Saturday, December 11, 2010

Humanities Texas Holiday Book Fair

Today I participated as an author in the Humanities Texas Holiday Book Fair. Over two dozen authors gathered at the historic Byrne-Reed House in Austin. Among those signing books were H. W. Brands, William P. Hobby Jr., Max Sherman, Frank de la Teja, James Hailey, Don Carlteon, Jacqueline Kelly, Emily Fox Gordon, Diana Welch, Bill Wittliff, and me. Several hundred enthisasic book lovers attended. The event was a great success. It was also a special treat for the various authors to meet with each other and trade impressions about their work. Humanities Texas is to be congratulated for hosting such a fine event that produced a memorable time for everyone who attended.

Max Sherman and William P. Hobby Jr.

Naomi Shihab Nye and Bill Wittliff
Ron Philo, Anne LeMaistre, and Light Cummins

Check Out the Book Fair at Humanities Texas

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Save Texas History: The General Land Office of Texas

Frank de la Teja, Light Cummins, and Felix Almaraz, Jr.
Today I participated as a speaker in the Save Texas History Symposium sponsored by the General Land Office of Texas.  This symposium is part of the larger, state-wide Save Texas History initiative introduced by Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. This program highlights the important archival materials that constitute the land archives of Texas. In addition, the program seeks to educate all Texans about the rich heritage of the state. This symposium had additional sponsors including the Bullock State History Museum, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Texas Historical Commission. This symposium had as its special focus the era of Spanish and Mexican Texas. In addition to my talk on "The Coming of the Anglo-Americans and the Empresario Era," Professor Felix Almaraz, Jr., spoke on the legacy of Spanish and Mexican Texas, while Professor Frank de la Teja talked on settlement of Spanish and Mexican Texas. The symposium also featured workshops for the attendees dealing with the archives, survey practices used by the Land Office, and a tour of the Bob Bullock State History Museum.

Click Here for the Program of the Symposium

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Supreme Court Historical Society

Austin College Building, Huntsville, Site of
first law school in Texas
Earlier today I spoke to the Board of Directors of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. My topic was the founding of the first law school in Texas at Austin College. Although the college is today located in Sherman, Texas, the town of Huntsville was its home in the years prior to the Civil War. It was during that time in the 1850s that several faculty members, especially Henderson Yoakum, decided to create a law department at Austin College. Yoakum was an attorney and also served as a law partner to Sam Houston, a member of the Austin College board of trustees. Law classes began in 1855 and lasted for several years, producing a relatively small number of graduates. Royal T Wheeler served as one of the professors. Wheeler came to Texas in 1839 and began the practice of law. In 1842, he became district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District of the Republic of Texas. Two years later, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Texas. He continued as a justice on the court after statehood, evenually becoming Chief Justice. Henerson Yoakum also taught in the law school, holding some of its classes at his plantation home Sheppard's Valley, located near Huntsville. In addition to his law school duties, Yoakum also wrote one of the first histories of Texas while he was associated with Austin College. Yoakum's untimely death on November 30, 1856 eventaully brought an end ot the law department at Austin College since he was its primary motivator and adminstrator. Nonetheless, several of the early law graduates did have impressive and important careers in late nineteenth century Texas.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ty Cashion Receives an Austin College Distinguished Alumnus Award

Light Cummins and Ty Cashion
Last night, Dr. Robert "Ty" Cashion received a distinguished alumni award from Austin College. A member of the class of 1979, Dr. Cashion received the award from Dr. Marjorie Hass, Austin College President. It was my pleasure to introduce Ty at the award banquet since he was a student in one of the first classes that I taught as a young faculty member at the college. In the years since, he and I have kept in touch because of our mutual interest in history. Ty earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Ph.D. from Texas Christian University. He is a professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. An award-winning historian and author of six books, Ty was listed in Texas Monthly as one of “a new breed of scholars changing the way contemporary Texans look at their state.” In 2007, he was inducted into the prestigious Institute of Texas Letters. A member of nine learned societies, Ty has served on executive boards for the Texas State Historical Association and the Western History Association as well as associations for regional and oral history. Congratulations to Ty on becoming a distinguished alumnus of Austin College.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gallery Talk at the Dallas Museum of Art

The DMA's Lisa Kays introduces my gallery talk

With Noggin by Dorothy Austin
Today I gave a gallery talk at the Dallas Museum of Art that focused on the current exhibition of Texas sculpture that is composed of work from their permanent collection. The exhibit features important works by Allie V. Tennant, Dorothy Austin, Evaline Sellors, Michael G. Owen Jr., Bess Bigham Hubbard, Ishmael Soto, David Bates, and Jim Love. The pieces in this show spanned from 1933 to 1996, covering several periods of artistic expression. My talk, however, did not concentrate on the artistic history of these sculptors. Instead, I set this exhibit within the larger context of Texas regional history as part of the larger viewpoint in Texas uniqueness. In so doing, I surveyed the development of Texas sculpture from the the 1890s to the present, starting with Elizabet Ney and Pompeo Coppini. I contrasted the classical and traditional art of that era with the more modern work of Allie V. Tennant, Dorothy Austin, Michael G. Owen, Jr., and Evaline Sellors, all of whom came to artistic prominence during the regionalism period of the 1920s and 1930s. I also noted the influence of direct-carving advocates such as the artist William Zorach on the work of Texas artists prior to World War Two, as they sought to embrace relevant social themes as the underpinnings of their work. I also examined the changes that came to Texas sculpture with the rise of university art departments that provided academic training for artists. In that regard, I examined the work of Ishmael Soto and David Bates. Finally, I talked about the tremendous role that sculpture has come to play in Houston, especially with the support of the Menils, citing in the process the work of the late Jim Love.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Henry McArdle and the "Lost" San Jacinto Painting

McArdle's 1901 Battle of San Jacinto
 My wife Victoria and I had a most enjoyable time attending a first-rate scholarly symposium that was held today in Dallas on the subject of a recently discovered 1901 painting of the Battle of San Jacinto done by Henry McArdle, who was an early Texas artist known for his grand historical paintings. Heroic examples of McArdle's work include his justly famous "Dawn at the Alamo," a massive 1905 painting that currently hangs in the Texas capitol building in Austin. Historians have long known, as Dr. Sam Ratcliffe observed in his landmark book "Texas Painting to 1900," that artist McArdle, who painted a large 1895 version of the Battle of San Jancinto which is today well-known, had also done an additional canvas on the subject of the Battle of San Jacinto --- but the whereabouts of this later 1901 painting had long been unknown. Mr. John Buell, a great-great grandson of Henry McArlde, recently discovered this lost 1901 painting in the attic of a family home in West Virginia. The painting has now been brought to Texas where it will be offered at public auction in Dallas by the Heritage Auction Galleries.
(l. to r.) Atlee Phillips, James Crisp, Sam Ratcliffe, Ali James, Michael Grauer
Todays' scholarly symposium marked the occasion of this painting's rediscovery. Atlee Phillips, Director of Texas Art at Heritage Galleries, organized a stellar array of scholars and art history experts for the day's program. Ms. Phillips herself has an impressive standing in the Texas art history community. Many familiar with Lone Star Art will recognize her as the daughter of J. O. "Dutch" and Mary Frances Phillips, who for many years operated the famed Dutch Phillips Galleries in Fort Worth and Dallas. Atlee received a B.A. in Art History from Colorado College before graduate study at my alma mater, Tulane University. The panel she assembled included Dr. Sam Ratcliffe of the Bywaters Collection of Southern Methodist Univesity; Micheal Grauer, Curator of Art at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum; Ali James, Curator of the Texas State Captiol and the recent President of the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art; and Dr. James Crisp, professor at North Carolina State University, who is one of this nation's preeminent historians of the Texas Revolution. Each of the participants set the rediscovered painting into perspective from their frame of reference.
(l. to r.) Michael Grauer, Victoria Cummins, Light Cummins
photo by Morris Matson

The following link provides a synopisis of the symposium. Click Here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Texas Regional Art Symposium

Annie Royer
Symposium Curator
Today I had the pleasure of attending the second annual Texas Regional Art Symposium. A group of scholars, artists, art collectors, and those interested in early Texas Art gathered at the Heard-Craig Hall in McKinney, Texas for the second annual symposium. This year's symposium centered on the theme of Texas women artists during the first half of the 20th century. Symposium director, Annie Royer, noted that “In small towns and urban centers, women artists had a vision for a cultured community that led them to create, educate, collect and collaborate. Important research and dedicated collecting continues to spread awareness of the artistic contribution of these women. Their story sheds light on the role gender played, and continues to play, in the arts." This event, which attracted an auditorium full of people, was sponsored by the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts. “By bringing together historians, curators, collectors, and local artists, the Heard-Craig Center offers a forum for dynamic discussion, as well as the presentation of new research on regional art in Texas,” explained Barbara Johnson, the director of the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts. Among the notables who gave papers were Claudia Kheel, "Texas Women in the Context of Southern Regional Art;" Jack Davis, "Pioneers in Modernism: The Forgotten Nine;" Victoria Cummins, "Women Artists and the Public Works of Art Project in Texas;" Judy Deaton, "In Service of Art for the People of Texas, Texas Women's Organizations;" Scott Barker, "Seeing and Believing: Women Artists in Fort Worth Before 1950;" Michael Grauer, "Loosening the Corset of The Nine: Women Artists in Dallas (1880-1945): Lynne Hubner, "Handmade Prints: The Process Behind the Image;" and Stashka Star, "Methods in Conservation." Several collectors of early Texas art, including Nancy Murchison, talked about their philosophies of collecting. It proved to be a memorable day for everyone who attended.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dallas Heritage Village Talk

I had the pleasure of speaking at the annual meeting of the Dallas Heritage Village. The title of my talk was "Does Texas Have a History and Why?" Of course, it was my contention that not only does Texas has a history, but that the state has a very unique, singular, and distinct one. There is a myth and mystique to Texas that makes for a firmly entrenched exceptionality to the history of the Lone Star state. My remarks presented four reasons for the distinctive history of Texas. First, since the colonial era, Texas has been an area with a distinctive mix of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. These include Native American, Hispanic American, African American, and Anglo American. The historical interplay between these cultures created a unique state-based historical frame of reference seen in few other parts, if any, of the United States. Second, the Republic of Texas shaped the formation of a "national" identity among many nineteenth century Texans, especially in the Anglo-American community. In general terms, the nineteenth century was a time all across the world when national identity formation was a powerful social and cultural force. Texans thus developed not only a national identification with the United States, but also with their state -- something that did not occur everywhere else in the nation. Vestiges of this exist to the present day. Third, the tremendous state-based wealth that came to Texas in the early twentieth century, mostly from oil, provided the financial resources that enabled a glorification of the Texas historical experience as something unique in the history of the state. This can be seen in art and architecture, literature, movies, music, and leisure events. The Texas Centennial Celebration of 1936 served as the high water mark of this process. Fourth, for much of the time since the 1830s down to the 1960s and 1970s, Texas cultural, social, political, and economic norms were dominated by Anglo-American perspectives and frames of reference. This point of view began to change in the 1960s, creating today an inclusive array of different points of reference that include the story of Native American, Hispanic American, and African American narratives as major part of the Texas historical experience, along with those of women. This gives a vibrancy to the study of Texas history that maintains its uniqueness and enduring vitality. I am most appreciate that the Dallas Heritage Village gave me such an enjoyable opportunity to give a talk that laid out my views on the uniqueness of Texas history. Attendance was very good, and I enjoyed meeting the people who were there. I was particularly glad to have a chance to visit with Gary Smith, Director of the Dallas Heritage Village. The distiguished Dallas Historian Michael V. Hazel was on hand to give me a very gracious introduction.

Click here for the website of the Dallas Heritage Village.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

East Texas Historical Association Fall 2010 Meeting

Milton Jordan Delivering the ETHA Presidential Address

The East Texas Historical Association has just concluded its fall meeting. It was held in the Baker Patillo Student Center at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. This year's program featured, as usual, a number of interesting sessions dealing with various aspects of East Texas History, including a session cataloging folklore with presentations by Peggy Redshaw and Jack Duncan. A fine session dealing with transportation history included papers by Charles Spurlin, George Cooper, and Mary Jo O'Rear. Archaeologist Kenneth Brown delivered the Max and Georgiana Lale Lecture regarding his work at the Levi Jordan Plantation in Brazoria County. His presentation was entitled: "Finding Africa under North American Soil: Historical Archaeology and the Development of African American Culture."

Light Cummins "Sculpting Texas History in Bronze"
I presented a paper entitled "Sculpting Texas History in Bronze: The Texas Centennial State-Wide Statuary Program, 1936-1939." This paper surveyed the roles played by John V. Singleton, Evaline Sellors, Louis Wiltz Kemp, and A. Webb Robers in creating some 20 bronze statues of Texas Revolutionary figures that were placed across Texas during the late 1930s. In that session, Jeff Littlejohn gave a paper on J. L. Clark while Linda Wolff talked about the making of a 1934 movie in Victoria, Texas.

A highlight of the meeting was the Presidential Address given by Milton Jordan. His talk was entitled "A River Creeps Through It." It dealt with the history of the Neches River and that stream's impact on the history of East Texas.

Click here for the website of the East Texas Historical Association.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Victoria Cummins Speaks at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts

Victoria Cummins Speaking at the Carriage House
Today I accompanied Victoria Cummins to a formal high tea held at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts in McKinney. Once a month, the Center sponsors a gala high tea in its historic home. As part of this high tea, a person is invited each month to speak on the arts in a lecture given in the Center's Carriage House meeting room prior to the tea itself.

Victoria Cummins was the speaker this month. Her topic was "Torchbearers of Culture: Club Women and the Promotion of the Visual Arts in Early Twentieth Century Texas." This talk made special reference to the career of Frances Battaile Fisk. As a committed club women in Abilene from the 1920s until the 1940s, Fisk served as chair of the Art Unit of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. In that capacity, she directed several art appreciation projects including the Penny Art Fund that encouraged the purchase of art by women's clubs. In 1928, Fisk wrote the first book of Texas art criticism entitled "A History of Texas Artists and Sculptors." We are currently writing an article about Frances Fisk. It is: Victoria H.  Cummins and Light T. Cummins, “Frances Battaile Fisk and the Promotion of the Visual Arts in West Texas, 1921-1946” to be published in Stephanie Cole, Rebecca Sharpless, and Elizabeth Hays Turner, eds. "Texas Women/ American Women: Their Lives and Times," to be forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press. In addition to Fisk, the talk by Cummins reviewed activities of club women in several other Texas cities including McKinney. In that regard, she highlighted in her remarks the important role that the McKinney Art Club played in the civic and artistic development of that city.

At the conclusion of the talk, Victoria Cummins and the people who attended continued their conversation over high tea in the ornate Heard-Craig House.

Click here for the Website of the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jean Stuntz, Online Texas Historian and President of H-Net

(l to r) Victoria Cummins, Light Cummins, Jean Stuntz

My wife Vicki and I earlier this week had the chance to visit with Dr. Jean Stuntz in her office at the History Department of West Texas A&M University in Canyon. We learned a lot from her about the current status of online history teaching. Dr. Stuntz is currently the President of H-Net, the massive and worldwide cooperative site that is the internet crossroads for the historical profession in the United States and around the globe. As its website notes, H-Net is an international interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers dedicated to developing the enormous educational potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Dr. Stuntz is a trailblazer in using the Web for university-level history teaching. She believes that students learn best when she gets them started and then stays out of their way. She has therefore created online classes in all of her teaching fields so students around the world can get acquainted with Texas history, U.S. women's history, and the Spanish Borderlands. She uses the latest technology and modern teaching methods to allow students the widest choice of learning options and thus increase their ownership of learning. Born and raised in Orange, Texas, Dr. Jean Stuntz received her B.A. and J.D. from Baylor University and Baylor Law School in Waco. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Texas in Denton. Dr. Stuntz began teaching at West Texas A&M in the fall of 2001. She is the author of the book His, Hers, and Theirs: Community Property Law in Spain and Early Texas, (2005), which won the La Presido Bahia and TOMFRA awards. She also authored a chapter on Minta Holmsley in Texas Women on the Cattle Trails, (2006), winner of the Liz Carpenter award, and her articles include "Women of the Texas Revolution" in the Social Studies Texan (2007) and "Prairies to Progress: Women on the Texas Panhandle Frontier" also in the Social Studies Texan (2009). She is currently working on a book about women pioneers of the Panhandle. Dr. Stuntz teaches Texas history, U.S. women's history, Spanish Southwest, historical methods, U.S. history surveys, and world history -- and in so doing she is never far from a computer.

Click here to visit N-Net

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Honoring Professor Richard E. Greenleaf

Richard E. Greenleaf with a group of his former graduate students

Today over a hundred people from all across the United States and Latin America gathered at University House on the campus of the University of New Mexico to honor Professor Richard E. Greenleaf, one the most distinguished historians of colonial Mexico. The author or editor of eleven books and countless articles, Professor Greenleaf directed the graduate careers of well over three dozen Ph.D. students during a forty year career at the University of the Americas, Tulane University, and the University of New Mexico, He spent most of his distinguished career as the France V. Scholes Professor of Latin American History at Tulane.

Three former students of Richard E. Greeleaf: Drs. Victoria Cummins, James D. Reily, and Eugene Harrell

Many speakers paid tribute to Professor Greenleaf

The occasion marked the publication of a new book entitled The Inquisition in Colonial Latin America: Selected Writings of Richard E. Greenleaf, edited by James D. Riley, a former Ph,D. student who is an emeritus professor of history at the Catholic University of America. This book provides a survey summary of Dr. Greenleaf's extensive arrary of publications and historical analyses of the Inquisition in colonial Latin America.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Museum of the Big Bend

During our recent trip though west Texas, Vicki Cummins and I visited the Museum of the Big Bend, which is located on the campus of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. We were interested in visiting the museum because it is one of the important museums of the state, but also because it was a Texas Centennial Project. The building which houses the museum was built in 1935 with a $25,00 grant from the Texas Centennial Commission along with about $50,000 in additional funds from the Federal Government. It was a state-of-the-art 1936 fireproof structure built entirely of native stone and equipped with ornamental iron window guards and outside doors of heavy steel. As a Texas Centennial project, the building was dedicated "to the pioneers of the area" and initially housed the offices for the West Texas Historical and Scientific Society, an organization that no longer exists. Former Governor Pat Neff dedicated the structure on May 1, 1937. Today the interior of the museum has been completely modernized in a sweeping series of renovations, although the exterior of the building still retains much of its 1936 centennial appearance.

The Museum of the Big Bend has an important permanent collection of materials dealing with the art and history of the Big Bend, including the Yana and Marty Davis Map Collection, which "is one of the largest and most diversified selections of Texas maps in the state." A special map room and research area highlights this collection, which is under the direction of Matt Walter, the curator of maps, seen with me above.
The general collections and exhibitions welcome an impressive number of visitors monthly. Although for a time the Museum was located in other premises on the Sul Ross Campus, it moved back into its original home under the leadership of Larry Fancell, who is this month retiring after a long and productive career as the director. Mr. Francell is an alumus of Austin College. He will be replaced by Elizabeth Jackson, who has been the associate director. During our visit, it was also our pleasure to visit with curator Mary Bones, who is mounting an important exhibition for this fall dealing with the Sul Ross Summer Art Colony, which during the 1930s existed under the direct on of artist Xavier Gonzalez as a premier place to study art in Texas during the period of Southwestern Regionalism.
Light Cummins and Larry Francell

Click Here to visit the website of the Museum of the Big Bend

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Archives of the Big Bend

Archive Director Melleta Bell and Light Cummins

My wife Victoria and I are spending much of the week at the Archives of the Big Bend, located in the Bryan Wildenthal Memorial Library on the Campus of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. This fine archive seeks to collect materials that relate to the history of the trans-Pecos region of Texas, meaning the area located to the west of the Pecos River and east of El Paso. Alpine is located in the heart of the Big Bend Country of Texas, and that area is the focus of the collection. There is also an effort made to collect materials that touch on the history of Mexico in the parts of that country that lay to the south of the Big Bend and the trans-Pecos. Its holdings have some 5,000 books in the Archives, mostly dealing with Texana, regional literature, and the history of the region. Important manuscript collections including the papers of Texas Ranger Roy W. Aldrich; Texas legislators Benjamin F. Berkeley, E. E. Townsend and Gene Hendryx; and border historians Harry Warren and Jodie P. Harris. The archives also contains the papers of many individuals associated with Sul Ross State University. It was such interests that brought us to the Archive of the Big Bend. We are writing a biographical study of Frances Battaile Fisk, the author of the 1928 book "Texas Artists and Sculptors." Mrs. Fisk was the sister-in-law of Horace Morelock, who served as president of Sul Ross from 1923 until 1945. During the final years of her life, Fisk lived in Alpine with her sister and Dr. Morelock. We found much useful information about Mrs. Fisk and the Morelocks, especially thanks to the Archive Director Melleta Bell and archivist Jerri Garza.

Click here for the web page of the Archives of the Big Bend

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Visiting Historic Fort Davis

Lonn Taylor and Light Cummins

Today I had the pleasure visiting historic Fort Davis with historian Lonn Taylor, who is retired as Curator of the Smithsonian Institution. A specialist in material culture, Lonn knows more about historical sites and artifacts than most anyone I know. It was a hot day, but we spent several hours visiting every part of the fort, which is one of the significant frontier forts in Texas. The fort operated in Jeff Davis County from 1854 until 1891. although it was closed for several years during the Civil War. Maintained by the National Park Service, it is considered to be one of the best examples of a nineteenth century southwestern fort. As was the case with many frontier forts of that era, there were no stockades or walls that surrounded the compound. Instead, its buildings and homes were open. Soldiers from the fort patrolled the region, returning to use the fort as their headquarters base. At various times, the fort was home to the famous ninth and tenth cavalry units. Fort Davis was also the site of the famous trial of Henry O. Flipper, the African-American army officer who was charge with improper requisition of supplies. President Clinton posthumously pardoned Flipper in 1999, some 59 years after Flipper's passing. All in all, Fort Davis is a well-interpreted, excellent historical site at which Texans can learn much about the nineteenth century frontier heritage of the state.

Click Here for the Fort Davis website

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Spotlight on Steve Cure and the Texas State Historical Association

Steve Cure
The Fourth of July is a proud day to celebrate everything that is great about our nation. Understanding our heritage as Texans and as Americans is vitally important for each of us on Independence Day. Those who educate our young people to appreciate our history deserve special notice on a day such as this. Steve Cure, the Director of the Educational Services Division of the Texas State Historical Association, is always found in the vanguard of such efforts, each and every day of the year. He and his staff are vitally concerned everyday with educating the young people of Texas about our heritage.

On the Road
It is therefore most fitting that this July 4th finds Steve Cure and T.S.H.A. staffer Kate O’Donnell (the association’s K-12 Program Coordinator) returning from Washington, D.C. as chaperones for a group of fifty young people, having just completed a two week historical tour of the eastern half of United States by charter bus. The theme of the excursion is "Old Stories New Voices 2010." During this trip, which was conducted in partnership with the Colorado Historical Society, Cure and O’Donnell, along with their Colorado colleagues, took their student participants on an extensive tour of Civil War battle sites from New Mexico to Pennsylvania, a trip that a number of people have followed daily in cyberspace by means of its blog site and on its facebook page. There is also a flickr site. This trip will undoubtedly provide a life-time of memories for the young people involved, some of whom might themselves be making future history during the coming decades of their adulthood, perhaps to be celebrated in turn on some Fourth of July to come.

Cure and his staff, however, by no means limit their educational activities to sponsoring once-in-a-lifetime historical trips for young people. Each year in its ongoing programs, the Educational Services Division of the Texas State Historical Association directly touches the lives of tens of thousands of young Texans living in every corner of the state. One its most successful programs is the annual Texas History Day, which constitutes the Lone Star State’s involvement in National History Day. The T.S.H.A. sponsors the Texas competition, which each year involves almost 50,0000 young Texans statewide. As students move up through local and regional history competitions of this program, over 1,000 of them eventually advance as participants to the state-level History Day contest held each May in Austin, with students winners there moving up to represent Texas at the National History Day each year in Washington, D.C. Over the years, Texas students have garnered many national awards and scholarships and are often recognized as top competitors. There are today hundreds of thousands of younger Texans from all levels of Texas History Day competitions who are alumni of this outstanding T.S.H.A. program.

Steve Cure and his staff also oversee the Junior Historians program. This is an extracurricular program on school campuses across the state for students in grades from four through twelve. Guided by school-approved teacher/sponsors, student members participate in chapter activities that enable them to discover and research history, both in the classroom and in the community. Cure and his staff publish a history journal especially for its members, “The Texas Historian.” Legendary Texas historian Walter P. Webb founded the Junior Historians way back in 1939 because he wanted students to get involved in the actual "doing of history." This unique organization has been active every year since then in numerous chapters across Texas.

The Junior Historian organization has a very special personal meaning for me because I was a member during my school days in San Antonio over fifty years ago. A memorable highlight of that time was a personal visit Dr. Webb (above left) made in the late 1950s to my chapter at Cambridge Elementary School, a day I still recall vividly. My involvement as a Junior Historian, seen from the retrospect of my adult years, was absolutely a major motivation for my long-standing interest in Texas history, an endeavor that has been my life’s occupation. I am sure that phalanxes of Texans from all walks of life and of all ages can join me in observing that being a Junior Historian awakened in them a permanent, lifetime appreciation for Texas history no matter what course they have since followed.

The Walter P. Webb Society, aptly named, is a collegiate level program across the state also operated by Cure and his educational staff. It actively promotes an appreciation for Texas history at dozens of colleges and universities, in the process holding two annual meetings each year in the fall and spring semesters respectively. College students come together at the Webb Society conferences to read papers that result from their own undergraduate research activities. As well, the Webb Society publishes the “Touchstone,” cosponsored by Lee College, which is one of this nation’s best and most lively all-student authored historical journals.

The Educational Services of the T.S.H.A. is also annually involved in various activities designed to assist teachers of Texas history across the state. History Awareness Workshops in years past have provided continuing educational activities for teachers. Steve Cure also regularly attends various history teacher conferences sponsored by the Texas State Teachers Association, where he presents workshops for teachers and speaks on Texas history. He routinely organizes Texas historians to join him in these activities, as I have had the pleasure of doing myself. His division also maintains on the T.S.H.A. website an array of lesson plans for teachers, each of which is keyed to the relevant TEKS on the subject, along with a Texas history quiz for classroom use.

The great southern writer Robert Penn Warren once observed: “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.” That is exactly what motivates Steve Cure and the Educational Services of Division of the Texas State Historical Association every day of the year. Our heritage as a state and a nation is priceless. So too is what Steve Cure and his associates at the T.S.H.A. do in order to advance that heritage. For me, knowing of their fine efforts helps to make any Fourth of July a very special day indeed.

Click Here for the T.S.H.A. Educational Services Web Page.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jerry Bywaters Special Collections at SMU

Back, l. to r. Emily Grubbs, Sam Ratcliffe, and Ellen Niewyk
Front, Light Cummins and Victoria Cummins

Over the last two years, my wife Victoria Cummins and I have spent considerable time doing historical research at the Bywaters Special Collections of the Hamon Arts Library at the Meadows School of the Arts on the campus of Southern Methodist University. We again spent the day immersed in its valuable collections of materials, which include the papers of Jerry Bywaters, E. G Eisenlohr, Velma and Otis Dozier, Octavio Medellin, Olin Travis, and other important Texas artists associated with the regionalist movement in the southwest during the twentieth century. In a related set of archival materials also touching on the fine arts, the Bywaters additionally holds the papers of the actress Greer Garson. The special collections archive carries the name of Dallas artist and arts administrator Jerry Bywaters, 1906-1989. He was a faculty member in the arts at SMU for many years while also serving as the long-time director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. The director of the Bywaters Collection is Dr. Sam DeShong Ratcliffe, who is an accomplished Texas historian and an expert on the art of the Southwest. Among his publications are two important books, Painting in Texas History to 1900, and Jerry Bywaters: Interpreter of the Southwest. Bywaters Curator Ellen Buie Niewyk has a BFA from the University of North Texas and an MFA from Southern Methodist University. Her recent book, Jerry Bywaters: Lone Star Printmaker, examines printmaking in the early years of the twentieth century and the role artist Jerry Bywaters played in that movement. She is also accomplished in the design of artistic jewelry. Emily George Grubbs is a more recent addition to the Bywaters staff, having received a BA degree from SMU in 2008. At present, she is researching an historical article on the art exhibitions at the Dallas Little Theatre during the regionalist era. The holdings of the Bywaters Collection are well-indexed by a computerized finding aid that is available in the reading room. The beautiful office suite and research room of the Collection displays an impressive group of paintings and statuary from the era during which Jerry Bywaters was active as an SMU faculty member.

Click here for the Bywaters Special Collections Web Site.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Old Voices New Stories

Steve Cure, Director of Educational Services for the Texas State Historical Association, will traveling for the next two weeks through over a dozen states with approximately 50 young people and a staff of teacher/chaperones as part of the "Old Voices New Stories" summer program. The Texas State Historical Association has been involved during recent years in a partnership with the Colorado Historical Society to provide history-related summer programming for young people. Last year, in 2009, "Old Voice New Stories" operated a summer camp at historic Fort Kavitt near Menard, Texas. This summer, they have taken to the road in a travelling entourage that will visit Civil War sites from New Mexico to Maryland, with stops enroute all across the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys as well as the deep South of interior Dixie. This ambitious effort is providing a unique activity that will make for life-time memories. This exciting trip will last until July 3rd, when the campers and staff will return to their homes.

There is a blogsite and a facebook page of the trip.
For the homepage of the Texas State Historical Association, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Humanities Texas Summer Teacher Institutes

Dr. Todd Kerstter speaks at the Teacher Institute, Fort Worth
Humanities Texas has been sponsoring summer teacher institutes for a number of years, in the process making a positive impact on the state and its educational system. Thanks to a generous appropriation from the Texas legislature and the "We the People Grant" from the National Endowment for the Humanities, this summer witnessed a greatly expanded program that encompassed six different institutes across the state in an effort to reach a previously unprecedented number of teachers. Institutes took place during June of this year at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M International at Laredo, the University of Houston, the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Texas Christian University. All of these institutes revolved around the common theme "Shaping the American Republic to 1877" with special reference on the 8th grade curriculum. Keynote speakers at various of these institutes included H. W. Brands, Peter Onuf, Alan Taylor, Gordon S. Wood, and Daniel Feller. Distinguished scholars who have recently published on the various historical topics of United States history rounded out each of the programs by talking on their areas of expertise. Each of these institutes lasted for three days, with sessions dealing with chronological and topical analyses. Presentations alternated between presenting recent historical interpretation and providing classroom strategies for improving teaching effectiveness. It was my pleasure to have participated in the Humanities Texas Institute held at Texas Christian University. Scholarly presenters included Frank de la Teja, Gene A. Smith, Theresa Gaul, Charles Flanagan, Alan Taylor, Albert S. Broussard, George Forgie, Stacy Fuller, Ken Stevens, Gregg Cantrell, and Rebecca Sharpless. TCU Professor Todd Kerstetter served as the coordinator of the Institute. Additional activities included guided tours of the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, The Fort Museum of Science and History, and the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Click Here for the Humanities Texas Website.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Visit to the Grace Museum in Abilene

The Grace Museum in Abilene is becoming a museum with a statewide impact to be classed as an equal to those in the largest metropolitan cities of Texas. The Grace houses three different but inter-related museums: an art museum, a children's museum, and a history museum. It is located in the fully restored and modernized 1909 Hotel Grace building, located across from the historic Texas and Pacific Railway Depot in downtown Abilene. The 55,000 square foot building is today the tenth largest general museum in Texas, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The first floor of The Grace Museum features an elegantly restored marble ballroom, a glass loggia, a large enclosed brick courtyard, and a restored lobby, showcasing the building's original architectural details and colors.

I visited the Grace Museum for two reasons: first, to see the fantastic new art exhibition "Drawing on the Past: Selections from the Bobbie and John Nau Collection of Texas Art." Organized by the Grace's Senior Curator Judy Deaton, this exhibit presents a sampling of paintings and works on paper selected as representative works from the total of almost 700 pieces of Texas art acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Nau of Houston. This exhibit includes highlights from that collection including paintings by dozens of notable Texas artists. "Because of the depth and breadth of the Naus’ collection, this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to examine the important visual dialogue between artist and artist across time," notes curator Judy Deaton, "There is a palpable directness, pride of place and drive to be authentic that transcends specific subject matter and style and reinforces the strength of each artist’s unique personal vision." This exhibit will remain in place until August 21, 2010.
Victoria Cummins Researching
at the Grace

The second reason for my visit to the Grace was to conduct historical research on a project that involves joint research with my wife Victoria H. Cummins. We are writing a biographical article on the life of Frances Battaile Fisk, who was an Abilene woman who worked very hard to advance the appreciation of Texas art from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was the wife of publisher Greenleaf Fisk, who published the Abilene "Times" newspaper. Mrs. Fisk was born in Georgetown, Texas in 1881. She attended Southwestern University before her marriage, thereafter teaching school before she turned her attention to newspaper writing. She became a correspondent to a number of Texas newspapers and became active as a member of various women's clubs, especially the Texas Federaton. In that capacity, she wrote a 1928 book entitled "A History of Texas Artists and Sculptors," which has today become a classic of early Texas art.

Click Here for the Grace Museum Website.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Over the last month, it has been a pleasure for me to have made several visits to the recently reopened Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, an established north Texas institution founded back in 1941. Over the decades, this museum has been a destination for thousands upon thousands of families and children because of its hands-on exibitions, its special programs, the ground-breaking OMNI theater, and its stellar museum school. In November of 2009, the museum debuted an entirely new 166,00 square foot facility designed by father and son architectual team Ricardo and Victor Legorreta of Mexico City. Richardo Legorreta has said of this new building: "For us, the goal was not only to create a building that reflects the family-friendly character of the Museum of Science and History, but also to make a building that attracts people to come inside." They have succeeded in doing so. I enjoyed the tour of the building given me by Dr. Gene A. Smith, who is the curator of history, in addition to his being a Professor of History at near-by Texas Christian University. The Enegry Blast, a multi-media show in four dimensions, is a new highlight of the museum as it uses a wide array of "Disney-like" techniques to give visitors an understanding of the science and history of the Barnett Shale which is currently transforming the north Texas economy. The success of such exhibits can be traced to the infuence of the museum's President, Van A. Romans, who previously worked with Disney Imagineering in additon to having an academic background in southern California. Earlier this spring, the Texas Museum Association gave the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History its coveted President's Award. "The Association is very proud to recognize the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History with the President’s Award,” said Texas Association of Museums Executive Director Ruth Ann Rugg. “Museum professionals across the state understand the tremendous vision, hard work, and precious time necessary to create such a spectacular educational facility."

Click Here for the website of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Day at the TCU Press

I recently spent a day at the TCU Press visiting with its staff, including Susan Perry and Melinda Esco. Susan is the press editor who worked with me on the publication of my recent biography of Emily Austin that appeared as part of the Texas Biography Series. This series is published by the TCU Press in cooperation with the Center for Texas Studies at TCU. Susan is an accomplished editor who also has an interest in art history. She reviews books for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram while she also hosts a book talk program on a Fort Worth television station. It was my pleasure to appear as a guest on Susan Petty's television program, "Books in Review," of which she is the host. It was a delightful experience during which Susan (seen above with me at the TV studio) gave me the chance to talk a good bit about the Emily Austin book while I also had an opportunity to discuss some of the background research for this biography. It was also fun to visit the press offices on the TCU campus. It was my pleasure there to spend some time with Melinda Esco, who is the production manager of the press. Melinda handles production for the press that includes working with designers and printers, archiving digital files, working with online repositories and vendors, and keeping the Web site up-to-date. The TCU Press brings out as many as a dozen books a year, mostly dealing with Texas history and the culture of the state. It also publishes books on Mexican history, women's studies, and literary criticism.

Click here for the TCU Press

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Press Release Today Announces New Texas State Archvist

AUSTIN, Texas - Peggy D. Rudd, director and librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, has announced the appointment of Jelain Chubb as director of the Archives and Information Services Division and Texas State Archivist. In her new position, Chubb (at left) will oversee the commission’s three public service areas: the Texas State Archives, the Reference and Information Center, and the Texas Family Heritage Research Center. As the State Archivist, she is responsible for ensuring that permanent records documenting Texas’ history as a colony, province, republic and state are preserved for future generations. She also is charged with leading efforts to expand public access to historical documents, photographs, maps and other materials and integrating primary source materials into educational curricula. Her strong background in electronic archives will prove an asset as the commission begins planning for digital archives.

Chubb joins the Texas State Library and Archives Commission after serving as State Archivist of Ohio for the Ohio Historical Society, based in Columbus. She also served as administrative archivist for the Missouri State Archives, and held positions with the Kansas State and South Carolina historical societies. A South Carolina native, she earned her bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the College of Charleston, and master’s degrees in library and information science and applied history with a specialization in archival administration, both from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. She is a certified archivist and records manager.

For the Website of the Texas State Archives and Library, click here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Book Talk on Emily Austin at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Earlier tonight I gave a book talk on "Emily Austin of Texas, 1795-1851" to over a hundred people who gathered in the Oak Room of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. This event was part of the museum's speakers series that presents historians and other social scientists who speak on matters of interest to the museum. I was the first person this year to talk on the theme of Texas History. Dr. Gene Smith, curator for history at the museum, introduced me. (seen at left.) It was my pleasure to talk about the life of Emily Austin, the sister of Stephen F. Austin. I was honored that Professor Gregg Cantrell of Texas Christian University, and the author of the definitive biography of Stephen F. Austin, was a member of the audience. Dr. Cantrell is also the editor of the Texas Biography Series of which my book is a part. My talk surveyed the life and career of Emily Austin. I highlighted her role as a typical plantation mistress while I also noted her atypicality as the heir to one of the largest landholdings in Texas, the estate of her brother to which she was the sole heir. As his heir, Emily managed a huge amount of land and participated in various business activities in concert with her husband James F. Perry. After my presentation, I also enjoyed autographing and inscribing several dozen copies of my book, as seen at the upper right.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Twenty-Third Texas History Forum at the DRT Library

Leslie Stapleton of the DRT Library, James Crisp, Gregg Cantrell, and Light Cummins

Yesterday I spoke at the Daughter’s of the Republic of Texas Library located on the grounds of the Alamo in San Antonio. The 23rd Annual Texas History Forum was the occasion. The theme for this year’s forum centered on historiography. As the introductory material for the event noted, “Historiography is the history of historical writing, specifically the history of how scholars have interpreted historical topics over time. In order to understand this, historiography also necessitates the study of why historians have chosen to examine and describe the past in particular ways.

Dr. Gregg Cantrell of Texas Christian University and Dr. Jim Crisp of North Carolina State University also spoke at the Forum. I spoke on “Telling the Story of Old-Time Texas: The History of Texas History” In so doing I provided an overview of Texas historiography and some of the assumptions that have shaped its interpretations over time. I also noted some of the attributes of sound historical writing. Dr. Cantrell related his experiences in researchin and writing his award-winning biography of Stephen F. Austin. He highlighted some of the historiographical decisions he had to make in crafting that biographical analysis of Austin. Dr Crisp continued the theme of historiography by analyzing some of the primary and secondary sources from the actual 1836 battle of the Alamo the speak to the matter of Davy Crockett’s death. This analsyis is based on his new book “How Did Davy Die? And Why Do We Care So Much?”

For a more detailed synopsis of the three presentations, see the website of the Daughter’s of the Republic of Texas Library: Click Here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Conversation with Phil Collins about the Alamo

Victoria Cummins, Phil Collins, Light Cummins

Earlier tonight British musician and rock star Phil Collins visited the Hall of State in Dallas where he talked about his long-standing interest in the Alamo. The Dallas Historical Society sponsored this event, which took place because Collins accepted an invitation to visit the Hall of State from Dallasite Lindalyn Adams. She is a former president of the historical society. Collins has been a friend of the Adams family for many years. DHS President Diane Bumpas presided at the event by introducing Collins. Angus Wynne joined Lindalyn Adams on the stage of the Margaret and Al Hill Lecture Hall for an entertaining, informative, and informal interview with Collins about his interest in the Alamo and its history. Collins noted that he has gravitated toward the Alamo story since his own youth in London. In recent decades, he has developed a deep interest in the Alamo and its history. In the process, he has amassed what may be the largest collection of Alamo artifacts, memorabilia, and documents currently in private hands. He has also just finished writing a book about the Alamo that will be published next year. DHS Executive Director Jack Bunning and board member Joe Dealey presented Collins with replicas of the New Orleans Greys and the Alamo battle flags in honor of his being at the Dallas Historical Society tonight. It was my good fortune to meet Phil Collins and have the opportunity to talk with him about our mutual interest in the Alamo and its history. I will be speaking later this month at the Texas History Forum to be held at the Alamo, so I especially appreciated many of Phil Collin's insights.

More about the Dallas Historical Society. Click Here

Pegasus news article about the event. Click Here

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sam Rayburn Library and Museum Marker Dedication

Image courtesy of North Texas E-News

Last night the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum received official historical landmark designation from the Texas Historical Commission in a formal ceremony that highlighted the acceptance of the marker. Bonham Mayor Roy Floyd served as master of ceremonies. Formal acceptance of the marker was made by Dr. Patrick Cox of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History of the University of Texas at Austin, the organization of which the Rayburn Library is a component part. Dr. Cox introduced guests and talked about the history of the Rayburn Library. It was my pleasure to speak about Roscoe DeWitt, the Dallas architect who designed the Rayburn Library building in 1954 and 1955. DeWitt was an accomplished architect whose work can be seen today all across the nation, especially in the north Texas area. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1914 and received his MA in architecture from Harvard in 1917. DeWitt designed Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, two Neiman Marcus stores (as well as Stanley Marcus’ home in 1937), St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida and several public housing projects in the Dallas area. Among numerous other projects, DeWitt participated in the restoration of the original Senate and Supreme Court chambers and the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Read the report of this event in the North Texas E-News