Story of the Legation Papers

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Photograph of Governor and Mrs. 'Pappy' O'Daniel, AJ Houston and his daughters taken in the Houston home taken in 1941.

Photograph of First Lady Merle O’Daniel, daughter Marguerite Houston, Andrew Jackson Houston, daughter Ariadne Houston and Governor W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel (left to right) in the La Porte home, April 21, 1941 (Prints & Photographs 1/109-9)

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For decades, the legation documents in the Andrew Jackson Houston Collection were the only known records of the Texas legation, covering the years 1839-1845; the earlier records remained unaccounted for until 2004, when they were offered for auction. The earlier records, all of which pertain to the official actions of the Texas Legation, were separated from the bulk of the collection sometime after 1961 but prior to 1973 when the Andrew Jackson Houston Collection was donated to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The Legation Papers document the period of time from the establishment of the legation in 1836 to February 1839.

On behalf of the people of Texas, the Commission and the Attorney General’s Office claimed these documents as official records of the Republic of Texas government and sought to reunite them with the legation documents already in state custody.

Photograph of the exterior of the Andrew Jackson Houston home in LaPorte, Texas.

Photograph of the exterior of the Andrew Jackson Houston home in LaPorte, Texas where the papers resided for many years, April 1941 (Prints & Photographs 1/109-7)

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Over the next two years, the Commission worked with the Texas State Historical Association to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement between the state and the individuals in possession of the documents. The agreement allowed the Association to auction the display rights to the records for a period of five years at an institution of higher learning in Texas, after which they would be transferred to the physical custody of the Commission. The auction was held during the Association’s annual meeting in March 2006, with Texas Christian University named as the temporary home of the records. Prior to the transfer to Texas Christian University, the Commission and Association worked together to obtain professional conservation treatments for the collection. While at Texas Christian University the records were researched and transcribed and are now published as The Texas Legation Papers, 1836-1845, edited by Kenneth R. Stevens and Gregg Cantrell, and published by TCU Press.

Returned to Austin at the end of 2012, these unique documents are now part of the permanent collections of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and are housed at the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building.

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Exhibit items

Former State Archivist, Chris LaPlante, reviews documents

Some of the individuals involved

Documents arrive at TSLAC

Public viewing documents

Ken Stevens' book detailing documents in the collection

Former State Archivist, Chris LaPlante, reviews documents

Chris LaPlante, former Texas State Archivist, seen here in August 2006 reviewing the papers prior to their transfer.

Chris LaPlante, Texas State Archivist, seen here in August 2006 reviewing the papers prior to their transfer.

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Some of the individuals involved

Director and Librarian Peggy Rudd, J.P. Bryan, John Crane, J.B. Bryan, and Texas State Library and Archives Commissioners Sandra Pickett and Martha Doty Freeman (left to right), with some of the Legation documents, November 3, 2006.

Director and Librarian Peggy Rudd, J.P. Bryan, John Crane, J.B. Bryan, and Texas State Library and Archives Commissioners Sandra Pickett and Martha Doty Freeman (left to right), with some of the Legation documents, November 3, 2006

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Documents arrive at TSLAC

Box opening, June 9, 2006: (left to right) Preservation Officer John Anderson, Director and Librarian Peggy Rudd, Assistant State Librarian Edward Seidenberg, Texas State Archivist Chris LaPlante.

 (left to right) Preservation Officer John Anderson, Director and Librarian Peggy Rudd, Assistant State Librarian Edward Seidenberg, Texas State Archivist Chris LaPlante.

Papers received, June 9, 2006. Note the evidence of fire damage on several of the documents.

Papers received, June 9, 2006 are individually wrapped in mylar with several showing fire damage.

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Public viewing documents

Documents on exhibit in the Archives search room, November 3, 2006.

Documents on exhibit in the Archives search room, November 3, 2006.

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Ken Stevens' book detailing documents in the collection

Dr. Kenneth Stevens is a professor of history at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. After serving four years in the U.S. Navy, Dr. Stevens returned to academia to pursue his Ph.D. at Indiana University, where he also worked as an editorial assistant at the American Historical Review. Books he has authored include Border Diplomacy (a study of 19th century Anglo-American-Canadian relations), two volumes of the Diplomatic Papers of Daniel Webster, and an annotated bibliography of President William Henry Harrison. At TCU he teaches courses in U.S. Constitutional History, the American Presidency, and the Age of Jackson.

The Texas Legation Papers 1836-1845, Kenneth R. Stevens, Editor, The Center for Texas Studies at TCU, TCU Press, 2012

The Texas Legation Papers 1836-1845, Kenneth R. Stevens, Editor, The Center for Texas Studies at TCU, TCU Press, 2012

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Page last modified: May 20, 2016