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