose the name of her school after the children’s nursery rhyme, declaring that the “poem depicts the act of boys and girls in their desire to become useful in this society.”

So stop on by and visit the “Women Who Shaped Texas Tech” exhibit, or its companion exhibit in the main Library. They will be on display until June, so you have plenty of time to take them in.

Texas Independence Day: In the (19th Century) News…Again!

Every year in anticipation of Texas Independence Day (March 2nd, for those who aren’t from around here) we dig into our collection of Texas Revolutionary-era newspapers to see what folks of the early 19th century had to say about the soon-to-be Lone Star State. It turns out, they said a lot!

1816_11_09_Aberdeen Chronicle - pg 3

Texas’ independence can trace its origins to a number of sources, one of the most significant of which was the Mexican Revolution (1810-1821) and the creation of the Republic of Mexico. That conflict was reported worldwide, including under somewhat misleading heading “South America” in this copy of the Aberdeen (Scotland) Chronicle from November 9, 1816. Only a small portion of the conflict took place in Texas, but the province does get mentioned in this early report. It was also on the mind of the United States, as the revolutionary forces frequently petitioned for legitimacy (and funds) from their northern neighbor.

1825_08_06_National Journal - p4

During these tumultuous revolutionary years, opportunistic men from the States kept their eye on the millions of acres of land that Mexico had to offer in the province of Tejas. The National Journal on August 6, 1825, reported an instance of attempts to purchase such territory. “Captain Leftwich” of Kentucky had recently moseyed into New Orleans claiming to have snatched up enough land for 800 families. Six to eight million acres of land, in fact! More importantly, speculation about adding Texas to the United States was also well underway in the paper.

1828_07_19_Niles' Weekly Register - p6-6

As an aside, have you ever wondered where some of the names of Texas’ counties and cities come from? Houston and Crockett are fairly obvious, named for heroes of San Jacinto and the Alamo, respectively. But Milam County is somewhat lesser-known. It’s named after Colonel Ben Milam, about which the Niles Weekly Register of Baltimore, Maryland, had a lot to share on July 19, 1828. He was a Kentuckian, but his status as a self-proclaimed “citizen of the world”–a world in which he bought up a whole lot of Mexican land (as had Stephen F. Austin, also mentioned in the article, and who is now the namesake of Texas’ capital.)

1835_10_31_The New Yorker p 2-2

By 1835, revolution was in the air! Texian rebels had risen, determined to free themselves from Mexican rule (and, not coincidentally, to ensure that Mexico was no longer going to tax all that land mentioned above…) The New Yorker on October 31, 1835, offered a glimpse of the excitement. Retaliation by Mexico’s President, “that Chief” Santa Anna “and his myrmidons (was) hourly expected.” Further flowered loquacions followed, including a letter written by General Sam Houston himself asking all patriotic Americans to volunteer to aid his people’s cause (and get a generous grant of land to boot.)

1835_11_09_Manufacturers and Farmers Journal p2

The first battle of the Texas Revolution occurred at Gonzales on October 2nd, 1835. News traveled slowly in the 19th century, and so it was November 9, nearly a month after the skirmish, that Rhode Island’s Manufacturers and Farmers Journal, and Providence and Pawtucket Advertiser reported it. The numbers of combatants and casualties was exaggerated, turning two hours of desultory exchanges into a much larger conflict…but story probably wouldn’t have sold many newspapers.

1836-08-17 National Intellegencer p1

The Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, effectively ended the Texas Revolution in favor of the Texians. And despite what the August 17th, 1836, issue of the National Intelligencer would have you believe in these excerpts, Mexican forces never reentered Texas after the capture of President and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna during that fight. In fact, thousands of settlers swarmed Texas, eager for a fight (which was not forthcoming) and for a chance to settle in the newly liberated area (which definitely forthcame.)

These newspapers in their entirety, along with many of their contemporaries, can be found among our numerous digitized archival collections. For interested researchers who make the journey to us in Lubbock, some can even be viewed in person, along with our many other collections related to Texas history. Just give our cheerful Reference Staff a call and they’ll see what they can set up for you.

The Southwest Collection’s 2015 Highlights

2015 is coming to a close, and the SWC is looking back at some of its favorite images of the past year. (Also, because no one is in the archive for the holidays, we shamefully admit to the necessity having to recycle content!) So here they are – the best of 2015!

The year is wrapping up, and so we bring the SWC’s favorite images from 2015!Back in July we noted that archives have nigh innumerable boxes. But when the Ag Movement tractors and I asked our Registrar to come up with a box-related joke, he replied “If they wanted us to use good grammar they should have made it more easier.”He stands by that statement to this day.

For example, back in July we noted that archives have nigh innumerable boxes. But when the Ag Movement tractors and I asked our Registrar to come up with a box-related joke, he replied “If they wanted us to use good grammar they should have made it more easier.” He stands by that statement to this day.

Less silly but equally entertaining is this footage of our Earth as seen through the first color satellite footage ever taken from space! Well, the footage of the earth is real. As a savvy user pointed out, however, the background and its immobile stars probably aren’t…

ranchers feed yard

Every other Wednesday around here is dubbed “Western,” y’all, but sometimes we eschew the rodeos, cowboys, and ranching for a classic Ford Fairlane station wagon.

title shot

In January, we installed an exhibit on Texas Tech’s Dairy Barn, a 90-year-old symbol of the campus, still preserved today just yards away from the Southwest Collection. Here’s a photograph of it today, surrounded by our crowded campus, and then, surrounded by…pretty much nothing!

Lubbockhistorichomes - need to chop up - 1988 for tumblr4

While every other Wednesday is “Western Wednesday” around here, all the remaining Wednesdays are “Map Day!” One of our most popular maps this year was, curiously, this 1988 map of historic homes and buildings in Lubbock, Texas, produced by the Lubbock Heritage Society and some of their partners.

keep on streakin

We see many bizarre advertisements in our newspaper collections, but few are like the one we found in the spring of 1974: an obsession with streaking in Texas Tech University’s University Daily. No one knows how it started. Some say that streaking had been popular on campus for years already. Others claim that Ray Stevens’ hit, “The Streak,” which debuted in March 1974, was responsible. All we know for sure is that by the time the campus got good and warm, t-shirts featuring the logo above were widely available.

3.l-54.80 female and baby in rebozo beside removable plank door- near village of Wawatzerare

Finally, we have an image from one of our favorite blogs this year. It described our photograph collection of the Tarahumara, a people of the Sierra Madre Mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico, who’ve weathered centuries of attention by Spanish, French, and Mexican governments. They still hold on to many of their original cultural traditions. In the village of Wawatzerare, for example, this woman still carries her baby in a rebozo. This shot was snagged by Father Luis Verplancken, a Jesuit who served in Chihuahua for decades, and who created all of these photographs.

So there you have it: a taste of our favorite images of the year. Keep an eye out for next year’s stuff. It’s bound to be as good (or even better!)

Another Year, Another Cowboys’ Christmas Ball!

It’s that time of year: the ol’ holiday season, and that means that folks from the Southwest Collection will be headed south to Anson, Texas, for the annual Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball. Down in Jones County, roughly 25 miles northwest of Abilene, the event has been held almost-annually since the first grand ball thrown at Anson’s Star Hotel in 1885. That night, attendee William Lawrence “Larry” Chittenden was inspired to compose his poem, “The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball,” promptly published in Anson’s Texas Western and, subsequently, in Chittenden’s Ranch Verses of 1893. “Born in the idle hours on a Texas ranch” where he lived for almost two decades seven miles outside of Anson, the poem is still a hallmark of the event today.

chittenden_small

The poem was dedicated “To the Ranchmen of Texas.” It captures the spirit of the occasion, with its “togged out gorgeous” hotel festooned with candles, mistletoe, and “shawls” (which many have interpreted as blankets placed at the windows to insulate the hotel better). Lead by “Windy Billy,” who sang and called the dances, the crowded Star Hotel saw a very “lively gaited sworray” that evening in 1885. Chittenden even describes the original instrumentation: bass viol, fiddle, guitar, and tambourine.

that livelygaitedsworray

Though the hotel would be lost to a fire in 1890, Chittenden’s poem immortalized the spirit of a cowboy Christmas celebration for generations to come. Many folklorists reprinted his words through the years (including John Lomax first in his Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads in 1910. Lomax eventually attended the Ball in 1939). Even to this day we see the Chittenden’s poem in pop culture. Anson, Texas, would see some Christmas celebrations similar to the ball held irregularly in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until 1934 that the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball was reborn.

In 1934 an Anson schoolteacher and local folklorist named Leonora Barrett helped stage the first re-enactment of the 1885 ball. People from Anson and surrounding communities gathered in the school gymnasium for the event. Barrett insisted that the reincarnation of the ball retained the original dances, music, and customs of the first ball. This tradition, which includes men removing their hats on the dance floor and women only allowed to wear skirts, is kept to the present day.

leonora barrett frank reeves

Barrett, along with Hybernia Grace (another local historian), meticulously researched the conditions surrounding the original ball and worked diligently to preserve as much local history as possible. For example, suggested by Mrs. Ophelia Keen nee Rhodes, whose father owned the Star Hotel in the 1880s, wrote a letter to Barrett that was then published in the Anson newspaper Western Enterprise of December 19, 1935. In it, Keen remembers wedding at an early Ball. As a result, each a newly-wed couple leads the Ball’s opening grand march. Several other dances follow, including the Paul Jones, the Virginia Reel, a polka, Schottische, two step, waltz, and ‘put your little foot’.

Image 0003.B+W

Soon after its rebirth, the Ball began to gain attention. It was part 1936’s Texas Centennial. In 1938 Anson residents danced on the lawn of the White House during the National Folk Festival. Soon after, it expanded from one night to three, including a parade of historic vehicles (although that tradition has since passed.) Because of the Ball’s continued success, Barrett helped to copyright the reenactment and created a board of directors, who are now known as the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball Association. Pioneer Hall, its current residence, was built in 1940 and was designated a historic site (and the Ball a historic event) by the Texas Historical Commission in 2010.

From the 1940s up until the 1990s, few records exist of the ball. We know it was a successful event based on newspaper articles, as well as the few surviving photographs, film reels, and one amazing ledger housed at the Southwest Collection. Started by Leonora Barrett in 1934 on the occasion of the first re-enactment, the ledger details yearly guests, hosts, radio broadcasts, leaders of the grand march, and a myriad of other facts. The Ball kept the ledger updated until 1994, ensuring that future scholars can appreciate this unbroken tradition.

pg002-3small

The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball was reborn in a sense in the early 1990s when Michael Martin Murphey began performing in Anson as the annual headliner. In 2010 Murphey began donating his materials to the Southwest Collection’s Crossroads Music Archive. At this time he also put the archive in touch with the Ball’s organizers. As a result, in 2014 Texas Tech professor emeritus Paul Carlson published Dancin’ in Anson, a definitive account of the Ball’s rich history.

DSC_0214

Though the music has been electrified and grown beyond four instruments, and historical dress is not required, attending the ball is still a festive step back into an older tradition. Each year, the ball is held on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday prior to Christmas. This year’s ball will be held December 17th, 18th, and 19th. Michael Martin Murphey will be performing on the first evening. For information on tickets, times, and directions, visit the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball website.

by Elissa Stroman

Elmer Kelton’s Papers at the Southwest Collection

barbed wire cover004

The Southwest Collection is home to the papers of a number of prominent fiction and non-fiction writers, but few among them were as prolific as Western fiction writer Elmer Kelton. Born in 1926 in Horse Camp, Texas (a name that destined him to do something related to West Texas…), Kelton was raised on the McElroy Ranch near Crane, Texas, where his father worked for over thirty years. This experience among a host of others throughout his life shaped the ensuing five decades of non-stop composition.

Untitled

After a stint at the University of Texas at Austin from 1942 to 1944, then 1946 to 1948 (sandwiching two years of service in the army during World War 2), he acquired a journalism degree and returned to West Texas where he spent over a decade writing for local newspapers. Kelton’s work appeared primarily the San Angelo Standard-Times, but pieces appeared throughout the region, such the one above from the Big Spring Daily Herald.

never rain cover005

But it was the authorship of more than 30 novels that made his reputation. The resulting accolades are almost too many to list (but we’ll try). 3 Western Heritage Awards, given by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Center; 7 Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America; the Barbara McCombs/Lon Tinkle Award from the Institute of Texas Letters; a lifetime achievement award from the National Cowboy Symposium; and the first Lone Star award for lifetime Achievement from the Larry McMurtry Center for Arts and Humanities at Midwestern State University. Oh, and in April 1997 the Texas Legislature declared an Elmer Kelton Day.

matadortribune_1977_08_25 - page 6-6

Novel-writing and award receptions had to be scheduled around his other career. Kelton spent five years as Sheep and Goat Raiser Magazine’s editor, twenty-two as associate editor of Livestock Weekly, and of course, the diligent newspaper work that he continued until the 1990s. The excerpt above is an excellent example both of his prose and the sense of humor that permeated it (as well as a host of entertaining ads for the upcoming local rodeo).

correspondence1006

As a longstanding member (over 40 years) of the Western Writers of America, Kelton often found himself collaborating with other writers. The letters below and above, dating from 1972, concern a project wherein several writers would compose a story by passing it from writer to writer, each of whom would add to it before giving it to the next. Although the outcome of this project wasn’t apparent from a brief search through the boxes of correspondence in his Papers, we suspect a dedicated researcher might find the answer someday.

correspondence2007

Elmer Kelton’s catalog continued to grow even after his passing in 2009, with Texas Standoff, a novel in his Texas Rangers series, appearing posthumously in 2010. But honestly, our 500 words of description are hardly able to do justice to the man’s colossal body of work. His novels are widely available in libraries (including ours) and you’d do well to pick one up and read it through. Or, if you’d like to research further into the nuts and bolts of a famed Western writer’s process, our helpful Reference staff would be happy to get Kelton’s papers into your hands.