Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Liberty, Texas

The Price Daniel Home at Liberty, Texas on the grounds
of the Sam Houston Library and Research Center

This month my wife Vicki and I made a visit to the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, located at Liberty, Texas, the hometown of former Texas Governor Price Daniel. (At upper left, the Center's Director Robert L. Schaadt welcomes us to his office; upper right, Vicki Cummins is researching in the reading room; lower right, archivist Darlene Mott stands in the stack area of the collection.) This important research center, which is a branch of the Texas State Archives, is located on the grounds of the late Governor Daniel’s home place. His grand southern-style mansion, now a museum open to the public, stands nearby to the modern research building which holds the library and archival collections. The name of facility honors Sam Houston, from whom the governor’s wife Jean Daniel descended. The library holds over four thousand volumes dealing with Texas history, while the archival collection consists of some 16,000 cubic feet of manuscript holdings from over 400 different collections, mostly dealing with the history of southeast Texas. The two largest collections consist of the Governor Price Daniel Papers and the papers of Texas Congressman Martin Dies, who served in the House of Representatives from 1931 to 1944 and again from 1953 to 1958. The collection also includes a number of public records from county governments in southeast Texas along with the manuscript holdings of various families, individuals, and businesses important to that region. The library building, which opened in 1977, provides a pleasant place for library and archival research. Vicki and I spent a rewarding day researching the career of Liberty, Texas artist Watson Neyland, whose papers the library holds.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Texas Jewel: The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, a part of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, is a rare Texas treasure and every Texan should personally experience it as a visitor. I once again enjoyed visiting there earlier this month. This summertime trip to Bayou Bend was motivated by my recent reading of two new books that highlight respectively the career of Miss Ima Hogg and the programs of Bayou Bend, her historic Houston home that is a world-class museum of the decorative arts. Miss Hogg, the daughter of former Texas Governor Jim Hogg, emerged in the early twentieth century as one of the major philanthropists in Texas, along with her brothers Will and Mike – all residents of Houston. The first book that reawakened my interest in Bayou Bend was Kate Sayen Kirkland’s The Hogg Family and Houston: Philanthropy and the Civil Ideal (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.) It is a meticulously researched and well-written volume that examines how the Hogg family’s charitable enterprises had a significant impact on the development of not only Houston, but all of Texas. The second book, American Material Culture and the Texas Experience: The David B. Warren Symposium (Houston: Bayou Bend and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 2009) contains essays written by leading experts on Southwestern decorative arts, including Margaretta M. Lovell, Kelly Donahue Wallace, Lonn Taylor, Jill Beute Koverman, and Bayou Bend director Bonnie Campbell, who co-authored the introduction. This book sets into full perspective the rich heritage of Texas material culture.

Visiting Bayou Bend always begins with an exciting walk across the rustic footbridge that crosses Buffalo Bayou, the public’s backyard entrance to the property installed by Miss Hogg so visitors would not pass down Lazy Lane and disturb her River Oaks neighbors. It was an unexpected pleasure for my wife Vicki and me to be greeted on this visit by the Bayou Bend director, Bonnie Campbell, who is an acknowledged authority on Texas material culture. Before coming to Bayou Bend, Bonnie was the curator of the Texas Capitol building in Austin and helped oversee its extensive restoration. We had a fantastic tour given by Cecilia Mazzola, an experienced and long-tenured docent. It should be noted that Bayou Bend has one of the most knowledgeable, professional, and highly trained staff of docents in world of American museums. Bayou Bend docents go through a demanding selection process, months of academic training, and a long probationary period – all before a docent becomes a regular part of the staff. Many individual docents have decades of experience at Bayou Bend. (A group of the docents appear to the right.) The tour includes 28 rooms of period furniture ranging from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. In addition, the gardens of the home are spectacular. Although she died in 1975, the masterful hand of Miss Ima Hogg can still be seen throughout this historic and completely unique museum. Bayou Bend presents a year-round series of events and special occasions. Every Texan should visit. See the Bayou Bend Website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fall Regional Art Symposium Announced: Heard-Craig Center for the Arts, McKinney, Texas

"The history of art in Texas is, like any good story, filled with characters, unfolding events, and underlying themes.” Annie Royer, Artist/Art Historian.

The Heard-Craig Center for the Arts is honored to host a one-day Texas Regional Art Symposium on October 10, 2009. Historical and contemporary art exhibits will feature well known historic artists of the region, such as Frank Reaugh, Jerry Bywaters, and Frank Klepper. Distinguished speakers will include Lonn Taylor, Francine Carraro, Victoria Cummins, Bob Reitz, Light Cummins, Sam Ratcliff, and Carol Roark on subjects ranging from southwest material culture to original research on individual artists such as sculptor Allie Tennant and painter Frank Klepper. The capstone of the symposium will be an open discussion led by area collectors who will exhibit and discuss their favorite pieces of art. The Texas Regional Art Symposium will also be hosting the Patricia B. Avery Regional Art Exhibit, applications for this exhibit will be accepted until August 1. Local artists will study a site-specific painting from among the works in the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts collection or participating private collection. The artist is then required to travel to the subject of the piece he or she has studied in order to create their response to the original piece. Exhibiting artists will receive free admission to T.R.A.S. as well as the opportunity to sell their work without gallery fees. There will also be a scheduled opportunity to meet and greet with the artists as well as prominent historians, curators, art dealers, and art collectors. “By bringing together historians, curators, collectors, and local artists, the Heard-Craig Center offers our community a forum for dynamic discussion, as well as the presentation of new research on regional art in Texas,” says Barbara Johnson, director of the center. This annual event will encourage a greater understanding of 19th and 20th century Texas visual arts (painting, photography, decorative arts, sculpture), and foster the development of the next generation of creators, collectors, and historians of art and culture in Texas.
Tickets $20 for the full day of activities.
Students with I.D. may attend for $10.
For more information, go to
or contact Barbara Johnson: Heard-Craig Executive Director
Heard-Craig Hall is located at
306 N. Church Street in McKinney, Texas

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Brazoria County Historical Museum: "Where Texas Began"

The Brazoria County Historical Museum is located in the restored 1897 courthouse in Angleton, Texas. This county is popularly known as the place “where Texas began” because it was the point of initial arrival for some of the first Anglo-American settlers brought to Texas by Stephen F. Austin. He made his official home in what is today Brazoria County at the historic Peach Point Plantation, where his sister Emily and her family resided. Today, the museum maintains a continuing series of historical exhibits that highlight the role this county has played in the development of Texas. Importantly, under the direction of Curator Michael Bailey (seen at upper left) the museum features a library and historical archives that is important to the study of early Anglo-American Texas. Named for one of its donors, the Lois Brock Adriance Library of the Brazoria County Historical Museum contains government records, artifacts, books, publications, maps, photographs, oral history tapes, newspapers, videotapes, microfilm, artwork, and the archives of individuals, families, businesses, institutions and other organizations from the lower Brazos River area. These constitute a significant body of historical material about the area’s history. Researchers are assisted, in addition to Mr. Bailey, by Jamie Murray (at right) who is very knowledgeable about the history of this area. It has been my pleasure to have researched in this facility, which I believe is one of the best and most professional smaller archives in the State of Texas. The museum maintains a website at, which includes an extensive online archive index to photographs and artifacts in its collection. On a recent visit, I had the pleasure of presenting the museum director, Jackie Haynes, with a copy of my recent biography of Emily Austin, some of which was researched in the museum’s fine library and archives.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Spotlight on the Texas State Historical Association

The Texas State Historical Association is looking squarely into the future although its roots are firmly embedded in encouraging the study of the past. Founded in the 1890s, it is the oldest learned society in the state of Texas. It fosters the study, teaching, appreciation, and reading of Texas history. Its home for most of its existence was located in Austin, Texas. Last fall, the TSHA (as it is popularly known by pronouncing its initials) moved its headquarters to the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton. Housed in brand new, sparkling office space, the association has been completely revamped, modernized, and streamlined to redouble its long-standing efforts to advance the cause of history in the Lone Star State. Under the leadership of its Director Kent Calder and its Chief Historian Randolph B. Campbell, the TSHA publishes the “Southwestern Historical Quarterly,” the “Riding Line” newsletter, and supervises “The Handbook of Texas,” which is a voluminous online encyclopedia of Texas history. The association also publishes the “Texas Almanac,” the state’s most venerable compendium of Texas facts and statistics. Each year, the TSHA sponsors an annual meeting open to all members at which those doing historical research about the state present their findings, while the conference also has a Texas book auction which attracts book lovers from across the nation. Importantly, under the direction of Steve Cure, the association sponsors a full range of educational and student-centered activities including a state-wide organization for students called the Junior Historians. The Educational Division also sponsors regional history competitions and the annual Texas History Day. The success of all these program has earned for the TSHA a book about its own history written by Dr. Richard MacCaslin entitled “At the Heart of Texas: One Hundred Years of the Texas State Historical Association.” Any person who is interested in the history of Texas ought to join the Texas State Historical Association. Since you are reading this blog that could mean you too! You can click the link to the membership page in the upper right of this blog. The THSA also has a Facebook page. Future posts on this blog will look at their programs in greater detail. Check out their homepage at

Friday, June 5, 2009

Marie Beth Jones: Texas Journalist and Historian

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Marie Beth Jones, a delightful person and a preeminent journalist who has consistently advanced the cause of Texas history in her writing. Early in her career, Marie Beth was on the staff of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Houston Chronicle. She served as the managing editor of the Angleton, Texas Times from 1965 to 1990. She has written for many decades a very popular and widely read column dealing with Texas history, in addition to being an author of several books dealing with the coastal bend and its past. Today, she is a regular contributor to the Brazosport Facts where she continues to write about history in her column and also provide a book review feature. Back in 1982, Marie Beth published a history of Peach Point Plantation that won the Texas Historical Commission Award that year for the best book on Texas history. She has continued to write other books including a delightful volume Tales from the Brazos that contains a number of interesting stories about the folklore and history of the Brazoria area. She has served as chair of the Brazoria County Historical Commission, is on the board of the Brazoria County Museum, and belongs to both the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. It was my pleasure to have met Marie Beth a number of years ago when I began my research on the Stephen F. Austin family and the plantation at Peach Point. It is safe to say that no person has done more to call attention to the exciting history of the lower Brazos River region of Texas than Marie Beth Jones. I was proud to present her with a copy of my biography of Emily Austin.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Special Collections, John B.Coleman Library, Prairie View A&M University

Today I visited the Special Collections/Archives of Prairie View A&M University, the second-oldest public university in Texas. Founded in 1876, this historically Black university is one of the most venerable of the state’s public institutions. The Special Collections of the John B. Coleman Library at Prairie View holds many of the records that document the history of this unsurpassed heritage. The Coleman Library is a modern, state-of-the art facility. The Special Collections Department, under the able direction of University Archivist Phyllis Earles, welcomes researchers with a comfortable, friendly, and efficient archives facility. In addition to university-related holdings, other collections include the papers of Wilhelmina Ruth Delco, a respected state legislator who served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1974 until 1995. PVAMU also has a building named in Representative Delco’s honor. (At left, Special Collections Head Phyllis Earles, me, and Rosetta Combs, archives assistant.)Holdings in Special Collections also include papers and materials dealing with the southern United States and African-American history as assembled by Rice University Professor Harold Hyman. Researchers can also consult the papers of the Prairie View Interscholastic League which, from 1920 to 1970, mirrored for Black school children in Texas the competitions sponsored by the then racially segregated University Interscholastic League. For further information, see: