Did You Know in Texas History: George T. Ruby

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On April 26, 1870 George T. Ruby signed his oath to serve as a state senator, surpassing racial barriers as one of Texas’s first African-American politicians.

Black and white image of George Thompson Ruby, an African American senator

George Thompson Ruby of Galveston served in the 1868-69 Constitutional Convention and the 12th and 13th Texas Legislature

Born in New York in 1841, Ruby moved to Galveston in 1866 to work for the Freedmen’s Bureau. While in Galveston he established the city’s first Labor Union of Colored Men. With a liberal arts education under his belt and experience as president of the Union League, Ruby quickly made a name for himself in Galveston and was elected as delegate to the Republican national convention in 1868. He served as the only African-American within the Texas delegation. In this same year he served as one of only ten African-American delegates to Texas’s Constitutional Convention. By 1869, Ruby was elected state senator from the Twelfth District representing Galveston, Brazoria, and Matagorda counties. This is particularly noteworthy as this was a predominantly white district at the time.

Ruby served in the 12th and 13th Texas Legislatures, from 1870 to 1871 and in 1873 respectively. As state senator Ruby served on the judiciary, militia, education, and state affairs committees. Bills he introduced successfully incorporated the Galveston and El Paso, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio, and the Galveston, Houston and Tyler railroads, as well as the Harbor Trust Company and several insurance companies. Bills he introduced also provided for geological and agricultural survey of the state. Due to a changing political climate in which the Democratic Party dominated the senate, Ruby chose not to seek reelection and finished his term in 1873. He spent the rest of his life in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite his brief time as senator, Ruby is remembered by some historians as “the most important black politician in Texas during Reconstruction in terms of his power and ability” (tshaonline). His political passion enabled him to exceed racial expectations and provided opportunities for African-American laborers in Galveston and across the state. Ruby is prominently featured in TSLAC’s own “Forever Free” online exhibit as well as our “Texas Treasures” online exhibit.

Ruby’s oath of office is part of our Secretary of State Bonds and Oaths collection. The records were originally transferred to TSLAC by the Texas Secretary of State on an unknown date and reaccessioned in January of 2012. According to the finding aid, Archivist Tony Black discovered this set of records among unprocessed records of the Texas Adjutant General’s Department in November of 1986 and determined they were actually part of the Secretary of State bonds and oaths. The oaths and physical card catalogs from this collection have also been digitized and are available through Ancestry.com.

George T. Ruby's Oath of Office.

George T. Ruby’s Oath of Office.

See also:

Texas Secretary of State bonds and oaths Finding Aid: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/30194/tsl-30194.html#series3

Handbook of Texas Online article: https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fru02

Forever Free: Nineteenth Century African-American Legislators and Constitutional Convention Delegates of Texas online exhibit: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/exhibits/forever/index.html

Early African-American Senators section of the Texas Treasures online exhibit:

Did You Know in Texas History: Texas Centennial Exposition

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On June 6th, 1936 the Texas Centennial Exposition opened at Fair Park in Dallas, TX. The Texas Centennial Commission was created in June 1934 with Dallas outbidding Houston and San Antonio as the exposition grounds and construction to expand Fair Park was underway by October of 1935. The expansion included 180 acres of park grounds and 50 new buildings. In total the exposition cost 25 million dollars, and an estimated 6,345,385 people attended the Centennial Exposition in Dallas.

Aerial black and white photo of the Texas Centennial.

From “Texas Centennial and Dallas Exposition: over 100 illustrations” from TSLAC-Main Collection.

The exposition was open from June 6 to November 29, 1936. Although centennial celebrations were happening across the state, the Handbook of Texas Online states the event at Fair Park as the “central exposition.” One of the highlights of the Texas Centennial Exposition was the Hall of Negro Life. According to the Handbook of Texas Online, this was the first instance of the recognition of black culture at a world’s fair. It is estimated that over 400,000 people came through the hall, viewing the contributions of thirty-two states, the District of Columbia, and works from individuals like W. E. B. Dubois and Samuel A. Countee. The hall exhibited advances in economics and industry, murals, music, literature, performances, and more.

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Monday Mystery – June 2017

We’re back with another Monday Mystery post. All of the images from this feature are available on the Texas Digital Archive (TDA) and we welcome folks to browse through all of the images available on this site. We’re looking to our community of patrons, which includes academic researchers, genealogists, photography historians, and Texas enthusiasts, to help us identify some of our photo treasures.

Portiate of a couple, man standing and woman sitting in front of a backdrop

Image: 1995.112-58

Description: Portrait of couple, man standing and woman sitting in front of backdrop, about 1905 to 1920

TDA link: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/file/sdb%3AdigitalFile%7Cd200bac6-7685-4b26-81f8-9c91f6634889/

Collection: Clyde and Thelma See glass plate negatives collection

Question: Can you identify this dashing couple? We’re interested in any information about the pair and if they are from the Batson and Saratoga, Texas area. Or at the very least, admire their serious sense of style.

And as always, if you find an image on the TDA that you’d like to submit for a future Monday Mystery post, please email mailto:archinfo@tsl.texas.govand include “Monday Mystery” in the subject line.

Texas Writers’ Project Records

By Susan Floyd, Archivist

1940 Typescript of San Antonio's Fiesta.

San Antonio: Fiesta! typescript, 1940. City and town historical materials, Texas Writers’ Project records, 1962/218-9. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

In February, we published a finding aid for records relating to a New Deal program: the Texas Writers’ Project, an undertaking of the Work Projects Administration. Originally established as the Works Progress Administration on May 6, 1935, the WPA was a federal relief agency created by an executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In Texas, the WPA employed 600,000 in a wide variety of projects based on local needs and workforce skills. These projects included construction, vocational training, childcare, garment manufacturing, gardening and food production, healthcare, libraries and archives, recreation, and the arts.

The Texas Historical Records Survey and the Texas Writers’ Project, both organized in 1935, were two major WPA-led archival and literacy programs. The Writers’ Project, directed by author and newspaperman James Francis (J. Frank) Davis, employed researchers and writers to compile guides to the state and its regions focusing on cultural, geographic, and historical points of interest. The Project’s best-known publication was Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State (1940). Writers also worked on major publications such as America Eats; Hands That Built America (sometimes also referred to as Hands that Built the Nation); and, together with the Texas Historical Records Survey, The Western Range: The Story of the Grasslands.

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Meet the Staff – Caitlin Burhans

Meet the Staff is a Q&A series on Out of the Stacks that highlights the Archives and Information Services (ARIS) staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Photo of ARIS staffer Caitlin Burhans

 In 50 words or less, describe what you do.

As an Archivist I, I preserve, arrange, describe, and provide access to archival state records and manuscript collections. Since I started working at TSLAC, part of my time has been devoted to a project to humidify, flatten, index, and eventually digitize the early Texas Supreme Court case files.

Why did you choose your profession?

Archivists sometimes describe themselves as information professionals. In preserving the records of our state, I see my job as ensuring that the public has access to information about its own government and history. For me, archives are an important part of a community, and I think it’s important to work to make them more visible to all members of the community

 What is your favorite document, photo, or artifact in TSLAC’s collection?

My favorite item in our collection is always whatever I’ve just found out about in the course of my processing. I’ve been working on a finding aid for the Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar papers, and I learned that we have a set of Lamar’s dueling pistols in our artifacts collection that were used at the battle of San Jacinto.

Two antique wooden and metal dueling pistols.

When you’re not busy what do you like to do for fun?

I like to explore the city—try new restaurants, walk new trails…there’s always something interesting going on in Austin. I’m also always midway through some kind of renovation project on my house, but I don’t know if I would call that fun!

Monday Mystery – May 2017

We’re back with another Monday Mystery post. All of the images from this feature are available on the Texas Digital Archive (TDA) and we welcome folks to browse through all of the images available on this site. We’re looking to our community of patrons, which includes academic researchers, genealogists, photography historians, and Texas enthusiasts, to help us identify some of our photo treasures.

black and white image of woman and boy sitting in a cart pulled by goats.

Image: 1995.112.11

Description: “All Aboard,” woman and boy in cart pulled by goats, about 1908

TDA link: https://tsl.access.preservica.com/file/sdb%3AdigitalFile%7Cbffc5faf-26a8-4957-9068-ff67a42b3e2e/

Collection: Clyde and Thelma See glass plate negatives collection

Question: This is one of the few images in the See collection with an identified photographer – Fletcher Photo Company. We’re interested in any additional information about this photographer. Was his studio in a nearby town in Texas? Was he a traveling photographer of the day? And can we credit him with creating some of the other images in this unique glass plate negative collection?

And as always, if you find an image on the TDA that you’d like to submit for a future Monday Mystery post, please email mailto:archinfo@tsl.texas.govand include “Monday Mystery” in the Subject line.

 

On This Day in 1836: Cynthia Ann Parker is captured in a Comanche Raid

By Caroline Jones, Library Assistant

On May 19, 1836, a young Cynthia Ann Parker was taken captive during the Comanche raid of Fort Parker. She lived as a Comanche woman for 25 years, marrying a Comanche warrior and having three children, until she was recaptured by Texas Rangers on December 19, 1860 in the Pease River Battle (also referred to as the Pease River Massacre by some scholars). In researching Parker I not only found her life story compelling, but both the variety and the credibility of the sources of her story intriguing and at times conflicting.

Cynthia Ann Parker was born to Lucy and Silas Parker in Crawford County, Illinois. The Parker clan made the journey to Texas and constructed Fort Parker along the Navasota River around 1835. According to Grace Jackson’s biography Cynthia Ann Parker, three generations of Parker’s lived at Fort Parker, along with several other families who followed them to Texas from Illinois. Having left the fort during the Battle of San Jacinto, all returned on April 25, 1836 after the Texan victory. On May 18th, Texas Rangers protecting the fort were disbanded and sent home to their families. The next day, Fort Parker was raided by the Comanche, killing many and taking five captive, including Cynthia Ann and her younger brother John.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Jessica Tucker, Archivist

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, 1 in 5 adult Texans will experience a mental health concern at some point this year. Of those, the Mental Health Committee Report & Recommendations (issued by the Texas Judicial Council in October 2016) approximates 1 million Texans will experience serious mental illness.

The Texas State Archives has many records related to mental health services in Texas, including the Texas Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools records, 1950-1965; Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation records, 1967-1983; and Volunteer Services Council for the Austin State School records, 1957-1988, to name just a few. Another example is the fascinating and wide-reaching Josephine T. Lamb collection, 1931, 1942-1969, undated, bulk 1954-1966.

Image of An Act for the Erection and Support of a Lunatic Asylum from the 6th Texas Legislature

1 An Act for the Erection and Support of a Lunatic Asylum. 6th Legislature, Adjourned Session (1856), Texas Secretary of State legislative bills and resolutions filed (General and Special Laws). Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

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Meet the Staff – Sandra Bailey

Meet the Staff is a Q&A series on Out of the Stacks that highlights the Archives and Information Services (ARIS) staff of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Photo of ARIS staffer Sandra BaileyIn 50 words or less, describe what you do.

I am a Reference Librarian who helps people find the information they need in person, by phone, and by letter or email. Assisting patrons can involve recommending resources and search strategies, providing instruction on using our collections including databases, and locating answers to factual questions.

Why did you choose your profession?

My Mom was working on her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education when I was a toddler, so I became her guinea pig for her early childhood development and children’s literature courses. She would read, sing, and perform finger plays for me, and she also used children’s literature to teach me science and math concepts. From my earliest memories I was always reading, singing, and learning, so naturally I developed a love of libraries.  My local public library became a sanctuary for me growing up. I would spend many hours after school and on weekends browsing the stacks for books on whatever subject I was into at the time, and especially for music CDs as a teen. When I decided to pursue a career in librarianship my sophomore year in college, I learned that there is much more involved than just a love of books and reading.

What is your favorite document, photo, or artifact in TSLAC’s collection?

Right now my favorite Texas State Publication are the Department of Education (Texas Education Agency) bulletins which contain a wealth of historical information on education laws, subject curriculum, and financial and student enrollment statistics.

Photo of bound copies of Texas Department of Education bulletins on a shelf.

When you’re not busy what do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy nature and the outdoors; hiking, swimming, camping (even if I just set up our tent in the backyard), barbecuing. There are so many wonderful hiking trails and swimming holes in Austin. I do miss living close to an ocean though. I also enjoy all-day trips to parks with my husband and sons where we play games of freeze tag, sword fight, search for cloud animals and feed the ducks.

 

Archives and libraries celebrate May Day

By Rebecca Romanchuk, Archivist

Graphic of MayDay

May 1 is traditionally known as May Day. While spring festivals and the Industrial Workers of the World celebrate May Day, so do archives, libraries, and museums, with activities to prepare and protect cultural heritage materials from damage during disasters. Storms, floods, fires, and other emergencies are unpredictable, but being prepared can make all the difference.

MayDay is an effort promoted by archives and other cultural institutions to encourage each other to “do ONE thing for emergency preparedness” on that day. One action taken today to protect our historical collections will have a positive effect when we respond to a future emergency.

The Texas State Archives will be considering these ideas for MayDay activities developed by the Society of American Archivists. For your important books, documents, photographs, music, and films at home, consult these Preservation Tips offered by the State Archives and more tips on Saving Your Stuff from the American Library Association‘s resources for Preservation Week (the last week in April leading up to MayDay).

One step you take today to protect your treasured items may save them from preventable damage later. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Photograph of family photos damaged by Wimberly flood, 2015.

Family photographs damaged by Wimberley flood, 2015. Wimberley 2015-III, Archivists of Central Texas on Flickr.