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What If Texas

Archives reveal not only why past decisions and actions were taken; they also show opportunities lost, roads not taken, and plans unfulfilled. Researchers and the public alike benefit from the documents demonstrating what happened as well as those framing what might have been. 

Exhibit Items

An image of a cover of a book that is a dark tan color. U.S. and Mexican Boundary Survey, U.S. House of Representatives, 34th Congress, 1st Session. William H. Emory. Report on the U.S. and Mexican Boundary survey. (H. Ex. Doc 135).Samuel F.B. Morse to Memucan Hunt, March 1, 1838. Texas Legation (U.S.) Correspondence, 2006/385-6, pages 517-520, Front of Page and Back of Page. Samuel F.B. Morse to Governor Sam Houston, August 9, 1860. Sam Houston Letter, 2-23/1059, Front of Page and Back of Page.

In 1838, Samuel Morse offered to give the Republic of Texas exclusive rights to his Electro-Magnetic Telegraph. Texas never acted on that offer, so in 1860, Morse revoked it. Morse’s device allowed for the simple transmission of complex messages across telegraph lines and by 1866, a line stretched across the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. to Europe. The telegraph laid the groundwork for the communications revolution that led to later innovations like the telephone, fax machine and Internet. Selected by Jelain Chubb, Texas State Archivist. How might our history and our methods of communications have changed, if Texas had taken Morse up on his offer? Click or tap on thumbnails and links for larger images.


A chart of Morse Code showing the code for the English alphabet and numbers.A chart of Morse Code showing the code for the English alphabet and numbers. Click or tap on thumbnail for larger image.





An image of a hand written letter on yellow paper. File number 260355, Abner Taylor to the Texas General Land Office, December 14, 1889.Ashbel Smith to Isaac Van Zandt, January 25, 1843. Department of State Diplomatic correspondence, 2-9/10, Page 1, Pages 2-3, Pages 4-5, Pages 6-7, Page 8.

Although Texas expected annexation to the United States, it spent nine years as an independent nation because of Union opposition to adding another slaveholding state.  With Mexico hoping to reclaim Texas, the Republic turned to other foreign powers, such as Britain, to help maintain peace. While Britain did so for economic gain, it also sought to end slavery in Texas, which is discussed in this letter by Ashbel Smith, the Texian charge d’affairs in London. Selected by Richard Gilreath, Reference Archivist. Had Texas remained independent and entered the orbit of the British Empire, the history of North America may have looked very different. Click or tap on thumbnail and links for larger images.



A photograph of two golden circular medals on a brown block of wood. State of Texas Medal of Honor awarded to Apollo 11 astronauts, 1970. Artifacts collection, ATF0472.Texas Welcome Dinner Program, November 22, 1963. John F. Kennedy Memorial Packet, 2-23/919 and Texas Welcome Dinner Ticket, November 22, 1963. Kennedy-Johnson Welcome Dinner Tickets, 2-22/744.

On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. The holdings of the Texas State Archives include the program, tickets, and speeches that President Kennedy was to give in Austin the day after his assassination. Selected by the Exhibits Committee. Click or tap on thumbnails for larger images.




An image of a yellow tinted photograph of a man in a bowler hat leaning against a boulder on the right, a wooden one room house with a wagon and man standng in front in the center, and another wooden house behind it. Panel Image. “A Lonely Home in Texas,” Our Indian summer in the far West. An autumn tour of fifteen thousand miles in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and the Indian Territory, 1880. TSLAC-Main Collection, 917.3 T666o 1880.Panel Image – President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, and Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, 1963. John F. Kennedy photograph, 1966/225. Selected by the Exhibits Committee.

 Click or tap on thumbnail for larger image.


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Page last modified: March 7, 2018