Archivists Recover Stolen Documents

Archivists at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) recently recovered legal documents stolen years ago. The Archives and Information Services Division of TSLAC maintains a webpage detailing the types of documents known to be missing from the State Archives, and a Houston lawyer contacted Assistant Director Laura Saegert to notify her of the six-page item for sale through an online bookdealer. Archivist Tiffany Criswell was tasked with investigating the online images and comparing the descriptive information to in-house databases listing Texas Supreme Court files. The red “M number” stamp was the key detail in identifying the papers as state property.

The documents are from the 1845 state Supreme Court case, James M. Johnston v. James Perkins.

State Archivist Jelain Chubb notified the bookdealer of the status of his merchandise, citing Texas Government Code §441.192 that allows TSLAC to demand the return of items removed from state agencies in an unlawful manner. (More information about the sale of government records is available here.) The bookdealer was very cooperative and quickly returned the documents to the archive. After receiving the package, Tiffany began the process of restoring the papers to their rightful place in the repository.

Archivist Tiffany Criswell opens the package containing recovered legal documents from a bookdealer.

Archivist Tiffany Criswell with a recovered legal document. She will prepare the papers for storage in the repository.

Legal documents from nineteenth century court cases are typically folded, sealed, and tied with ribbon. In order to flatten the documents without damaging the paper, Tiffany will humidify them in a crate placed over a pail of water. After humidification, she will carefully smooth out the pages and place them in a press for about a month.

Typical court case document packet from the 1800s.

This simple humidification chamber will loosen the folds in the paper and allow the archivist from to flatten the pages for storage in archival boxes.

Hundreds of documents have been returned to the State Archives through this recovery process, legally referred to as replevin. If you discover documents that may belong to TSLAC, visit to learn more. We are always eager to locate missing items and restore, preserve, and make them freely available to the public in fulfillment of our role as custodians of government records.

TSLAC Fellowship Recipient Researches the Experiences of Black Soldiers in Texas in the Late 1800’s

TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. sits at a table in the State Archives reading room. Valentin is opening hand-written documents.

TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. conducts research in the State Archives reading room.

Texas State Library and Archives Research Fellow, Edward Valentin Jr. visited the State Archives to conduct research on his dissertation topic, “Black Regiments on America’s Imperial Frontier: Race, Citizenship, and Military Occupation.” Supported by the Friends of Libraries & Archives of Texas, the Texas State Historical Association administers the fellowship with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) for the best proposals incorporating research at the State Archives.  Valentin’s project explores the experience of black soldiers in Texas during the late 19th century, including their relationship with Texans.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath (left), Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood (center) and TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. (right) in the State Archives Reading Room.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath (left), Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood (center) and TSLAC Research Fellow Edward Valentin Jr. (right) in the State Archives Reading Room.

Currently a doctoral candidate at Rice University, Valentin has been awarded their Fondren Fellowship, History Graduate Fellowship, and a Southern Historical Association Fellowship with the Journal of Southern History. The TSLAC award provides funds to travel to Austin and conduct research at the State Archives. Valentin is investigating papers from the late 1800’s, including the records of the adjutant general, the papers of governors Richard Coke and Edmund J. Davis, and military records from Fort Stockton, Texas.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath and Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood assist TSLAC research fellow Edward Valentin Jr.

Reference Archivist Richard Gilreath and Senior Reference Archivist Tonia Wood assist TSLAC research fellow Edward Valentin Jr.

We look forward to reading the compelling scholarship Edward Valentin will no doubt produce from his research at the State Archives. The Texas State Historical Association is currently accepting proposals for the 2019 TSLAC fellowship award. Follow the link for more information:


Featured Collection: Secret Societies in Texas

By Taylor Fox, Reference Librarian

Our newest featured collection is now on display in the Reference Reading Room. Secret Societies in Texas features publications from our Main and Texas Documents collections on the history of these organizations in Texas and the south. From Freemasons to the Woodmen to the Oddfellows, and more, we hope you find this collection intriguing.

Our mascot, Lorenzo the Gargoyle, has also gotten into the spirit and will be dressed up for the duration of the display:

Call No. Title Author Collection
366 D297h History of the Improved Order of Red Men and Degree of Pocahontas, 1765-1988 Davis, Robert E. MAIN
366.1 C245 1958 Masonry in Texas : background, history, and influence to 1846 Carter, James David MAIN
366.1 C245e 1846-61 Education and Masonry in Texas, 1846 to 1861 Carter, James David MAIN
366.1 C245h History of the Supreme Council, 33° : mother council of the world, ancient and accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 1861-1891 Harris, Ray Baker MAIN
366.1 H55h History of Austin Lodge Number 12, Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons Hill, C. L. MAIN
366.1 M199 1946 V.1-3 Encyclopedia of freemasonry Mackey, Albert Gallatin MAIN
366.1 W119m Masonic dictionary, Republic of Texas : [with identifying record of those master Masons who participated in the Texas revolution or rendered worthwhile service towards the success of the Republic of Texas Wade, Houston MAIN
366.1 Z85s A short history Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Texas Zumwalt, J. Lee MAIN
366.3 W154o Odd fellowship in America and in Texas Walker, William Henry MAIN
366.3 W832a Album of Odd Fellows homes Wolfe, Joseph M. MAIN
366.4 L586 1941 Rosicrucian questions and answers : with complete history of the Rosicrucian Order Lewis, H. Spencer MAIN
366.973 W553 Handbook of secret organizations Whalen, William Joseph MAIN
366.9764 C245 The first century of Scottish Rite masonry in Texas, 1867-1967 Scottish Rite (Masonic order) MAIN
368 L329W The Woodmen story : our first 100 years


Larson, Leland A. MAIN


370.9764 C245 Education and Masonry in Texas to 1846 Carter, James David MAIN
973.7 K675D Dark lanterns : secret political societies, conspiracies, and treason trials in the Civil War Klement, Frank L. MAIN
973.713 K243kn Knights of the Golden Circle : secret empire, southern secession, Civil War Keehn, David C. MAIN
Z UA380.8 AD32as c.2 As above, so below : art of the American fraternal society, 1850/1930 Adele, Lynne TXD


Registration Open! Participate in a Free Workshop: Introduction to Grant Proposals

UTEP Libary image

“Introduction to Grant Proposals” will take place at the U.T.E.P. Library in El Paso on August 21, 2018.

The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) presents the second of two free workshops this summer for Texas archives professionals. Registration is open for “Introduction to Grant Proposals,” which takes place on August 21, 2018 at the U.T.E.P. Library in El Paso. This course surveys the types of state, federal, and private foundation grants available and provides information about researching and writing grant proposals. Topics include types of grants, types of funders, elements of a grant proposal, the grant review process, managing your grant project, reporting requirements, and funding resources. To learn more and register, visit:

THRAB workshops are presented in conjunction with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and supported by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

TSLAC Conservation Blog Moves to New Home

By Sarah Norris, Conservator

TSLAC Conservation is moving to a new digital home!  Please reset your bookmarks to  . E-mail subscriptions will continue as always, with no updates needed.  Come visit us at our new address for upcoming posts on a POW Journal; fragile, tracing-paper maps from Texas Supreme Court case files; our upcoming exhibit, “Setting the Texas Table”; and more.  See you soon!

Conservator Sarah Norris applies heat-set tissue with a tacking iron to a manuscript with iron gall ink.

Margaret Lea Houston’s Summer Spread

Summer spread, by Margaret Lea Houston, ca. mid-19th century [Cotton textile, 98 x 80 1/4. 1983.125.0007, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, TSLAC].

Margaret Lea Houston, the wife of famed Texas politician and war hero Sam Houston, is thought to have sewn this lightweight “summer spread” decorated with imagery from the   Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Similar to a quilt but without the batting, the spread consists of 45 hexagonal blocks and measures 80 1/4 x 98 inches long. Art historian Lynne Adele analyzed the imagery and determined that, since some of the symbols were removed from the Fraternal Order in 1880, the spread was made before that year.

Imagery included on the spread are a lamb, symbolizing innocence; three links of chain, indicating friendship, love, and truth; and the sun, representing God and the soul. The heart on the palm of the hand symbolizes sincerity and the cornucopia, abundance.

Close-up of  imagery used on the summer spread. Here we see the lamb, the chain links of truth, love, and friendship, and a bow and quiver. Edges of the hexagonal blocks are visible.

The interest in the Odd Fellows symbolism is unclear, as Sam Houston was a member of another fraternal organization, the Freemasons. The provenance of the spread has been attributed to Margaret through family history and now belongs to TSLAC’s Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, TX. Visitors to the Center may view the spread on display as part of a new museum exhibit through December 2018.

For more information on fraternal symbols in art, see the book As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society 1850/1930 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015) by Lynn Adele.

Registration Open! Workshop: Introduction to Grant Proposals

Learn how to fund your next project by participating in a free workshop on writing grant proposals. “Introduction to Grant Proposals” surveys the types of state, federal, and private foundation grants available and provides information about researching and writing grant proposals. Topics include types of grants, types of funding, elements of a grant proposal, the grant review process, managing your grant project, reporting requirements, and funding resources.


7/24/2018  Stephen F. Austin University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
8/21/2018  University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas.

Learn more and register here:

Supported by the National Archives’ National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) presents professional development workshops free of charge for archivists, librarians, and other staff members in Texas archival repositories in fulfillment of its initiative to support education and training for professionals.

Featured Collection: Western Landscapes and Beyond

By Caroline Jones, Reference Archivist

Display of books on Western art.

Selection of titles on the subject of Western art available in the Texas State Library and Archives collections. The display is currently on view in the Reference Reading Room.

Our newest featured collection is now on display in the Reference Reading Room. “Western Artists: Texas Landscapes and Beyond” features the works of Tom Lea, Frank Reaugh, Charles M. Russell, and many other Southwestern artists who captured the sights of the Wild West. Browse through tranquil images of longhorns in their pastures and bluebonnets in bloom. Study the images of Native American hunters and horse- wrangling cowboys. Whichever book you choose, you’ll be sure to enjoy this sampling of artistic publications from our collections.

John Canfield Ewers’ “Plains Indian Painting,” Stanford University Press, 1939.

To search for these books and more, check out our catalog at You may search for subjects like “Texas in art” or “West (U.S.) –In art” or for the names of specific artists. If you are interested in a title on our Featured Collection shelf, please visit the Reference Desk in room 109. Below is the complete list of titles you’ll find on our Featured Collection shelf for June and July. Download the list of the featured collection. .

The Art of Tom Lea Lea, Tom 700.924 AR75 OVER-L MAIN
The West of the imagination Goetzmann, William H. 700.978 G555w MAIN
Plains Indian painting : a description of an aboriginal American art Ewers, John C. (John Canfield) 759.011 EW38 MAIN
Painting in Texas : the nineteenth century Pinckney, Pauline A. 759.1 P651 OVER-T MAIN
Gallery of Western Paintings Carlson, Raymond 759.13 C197 OVER-T MAIN
H.W. Caylor, frontier artist Caylor, H. W. (Harvey Wallace) 759.13 C318H OVER-L MAIN
Bluebonnets and cactus; an album of southwestern paintings Salinas, Porfirio 759.164 SA33 MAIN
Artists who painted Texas Von Rosenberg, Marjorie 759.164 V897A MAIN
Artists of the Old West Ewers, John C. (John Canfield) 759.18 EW38 MAIN
Frank Reaugh, painter to the longhorns Reaugh, Frank 920.71 R236F OVER-L MAIN
The Charles M. Russell book; the life and work of the cowboy artist  

McCracken, Harold

927.5 R912m OVER-T MAIN
Hecho en Tejas : Texas-Mexican folk arts and crafts Graham, Joe Stanley Z N745.7 T312f NO.50 TXD
Walls that speak : the murals of John Thomas Biggers  

Theisen, Ollie Jensen

Z N745.8 T341wa TXD
Of Texas rivers & Texas art Sansom, Andrew Z TA475.8 SA58of TXD
Art of West Texas women : a celebration Hopper, Kippra D. Z TT422.8 H778AR TXD
Thomas Moran : watercolors of the American West : text and catalogue raisonné Clark, Carol Z UA380.8 T365 TXD
Windows on the West : the art of Frank Reaugh Mears, Peter Z UA380.8 W724we TXD
Treasured landscapes : National Park Service art collections tell America’s stories National Center for Cultural Resource Stewardship and Partnerships (U.S.) I 29.2: AR 7/5 USD
An Eye for History: The Paintings of William Henry Jackson Knudsen, Dean I 29.2: P 16 USD
Picturing America Hindley, Meredith NF 3.2: AM 3/8 USD
American Art in the Making: Preparatory Studies for Masterpieces of American Painting, 1800-1900 Sellin, David SI 1.2: Am 1/3/800-900 USD
Cast and recast : the sculpture of Frederic Remington Shapiro, Michael Edward SI 6.2: R 28 USD

Governor Abbott Reappoints Malinda Cowen to the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB)

Governor Abbott has reappointed Malinda Cowen to serve on the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board. Cowen will serve as one of two public members appointed by the governor. The other public member, Bob Glenn, was appointed in 2017. Cowen is the director of Special Education at St. Mary’s Academy Charter School in Beeville and has served in several leadership positions, including chairman of the South Texas Library System Advisory Council, and president of the Bee County Library Board, Soroptimist Club, and the Rosetta Club.

The nine-member board includes the State Archivist, Jelain Chubb, and six members appointed by the Director and State Librarian Mark Smith. Smith recently appointed Melissa Gonzales, Director of Records Management at the Houston Community College System, to serve a three-year term beginning in 2018.

Visit the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board webpage for more information.

High School Student Learns the Ropes at the Library

By Bailey Judis

High School student Bailey Judis (center) with the TSLAC library staff (l-r) Taylor Fox, Stephanie Andrews, Brianna Cochran, Angela Kent, Maria Barker, and Mackenzie Ryan

I am a high school student at the Austin Waldorf School, and as part of our school’s curriculum, we are given two weeks during the Spring semester to experience a type of work featuring a process. Given my passion for history and interest in museums and archives, I chose to do my work experience at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC).  I have very much enjoyed learning the many processes that go into storing, preserving, and digitizing the TSLAC’s many artifacts. I was able to witness many dedicated and hardworking staff members as well as numerous steps taken to ensure all of the archival materials and artifacts are available to everyone for research.   Accessibility is a key motivation for this organization.

One of the processes I observed was the TSLAC’s process of digitization. By putting scans of artifacts and documents onto the Texas Digital Archive, I learned that this allows patrons and researchers to access and observe them from anywhere in the world. It also helps preserve the life of the artifact and documents. I was able to observe the project and process of digitizing the Texas Supreme Court documents. The first thing I learned about this process is that in order for the documents to be scanned, they must be flat. Since most of the documents had been rolled very tightly and stored in boxes for many years, they definitely needed to be flattened. After removing the documents bindings, such as ribbons and brads, the documents were then humidified using a simple method of container humidification. After being humidified, the documents were laid between pieces of blotting paper and transferred to the book press. Some documents however were bound with homemade glue, requiring a tedious process of removing the adhesive before they could be pressed. After being left in the book press for two weeks, the now flattened documents were stored in the stacks as they waited to be scanned and put onto the Texas Digital Archive. An overview of what was said in each document would be added with the document’s scan to the Texas Digital Archive, that way a researcher would be able to look through the Texas Supreme documents and have an easier time finding what they were looking for.

Bailey Judis with State Archivist Jelain Chubb in the stacks at TSLAC.

One of the most surprising things I learned was how organized and neat the stacks are. There is so much detail and so many little steps that are key to ensure no artifacts and documents become lost. The Archives and Library staff put so much care into what they do, and their passion for what they do has been very inspiring for me. I was able to learn so much about how the Archives and Library works, and I also had the privilege of seeing their Talking Book Program, working on my skills of scanning and learning about digitization, looking at old photographs and nineteenth century microfilm and much more. I feel very honored to have had the privilege to work with so many inspiring and compassionate people and the opportunity to learn about such an amazing organization.  Their passion for their jobs was incredibly inspiring.