TSLAC Releases Custom Zoom Backgrounds

TSLAC has released a group of custom Zoom backgrounds featuring scenes from the State Library and Archives. They are free to download and may be used by the public.

Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building entrance.

These 26 new background options include both indoor and outdoor scenes from the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building in downtown Austin, the State Records Center in Austin, and the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas.

Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building at night.

Users can choose to virtually “appear” in various locations, including the TSLAC Reference Reading Room, outside the building (in the daytime or at night), or in front of the famous lobby mural depicting scenes and people from Texas history. Also available are scenes from inside the cavernous stacks at the State Records Center, inside and outside views of the Sam Houston Center, and even a historical photo showing how the Zavala Reference Reading Room looked back in the 1960s (Throwback Thursday, anyone?).

Zavala Reference Reading Room, about 1960s.

With these colorful and interesting custom backgrounds, you can now attend your Zoom meetings from in front of an impressive shelf of books, under the six flags of Texas, or outside near the green trees of Atascosito.

Grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Research Center and Library in Liberty.

The images are available below. Browse to find the right one for you! Click the image to open the full-size version in a new window, then right click to download to your local device. Use the back arrow on your browser to return to this page.These images are also available at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/freebackgrounds.

You can read more about how to install these or other custom backgrounds on the Zoom website. Please note that older computers may not allow full functionality of Zoom features, including the ability to use custom backgrounds.

TSLAC has been serving patrons and customers across all our locations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, both remotely and in person. Read more about our current programs and services.

Letterpress Copybooks: An Archives Explainer

By Sarah Norris

The State Archives’ collections contain thousands of letterpress copybooks. Recently, our digitization team has been scanning copybooks kept by Texas governors and providing access to them in the Texas Digital Archive. The goal of this article is to briefly explore their history, condition problems, and what can be done for them today.

Letterpress book, outgoing correspondence, March 8 – December 26, 1860.  2014/109-5-84, Texas Governor Sam Houston records. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

As office recordkeeping practices expanded in the 19th and early 20th centuries, methods were sought to create multiple copies of documents at one time. One of the earliest strategies, invented in 1780, was the letterpress copying method. Not to be confused with letterpress printing, letterpress copying used a piece of equipment called a copy press. Copy presses can still be found in antique shops and are frequently mistaken today for small book presses. Letterpress copying was very common throughout the 19th century. Its use began to decline around 1900 as office workers turned increasingly to typewriters and carbon copy sheets.

To make a copy using a copy press, an individual first wrote on a sheet of paper with a special, water-soluble ink. The paper was placed in the press and covered with a dampened sheet of thin, translucent paper. Then, the press was tightened, creating a partial transfer of the ink from the bottom sheet onto the top sheet. The copied text is then read from the opposite side of the translucent sheet (it appears backwards on the side with the actual impression).

Letterpress copybook cover. Jacob de Cordova letter book. 2012/174, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Because the process was so popular, stationers and office supply manufacturers sold pre-bound books filled with translucent copy sheets. The copies were made in the copy press straight into the books. These are what we know today as letterpress copybooks.

Special inks and papers were used to facilitate this process. The inks were often iron gall ink mixed with a humectant like sugar or glycerin to keep the ink wet for a longer time. Dyes were frequently added to make the copied ink more readable.The copying paper was made translucent by using very short paper fibers and occasionally by adding a waxy or oily coating. This reduced the tiny air pockets that naturally make paper appear opaque.

The materials and methods that enabled letterpress copying created a variety of aging difficulties. Iron gall ink is already well known for its ability to “burn” through paper and cause inked areas to drop out completely. Added dyes are unstable and can fade over time, sometimes even without significant light exposure. Humectants like sugar and glycerin can cause the ink to become sticky in moist environments, even years later. Translucent papers made from short paper fibers are inherently fragile and extremely sensitive to moisture. Any water exposure can cause the paper to expand irregularly and dramatically. Waxy or oily coatings may have made the papers highly acidic. These papers are very prone to break, especially in areas where iron gall ink and water exposure have already damaged them.  And to further complicate matters, inks and papers were often made from proprietary formulations of ingredients; their details varied among manufacturers and even among batches.

Letterpress book, outgoing correspondence, June 1868 to November 1868 (Gov. Elisha Pease) 014/076-7-1, Texas Governor Elisha Marshall Pease records of his third term. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Today, many letterpress copies are so fragile that their content can be lost by simply turning a page. Such damage seems to cry out for major conservation treatment. Unfortunately, logistical issues complicate this approach. Letterpress sheets are bound into books of many hundreds of pages. These books cannot be practically disbound, creating access issues for treatments that involve washing. Further, the sheer number of sheets per volume, and volumes per collection, make treatment prospects daunting. The level of treatment required to address these materials’ severe degradation issues simply does not scale up in any manageable way. 

Letterpress book, outgoing correspondence, March 8 – December 26, 1860.  2014/109-5-84, Texas Governor Sam Houston records. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

So what can be done for these books? Three broad options are available:

  1. Prioritize: Given the large number of copybooks and often their poor condition, prioritization is key. Focusing on critical topics, people, or years helps to target our most significant resources with finite preservation time.
  2. Treat as possible: The most achievable conservation treatment is basic mending, likely with heat-set or solvent-set tissue to avoid unnecessary water exposure.  Conservators have explored a variety of chelating treatments (which help stabilize iron gall ink,) but the inherent difficulty of washing bound sheets makes these treatments impractical at scale. If desired, targeted deacidification can be pursued with a spray such as Bookkeeper.
  3. Digitize: Because there is no satisfactory, scalable conservation treatment, the ultimate solution for letterpress copybooks is digitization. Because of the translucency of the sheets, white paper must be placed beneath each sheet during digitization to improve legibility. Careful handling is essential, and mending may first be necessary to stabilize damaged sheets. Given the time-intensive nature of this work, again, prioritization is key.

Further Reading

Antoine, Beth, Marion Mecklenburg, Robert Speakman, and Mel Wachowiak. 2011. “The Conservation of Letterpress Copying Books: A Study of the Baird Collections.” The Book and Paper Group Annual 30: 9-27.  https://cool.culturalheritage.org/coolaic/sg/bpg/annual/v30/bp30-02.pdf

Cleveland, Rachel-Ray. 2000 “Selected 18th,19th and 20th Century Iron Gall Ink Formulations Developed in England, France, Germany, and the United States, for use with the Copy Press Process.” Postprints of The Iron Gall Ink Meeting, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England: University of Northumbria, 23-30.

Rhodes, Barbara and William Wells Streeter. 1999. Before Photocopying: The Art and History of Mechanical Copying. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press & Herald Bindery.

Titus, Sonja, et al. 2006. “The Copy Press Process: History and Technology, Part 1.” Restaurator 27 (2): 90-102.

Titus, Sonja, et. al. 2009 “Stabilising Local Areas of Loss in Iron Gall Copy Documents from the Savigny Estate.” Restaurator 30 (1-2): 16-50.

Ubbink, K. and R. Partridge. 2003.  Preserving Letterpress Copying Books. Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property 28: 38-45.

Help Us Improve the Texas State Library and Archives Commission Website

Help the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) improve our website by completing the TSLAC Website Survey. The survey does not require any knowledge or opinion of the Commission and takes less than ten minutes of your time. Responses are completely anonymous.

Take the survey by clicking the link below:

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“I Duel Solemnly Swear:” Oaths of Office on File

By Taylor Fox, Reference Librarian

Are you considering running for office? If you win, you’ll need to swear an oath. Public officials swear oaths of office to assure their loyalty to the government and to affirm their promise to uphold the duties of the position. Until 1938, Texas’ oath included a promise that the individual had never fought in, challenged someone to, or accepted a duel!

The oath of office changed slightly from 1846 to 1938, but more or less read as:
“I, _____ do solemnly swear, (or affirm), that I will faithfully and impartially
discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _____ according to the
best of my skill and ability, agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United
States and of this State; and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm), that since
the adoption of the Constitution of this State, I being a citizen of this State,
have not fought a duel with deadly weapons, within this State nor out of it, nor
have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have
I acted as second in carrying a challenge, or aided, advised or assisted any person thus offending. And I furthermore solemnly swear, (or affirm), that I have not
directly, nor indirectly paid, offered or promised to pay, contributed, nor promised
to contribute any money, or valuable thing, or promised any public office or
employment, as a reward for the giving or withholding a vote at the election at
which I was elected, (or if the office is one of appointment, to secure my
appointment.) So help me God.”

Below is an example of an oath from 1870, accessed online through Ancestry in the collection Texas, Bonds and Oaths of Office, 1846–1920 from TSLAC’s Secretary of State Bonds and Oaths of Office:

Charles L. Abbott (April 26, 1870), Bond and oath, Texas Secretary of State. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Available from Ancestry.com; Internet; accessed February 2020.

The oath was changed in 1938, when voters approved the constitutional amendment recommended by House Joint Resolution No. 20, 45th Legislature, Regular Session (1937). Following the approval of the amendment, the oath no longer included a reference to dueling.

You can explore more Texas oaths of office online through Ancestry or Ancestry.com Texas in the collection: Texas, Bonds and Oaths of Office, 1846–1920. TSLAC offers access to a number of digital collections through the Ancestry database. Learn more about Ancestry Texas by viewing the Second Saturday workshop presentation on our workshops page. 

For more information about TSLAC’s library and archives collections and how to access them contact Reference Services at ref@tsl.texas.gov or call 512-463-5455.

Margie Neal, First Woman Elected to the Texas Senate

By Susan Floyd, Archivist

In 1927, two years after Miriam “Ma” Ferguson became the state’s first woman governor, four years after Edith Wilmans entered the Texas House of Representatives as the first woman in the Legislature, and only eight years after Texas women’s suffrage rights were acknowledged and enforced by the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Margie Neal became, as Governor Allan Shivers said at Margie Neal Appreciation Day in Carthage in 1952, “the first woman to invade the masculine sanctity of the Texas Senate.”

Margie Elizabeth Neal was born in 1875 in Clayton, Panola County, Texas, to William Lafayette and Martha Anne Gholston Neal. Later in life, she recalled that her interest in politics was sparked at age ten, when she saw then-Governor John Ireland speak in Carthage in 1885 or 1886. She attended, but did not graduate from, Sam Houston State Teachers College.

In the spring of 1893, Neal earned a first-grade teaching certificate and began her career in the Mount Zion community in east Panola County. She subsequently taught in several schools, including in Forney, Scottsville, Marlin and Fort Worth, before returning home to Carthage in 1904 to be the primary caregiver of her mother, whose health was failing. However, this move also provided her a new professional opportunity. From 1904 to 1911, Neal was publisher and editor of the Carthage East Texas Register. A large portion of the newspaper’s content was editorial writing. Neal used its pages to champion the establishment of a Y.M.C.A. in Carthage, push for city clean-up and tree-planting projects, argue for the creation of a chamber of commerce and press for improvements to county roads. But the Register’s most consistent editorial interest was in public education. As editor, Neal argued for improvements to school facilities and sponsored scholarships to local business colleges.

Photograph: “Margie E. Neal—The Progressive Editor.” From Harris, Walter L. The Life of Margie E. Neal, MA thesis, University of Texas, 1955. Available from TSLAC-MAIN Collection (non-circulating) ARC 923.2764 N254H.

From 1912, her mother’s health worsened, and Neal was forced into semi-retirement for four years. Despite these family obligations Margie Neal was also instrumental in the founding and development of both the Carthage Circulating Book Club from 1907 and the Panola County Fair, first held in 1916. Her interest in women’s suffrage also continued to grow, and she became secretary of the Panola County Equal Suffrage Association.

In 1918, the Texas Legislature recognized women’s right to vote in state primary elections.[1] In an effort to bolster women’s turnout in Panola County, Margie Neal ordered professionally printed buttons reading “I have registered” and distributed them among women. At the end of the 1918 voting drive, more than 500 women in the county had registered. Margie Neal was, unsurprisingly, the first woman to cast a vote in Panola County.

Margie Neal was the first woman to serve as a member of the State Teachers Colleges board of regents (1921-1927) and the first woman to serve as a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee in 1918. She was also a delegate to the 1920 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. In 1922 and 1924, she turned down first Governor Pat Neff’s and then Governor Miriam Ferguson’s offer to appoint her Secretary of State.

Photograph: Margie E. Neal in 1925. From Harris, Walter L. The Life of Margie E. Neal, MA thesis, University of Texas, 1955. Available from TSLAC-MAIN Collection (non-circulating) ARC 923.2764 N254H.

Neal’s work as a regent was the primary impetus for her 1926 Senate run. She was a frequent visitor to Austin during legislative sessions; in an interview later in life, she recalled a specific visit during which she became concerned about the direction certain legislation was heading, leading her to think to herself, “If I had a vote… I might do more for education than I am doing as a college regent sitting in the gallery.”[2] She returned to Carthage and sought advice from trusted colleagues, family, and friends, then decided, in March 1926, that she would run for the Texas Senate from District 2.

This district included Panola, Harrison, Gregg, Rusk and Shelby Counties. Neal’s only opponent in the Democratic primary was Gary B. Sanford of Rusk County, who had prior experience as a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Neal launched her campaign on June 12 in the Carthage County Courthouse, followed by five weeks of intensive campaigning in all five counties of the district. Her platform consisted of four components: better public schools—especially rural schools, to be achieved through an increased per capita apportionment; an improved state highway system, to be achieved through a new gasoline tax; more aid for farmers, labor, and capital; and a streamlining of laws for improved law enforcement. In the end, Neal defeated Sanford in every county but his own, and, facing no opponent in the general election, was elected to the Senate on July 28, 1926.

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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 https://www.tsl.texas.gov/conservation/  . 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.

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.

Celebrate Women Veterans Day with Books from Archives & Reference Services

By Stephanie Andrews, Library Assistant, with contributions from ARIS staff

books related to women veterans

Selection of books in honor of Women Veterans Day from the collection at the Texas State Library & Archives. The books are available for use in the Reading Room. See the list below for call numbers.

In honor of Women Veterans Day, ARIS has created a booklist for our readers. Our list features books about women in many service areas and over various periods of military history. In addition to representing women veterans, these titles also reflect the many ways women assisted military efforts in history before they could serve in an official capacity.

On June 12th, 1948 President Truman signed into federal law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, making it possible for women to serve as regular, permanent members of the armed forces. This year will mark the 70th anniversary of that signing. During the last Texas legislative session, Senate Bill 805 established Women Veterans Day as June 12th and was signed into law in June of 2017. This summer will mark the first observance of this day.

For more information about Women Veterans Day, visit https://womenveteransday.com. To learn more about the Texas Veterans Commission’s official opening ceremony events visit https://www.tvc.texas.gov/women-veterans/womenvetsday.

If you’d like to search for these books and more, check out our catalog at www.tsl.texas.gov/catalog. If you are interested in checking out a title from this booklist, please visit the Reference Desk in room 109. Below is the complete list of titles you’ll find in our Women Veterans Day booklist.

Title Author Call No. Collection
A History of the Women Marines, 1946-1977 U.S. Marine Corps D 214.13:W 84/2 USD
Air Force Women: A Heritage of Excellence Air Force History and Museums Program D 301.76/5:W 84 USD
American’s Youngest Women Warriors Brandt, Dorothy Hinson 355.0082 A512 MAIN
Beyond the Latino World War II Hero Rivas-Rodriguez, Maggie and Zamora, Emilio ZUA 380.8 B468LA c.2 TXD
Breaking Codes Breaking Barriers U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command D 101.2:C 64 USD
Department of Defense Celebrates: March 1997, Women’s History Month Department of Defense D 2.9:D 36/2/No.110 USD
Finding Dorothy Scott Rickman, Sarah Byrn ZTT 422.8 R425fi c.2 TXD
Kate: The Journal of a Confederate Nurse Cumming, Kate and Harwell, Richard Barksdale 973.776 C912k 1959 MAIN
More than a Uniform: A Navy Woman in a Navy Man’s World Collins, Captain Winifred Quick ZN 745.8 M813 1997 TXD
Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II Rickman, Sarah Byrn ZN 745.8 R425NA TXD
Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist Winegarten, Debra L. ZUA 380.8 W725ov c.2 TXD
She Rode with Generals Dannett, Sylvia G.L. 973.781 D233 MAIN
Survey of Female Veterans Veterans Administration VA 1.2:F 34/5 USD
Texans and War: New Interpretations of the State’s Military History Mendoza, Alexander and Grear, Charles David ZTA 475.8 M522te c.2 TXD
The Women’s Army Corps, 1945-1978 Morden, Bettie J. D 114.19:W 84 USD
United States Women in Aviation: 1940-1985 Douglas, Deborah G. SI 1.42:7 USD
WASP of the Ferry Command: Women Pilots, Uncommon Deeds Rickman, Sarah Byrn ZN 745.8 R425wa c.2 TXD
Women are Veterans, too! Department of Veterans Affairs VA 1.19:10-109/990 USD
Women Doctors in War Bellafaire, Judith and Graf, Mercedes Herrera ZTA 475.8 B414wo c.2 TXD
Women in Civil War Texas Liles, Deborah M. and Boswell, Angela ZN 745.8 W842 c.2 TXD
Women in Defense – DoD Leading the Way Department of Defense D 1.2:W 84/6 USD
Women in the Military: A Proud Heritage Department of Defense D 2.9:D 36/2/No.63 USD
Women Marines in the 1980’s U.S. Marine Corps D 214.2:W 84/5 USD
Women Pilots of World War II Cole, Jean Hascall 940.54 C675W MAIN
Women who Spied for the Blue and the Gray Kinchen, Oscar A. 973.785 K574 MAIN

2018 Archival Award of Excellence Nominations Are Open

The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board’s Archival Award of Excellence recognizes significant achievements in preserving and improving access to historical records in any format by a Texas archival institution and individual achievements.

For institutions:

All Texas institutions responsible for archival records that provide public access to at least a portion of their collection are eligible. Achievements include recent projects and/or on-going programs that build collections, enhance access to archives, develop effective digitization programs, or implement preservation strategies.

For individual:

An archivist or individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the areas of management, preservation, access, advocacy, or use of historical records in Texas. Nominees must have accomplished the work within the state of Texas during the five-year preceding the year in which the award is presented. Current THRAB members are not eligible.

Nomination Process:

Submit an Archival Award of Excellence Nomination form, a Statement of Work Accomplished, 3 Letters of Support and any supporting materials.  For more information, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/archivalaward.

Send nominations via email or U.S. mail to:

                Jelain Chubb

                ATTN: THRAB Archival Award of Excellence

                Texas State Library and Archives Commission

                P.O. Box 12927

                Austin, TX 78701

                Email: thrab@tsl.texas.gov


Nominations must be received by July 31, 2018.