Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1870s

Texlite, Borich, Pegasus


by Paula Bosse

Texlite. If you’re a lover of all-things-Dallas, you should know that name. Texlite made many, many, many, many, MANY enamel, electric, and neon signs, including, most famously, the rotating Flying Red Horse — Pegasus — which arrived in Dallas in 1934 to sit atop the city’s tallest building, the Magnolia Petroleum Building, serving as a beacon, a landmark, and as a sort of city mascot.

Texlite’s  roots went back to 1879 when Italian immigrant Peter Samuel Borich (1849-1932) arrived in Dallas. His obituary noted that he was a graduate of the Royal Italian Naval School and that he served in the Italian Merchant Marine before he arrived in Dallas, where he established the Borich Sign Co. A very early location of his shop is said to have been on the current site of the Magnolia Building (and Pegasus), on Sycamore Street (now Akard). (See the post “19th-Century Sign-Painting and Real-Estating” for more about this location.) He appears to have been the go-to sign-painter for decades and was a very successful businessman.

The Borich company eventually branched out (and eventually became Texlite, a separate entitity) to become a pioneer in electric and neon signs: in 1926 Texlite built and sold the first neon sign west of the Mississippi, in St. Louis (their first neon sign in Dallas was a sign for the Zinke shoe repair store (1809 Main) which depicted an animated hammer tapping on a shoe heel). 

The Borich sign company focused on painted or printed signs while Texlite handled the electric signs. P. S. Borich retired in the 1920s and moved to Los Angeles after the death of his wife. The last time the Borich company name appeared in the Dallas directory was 1930 (when it looks like it became United Advertising Corporation of Texas, owned by Harold H. Wineburgh, who was also a Texlite partner/owner). 

During World War II, Texlite, like many manufacturers, jumped into war-production work, making airplane and ship parts; during the Korean War they made bomber fuselages. 

I don’t know when Texlite went out of business (or was acquired and merged into another company). As successful as Texlite was (and it was incredibly successful), what more important achievement could it have had than to have been the maker of our iconic Pegasus? 


Here are a few random images from the Borich/Texlite history. First, a great ad from 1949, when Pegasus was a fresh 15-year-old. “It’s Time For a Spring Sign Cleaning.” (Click to see a larger image.)

texlite_feb-1949-ad1949 ad

And another ad, this one with a wonderful photo, from 1954.

texlite_pegasus_ad_ca-1954_heather-david_flickr1954 ad, via Flickr

In 1949 Texlite built a huge new factory in an industrial area near Love Field, at 3305 Manor Way. Below is the architectural rendering. The caption: “New home of Texlite, Inc. is being completed at 3305 Manor Way at a total of $1,000,000. The new, two-story plant, providing 114,000 square feet of factory and office space, will provide facilities for trebling Texlite’s output. Grayson Gill is the architect, and O’Rourke Construction Company are the general contractors.” (Dallas magazine, Feb. 1949)


Below, the previous factory, located at 2900 Factory Street, also near Love Field:


I assume this 1940 sign was made by Texlite. Below are a couple of details, showing playful hints of Pegasus.


texlite-sign_1940_det-2via Mecum Auctions

I wondered where Factory Street was — here it is on a 1952 map — it looks like it was absorbed into a growing Love Field.

texlite_factory-st_mapsco-19521952 Mapsco

One of Texlite’s many theater clients was the Palace Theatre for whom they designed and installed a new electric sign in January, 1929 (at which time, by the way, the theater’s name was “officially” changed — however briefly — to the Greater Palace; the theater was renovated and enlarged, with a new emphasis on the Elm Street entrance rather than the entrance on Pacific). 

texlite_palace_jan-1929Jan., 1929

Going back a couple of years, with the separate companies sharing ad space in the 1927 city directory:

borich-texlite_dallas-directory_19271927 Dallas directory

And a photo of the Texlite building circa 1930:

texlite_DPL_ca-1930Dallas Public Library

The first ad I found which had both the “Borich” and “Texlite” names together was this one from 1923 for the Cloud-George Co., a women’s clothing boutique (1705 Elm) run by the somewhat notorious Miss A. B. Cloud.

texlite_borich-sign_sept-1923Sept., 1923

The company occupied several locations over the years — the location in 1902 can be seen here, at the right, looking west on Pacific (from the Flashback Dallas post “Views from a Passing Train — 1902”).

edmunds_pacific-bryan_free-lib-phil_19021902, via Free Library of Philadelphia

borich_dallas-directory_1902Dallas directory, 1902

P. S. Borich’s sign-painting wasn’t restricted only to businesses — he was also regularly retained by the city to paint street signs.

borich_dmn_080686Dallas Herald, Aug. 6, 1886

And, below, the earliest ad I could find — from 1879, the year Borich arrived in Dallas. (Thanks to this ad, I can now add “calsomining” to my vocabulary.)

borich_nortons-union-intelligencer_110179Norton’s Union Intelligencer, Nov. 1, 1879


Here’s an interesting little bonus: a Pegasus “mini-me” in Billings, Montana, created with help from the Pegasus experts in Dallas (click for larger image).

texlite_pegasus-in-montana_billings-MT-gazette_052255Billings Gazette, May 22, 1955


Sources & Notes

Top image is a detail from a 1949 ad found in the Feb., 1949 issue of Dallas, the magazine published by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

Photo showing the exterior of the Texlite building circa 1930 is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library, Call Number PA87-1/19-59-36.

Check out another Texlite sign which I wrote about in the Flashback Dallas post “Neon Refreshment: The Giant Dr Pepper Sign.”

I’m always excited to see places I write about show up in old film footage. Watch a short (20-second) silent clip of Texlite workers striking in June, 1951 at the 3305 Manor Way location in WBAP-Channel 5 footage here (the workers were on strike in a wage dispute — more info is in the news script here); film and script from the KXAS-NBC 5 News Collection, University of North Texas, via the Portal to Texas History.

The company made tons of signs and exteriors for movie theaters around the country, including the Lakewood Theater (whose sign was recently re-neonized!).

Thank you, Signor Borich!



Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Viewing the 1878 Solar Eclipse in North Texas

Waiting… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today there will be a solar eclipse, best viewed in Chile and Argentina. On July 29, 1878, there was also a solar eclipse — that one was fully visible in the United States, and the best place to observe it in Texas was Fort Worth. As seen in the photo above, interest in the event was high. A party of academics from Harvard and other institutions set up on the property of S. W. Lomax of Fort Worth. They were joined by Alfred Freeman, a photographer from Dallas who was a successful portrait photographer and who also sold his photographs of special events (such as this one of a 4th of July parade and this one of a Mardi Gras parade in Dallas) — he no doubt sold reproductions of his eclipse photos taken on July 29th. (He is not identified in this photo, but the man on the far left may be him. Freeman is a pretty interesting person, and I hope to write about him soon.)

Here are a few magnified details.





Read several lengthy articles on the preparation for the viewing and the description of the eclipse itself in these contemporary articles (they may not be easily viewable on mobile devices):


Sources & Notes

Top photo is titled “Total Solar Eclipse in Fort Worth (1878)”, from the collection of Tarrant County College Northeast and can be found on the Portal to Texas History, here.

Newspapers linked above are also via the fabulous Portal to Texas History.


Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Bird’s-Eye View of Dallas by Herman Brosius — 1872

brosius_1872-detDetail of H. Brosius’ view of Dallas, 1872… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This lithographed map, drawn by Herman Brosius (1851-1917), shows a bird’s-eye view of Dallas in 1872, when it was teetering on the brink of the explosive growth which came with the arrival of the railroads, and it is one of my favorite maps of the city. Every little detail (including the one above, showing Mrs. Cockrell’s famed Commerce Street toll bridge spanning the Trinity), is cool. I’ve referred to this map when reading about events of this period, and it helps to get an idea of the logistics of the city. (Wikimedia Commons has a really, really large image of this map (7,674 × 5,590 pixels, 11.85 MB!) which can be viewed (and downloaded) here; the file was scanned from a lithograph belonging to The Dallas Historical Society.)

The full view

The drawing was, apparently, pretty accurate (if somewhat idealized). According to a short editorial comment in the Dec. 28, 1872 edition of The Dallas Herald:

[The view by Mr. Brosius] shows every house in the corporation limits, together with every street, so accurately drawn that any one acquainted at all with the city can recognize any building.

Which is pretty amazing. Milwaukee native Brosius (who was only 21 years old when this map was drawn) specialized in these views; after completing one, he (or an agent) would canvass a city seeking “subscribers” in order to gather enough money to print an edition of high-quality lithographs. (An article in a Wisconsin newspaper in 1882 stated that the subscribers for the Eau Claire, Wisconsin view paid $2.50 each, about $60.00 in today’s money.) The Herald editorial exhorted Dallasites to subscribe — not only was Brosius’ work aesthetically pleasing, but “[t]he ‘view’ will be one of the best advertisements that our city could send abroad to induce persons to locate among us.”

The subscribers came through, and I’m pretty sure that most who have pored over this map — as I certainly have — have been delighted and enthralled.


There are helpful references at the bottom of the map which identify buildings.






Dallas Herald, Dec. 28, 1872 (click to see larger image)


Sources & Notes

“A Bird’s Eye View of the City of Dallas, Texas” (1872) by H. Brosius has been scanned at a very high resolution and is free to view and download at Wikimedia Commons, here (click on the map to see a much larger image). This historic bird’s-eye view is from the collection of The Dallas Historical Society.

The “Bird’s-Eye View of Dallas” article is from The Dallas Herald, Dec. 28, 1872. Read the article as it appeared on the page of the scanned newspaper at UNT’s Portal to Texas History website, here.

Read about Herman Brosius — with more information about his view of Dallas —  in an Amon Carter Museum article, here; the museum has a fantastic full site devoted to “Texas Bird’s-Eye Views” — with views of 60 Texas cities (SIXTY!!) — here (click “Browse” at the top of the page).

All images are larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Mosquito Bar

sargent_mosquito-nets_1908Relax without fear of being bitten by mosquitoes…

by Paula Bosse

The “mosquito bar” — the human’s defense against blood-thirsty mosquitoes (and other annoying pests) — had its heyday in the US in the second half of the 19th century and the first couple of decades of the 20th century, before screens for windows and doors were commonplace in American homes. They were particularly necessary in the hot and sweaty Southern US states which were routinely plagued with mosquitoes. A typical mosquito bar ad looked like this one from Dallas merchants Sanger Bros. (click ads and clippings to see larger images):

Dallas Herald, Aug. 2, 1885

(According to the Inflation Calculator, $1.00 in 1885 money would be worth about $27.00 in today’s money, adjusted for inflation.)

The first Dallas ad I found for mosquito bars was from 1877 — like the clipping above, it is also from a Sanger Bros. ad (in fact, Sanger’s seemed to be mosquito-bar-central for 19th-century Dallas).

Dallas Herald, July 31, 1877

Dallas Herald, May 14, 1878

Dallas Herald, May 24, 1882

mosquito-bars_southern-mercury_070390Southern Mercury, July 3, 1890


Mosquito bars were usually draped over beds, canopy-style, but the painting above (“Mosquito Nets” by John Singer Sargent, 1908) shows “personal” net-covered armatures, perfect for genteel ladies to relax inside of and read (while trying to keep cool despite being weighed down by what must have been uncomfortably heavy clothing).

The mesh netting or fine muslin used to drape beds (and cover windows and doors) was generally white or pink, sometimes green. Once inside the canopied beds, the netting was tucked under the mattress in order to seal all potential entry points in the mesh-walled fortress and allow the thankful occupants inside to sleep unmolested by mosquitoes (or other biting and stinging insects).


These bars became fairly standard in hotels and in many homes of the time, but if one could not afford the luxury of sleeping inside one of these things, the sleeper would often resort to rubbing him- or herself with kerosene if they wished to avoid being bitten throughout the night.

Dallas Morning News, Oct. 1, 1910

As much of a godsend as the bars were, they had their problems. The fine material was easily torn, and sometimes the mesh was so tightly knit that ventilation (and breathing!) was not optimal. Also, it was not unusual for them to catch fire — there are numerous newspaper reports of the bars being ignited by candles or gas-burning lamps or by careless or sleepy smokers smoking inside the canopy.

Dallas Herald, May 24, 1881

It was apparently a common precaution against midnight thievery for men who stayed in hotels to keep their money in the pockets of their pants and then fold the pants and place them beneath their pillows. The second line of defense was the mosquito netting tucked resolutely under the mattress of their canopied beds. The feeling was that a burglar would have to be pretty stealthy to breech a man’s mosquito bar and steal his pants from under his pillow without waking him. But never underestimate the Big City burglar (click article to see a larger image):

DMN, Sept. 10, 1888

After doors and windows began to be routinely covered with wire screens, the use of mosquito bars in homes and hotels waned, but their use continued in military encampments and hospitals, in recreational camping, and in swampy or tropical areas where the transmission of diseases like malaria and Dengue fever (transmitted by mosquitoes) posed health risks. Wire screens must have been a godsend.

ad-acme-screen-co_terrill-yrbk_1924Acme Screen Co., 1924

And if you don’t think that the prospect of a night without a mosquito bar (especially in the bayous of Louisiana…) wouldn’t inflame usually calmer heads, here’s a news story from 1910 about a man who shot a co-worker three times at close range because of a heated argument over which of them owned a mosquito bar. And this was in February! Lordy. Talk about your crime of passion. The moral of this story: do not mess with another man’s mosquito bar.

Town Talk (Alexandria, LA), Feb. 22, 1910


DMN, May 28, 1912


Sources & Notes

The top painting by John Singer Sargent — titled “Mosquito Nets” (1908) — is from the Detroit Institute of Arts; more on the painting can be found here.

Photo of draped bed is from the “Mosquito Net” Wikipedia page, here.

Other clippings and ads as noted. Dallas Herald and Southern Mercury newspaper scans are part of the huge database of scanned historical Texas newspapers found at the Portal to Texas History (to see newspapers, click this link and filter by “Counties,” “Decades,” “Years,” etc. on the left side of the page, or search by keywords at the top).

This post was adapted from a post I wrote for my other (non-Dallas) blog, High Shrink — that post, “The Mosquito Bar,” can be found here (it includes some great additional photographs and illustrations).


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Dallas In the French Parliament” — 1876-77


by Paula Bosse

Today is Bastille Day — seems right to post something about the “French Colonists” of La Réunion. One of the leaders of the French and Swiss immigrants who settled briefly — and ultimately unsuccessfully — on the western banks of the Trinity in the mid-1850s was François Jean Cantegral, “President” of the colony and one of the Directors of the Franco-American Company. Cantegral arrived in Texas about 1855 with hopes of establishing a successful utopian community, but the land, the climate, and the lack of experienced farmers in the group led to its fairly quick demise. Some of the European colonists settled permanently in the young town of Dallas, some scattered to other parts of the United States, and several — including Monsieur Cantegral — returned to their homelands.

Cantegral returned to Paris where, according to an 1876 article in the Dallas Herald, in a mission to participate in the reform and political liberation of France, he served three terms as an “alderman of Paris” and was elected to the French Chamber of Deputies, serving in the French Parliament. In 1877, Cantegral — who apparently had warm feelings toward Dallas and its citizens — sent to the city an early edition of a newly issued map of Paris. On its presentation before the mayor and the city council, it was noted that, in following in the footsteps of his fellow countrymen LaSalle and Lafayette, the members of the French Colony at Réunion “joined hands in efforts to plant the seed of French civilization, French chivalry and French hospitality, alongside and in conjunction with their American brethren in the wilds of Texas” (quoted in The Dallas Daily Herald, March 21, 1877 — see full article below).

It was noted that while living in the colony, Cantegral’s son, Simon Charles Cantegral, was born on March 2, 1856 — Texas Independence Day. He seemed quite proud of that. The map was presented in the names of Cantegral père and Cantegral fils. I wonder if that Paris map given to the City of Dallas in March, 1877 is still somewhere in the city archives?

Merci, François. Liberté, égalité, fraternité, from those of us back here in the wilds of Texas!

(Click articles to see larger images.)

Dallas Herald, May 5, 1876

Dallas Herald, March 21, 1877


Sources & Notes

Top image from The Dallas Morning News, April 26, 1903.

The two articles are from the Texas Digital Newspaper collection of the University of North Texas, via their Portal to Texas History. The collection contains thousands of issues of the Dallas Herald (not to be confused with the 20th-century Dallas Times Herald); it’s hard to stop reading them because they are so unbelievably fascinating — set aside a few hours and browse the Herald collection (1855-1887) here.

Yes, Cantegral Street was named after Mssr. Cantegral. The May 5, 1876 article above makes mention of the street:

Three years ago a beautiful street in Dallas, that running east of Floyd street Church and west of the Baptist College, was named in his honor and will remain a perpetual memorial of him in this town.

More on the La Reunion colony can be found in other Flashback Dallas posts here.

Click articles to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Police Blotter — Drunks, Vagrants, Adulterers


by Paula Bosse

Today, a few snippets from the police and court reports about Dallas people doing things they shouldn’t have been doing. (All clippings are larger when clicked.)


Drunkenness seems to have been the most common reason for arrest in the 1870s and 1880s (and probably still is today). The city “popped it to” a lot of people back in the 1880s.

drunk_dal-herald_021483Dallas Herald, Feb. 14, 1883

A “crazy boy” from Collin County eluded lawmen by running off into the Cedars (back when the area we still call “The Cedars” was actually full of cedar trees).

cedars_dallas-herald_042178Dallas Herald, April 21, 1878

A 14-year-old vagrant was given the scared-straight treatment. (Click for larger image.)

blotter_dallas-notes_FW-morning-register_021601“Dallas Notes” section in The Fort Worth Register, Feb. 16, 1901

But the real jackpot for the city looks like it might have been in ferreting out adulterers and violators of the Sunday Law (which in the 1880s usually meant selling alcohol on a Sunday, although it was a violation to operate any business or place of amusement on a Sunday).

In the adultery case below — in which the cheating couple was actually living together outside the bounds of legally-sanctioned wedlock — both parties were fined: the woman’s fine was a surprisingly high $100 (in today’s money about $2,500!), but the man’s fine was — let me find a chair — an unbelievably exorbitant $500 (equivalent today to over $12,000!!). And those who pooh-poohed the Sunday Law took an equally incredible hit. Sunday Law scofflaws such as Mr. R. F. Eisenlohr (who ran a respected market and pharmacy) (and who was the father of noted artist E. G. Eisenlohr) were punished with more than slaps on the wrists — in 1880, they were getting “popped” to the tune of five hundred bucks. (These fines seem excessive. Perhaps because they’re cases brought by the state rather than the city or county? I know that at this time the state was hell-bent on enforcing the Sunday Law because, basically, it was being flagrantly disregarded everywhere, so I’m wondering if a fine this steep was meant to send a message to others. But the adultery fine still seems outrageously high.)

courts_dallas-herald_022580Dallas Herald, Feb. 25, 1880

And sometimes crime beat reporters (and enterprising undertakers) have something of a slow day and can just kick back and ponder.

corpse_dal-herald_020982Dallas Herald, Feb. 9, 1882


Sources & Notes

Top photo is from Flickr — as I recall, it is not a Texas jail — it might be one in Missouri. As I understand it, the 19th-century Dallas cell most drunks and vagrants would have been thrown into was nowhere near as luxurious as the one seen in this photo. More on that to come.

Interested in what those court fines of yesteryear would be equivalent to in today’s money? Check out the handy-dandy Inflation Calculator, here.

See the previous police blotter round-up — “Police Blotter — 1880s” — here.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Volunteer Fire Department’s Early Days

sanger-bros_fire-department_dmn_030836aPumping water from an underground cistern (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Dallas was constantly catching on fire in its early days. According to this very informative advertisement, Alex Sanger was one of the Dallas businessmen responsible for organizing the city’s first volunteer fire department. Interestingly, the Sanger Bros. department store also had a volunteer fire department which not only protected the store, but also served as a special unit of the Dallas Volunteer Fire Brigade.

The drawing above and the text below are from a 1936 Sanger Bros. advertisement. (Click to see larger images.)



Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Eisenlohr Family and Dallas’ First Christmas Tree — 1874

eisenlohr_1885_ebayThe Eisenlohr Market Drug Store, 1885 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

According to the memories of Dallas artist E. G. Eisenlohr (1872-1961), his German-born parents brought the first decorated Christmas tree to Dallas in 1874 (or, according to a version of the story published a few years later, 1876). There had been Christmas trees in Dallas before this, but the Eisenlohrs’ tree may have been the first tree — or one of the first — to be brought inside and decorated with tinsel and ornaments.

According to E. G. Eisenlohr’s Christmas memories which appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 1, 1935:

The candles, holders and tinsel for that first Christmas tree in the village of Dallas in 1874 was ordered from the East. For days my mother baked cookies in the shapes of stars, ships, [and] boots [using] hand-carved molds, some more than 100 years old, that illustrated folk tales…. For days before Christmas Eve the children had been locked out of the room where Kris Kringle was decorating the tree and permitted to enter only after our parents played their Christmas concert and appeared at the window in answer to the cheers from the crowd in the streets. There may have been other trees in the village before we had ours but I have not heard of any and many persons said ours was the first here. I believe we had the first tinsel and glass decorations, for many persons told me later that their parents had told them of the decorated trees back in their old homes before they came to Texas.

eisenlohr-store_degolyer-lib_SMUThe store, ca. 1875-1880 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

But what kind of tree was it? According to Kenneth Foree’s 1946 News article about the Eisenlohr tree, it was “a beautiful cedar tree (cut from an Akard and Young thicket by moonlight when the children were asleep” (DMN, Dec. 24, 1946).

Eisenlohr’s father, Rudolph F. Eisenlohr, owned the Market Drug Store (seen above), which was at the southwest corner of Main and Field (the current view of that corner can be seen here, via Google Street View, and the 1885 Sanborn map of that block can be found here.) The family lived upstairs. Imagine that first decorated tree — actually inside someone’s home! — lit with candles in one of those upper windows, attracting a crowd of people below who had never before seen such a sight in the little village of Dallas.

eisenlohr_photoR. F. Eisenlohr (1846-1933)

The Dallas Herald, Feb. 18, 1877

Dallas city directory, 1878

Norton’s Union Intelligencer, Oct. 23, 1883


Sources & Notes

More on this tree can be found in these three Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Christmas of ’74 Featured by First Yule Tree in City — Intended for Eisenlohr Children, but Served for All of Youngsters ” (DMN, Oct. 1, 1935)
  • “Happy Citizens of the Little Town of Dallas Saw Their First Glass and Tinsel Ornaments in 1876 on a Tree Which Glittered Through the Eisenlohrs’ Window Upstairs Over Their Drug Store” (…that is one crazy-long headline…) by Mattie Lou Frye (DMN, Dec. 18, 1932)
  • “First Tree” (crazy-short headline…) by Kenneth Foree (DMN, Dec. 24, 1946)

Photo of the Eisenlohr store found on eBay.

More on artist E. G. Eisenlohr here and here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Mardi Gras: “Our First Attempt at a Carnival Fete” — 1876

mardi-gras_dhs_1876When cotton was Rex (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In the 1870s, if a Dallas resident wanted to celebrate the glitzy revelry of Mardi Gras with a parade and balls and didn’t want to travel all the way to New Orleans, the place to go was Galveston. Galveston had a lock on Texas Mardi Gras galas. But Dallas being Dallas, there were soon plans to stage a massive Carnival right here. The day-long celebration debuted on February 24, 1876, which, oddly, was on a Thursday. (Mardi Gras that year was actually on Tuesday, Feb. 29, and it was probably celebrated early in Dallas so as not to interfere with the hey-we-got-here-first celebrations in New Orleans and Galveston.)

It was estimated that the festivities cost the city more than $20,000 (which, if the Inflation Calculator is to be believed, would be the equivalent of almost $450,000 in today’s money). The city was cleaned up in preparation for the anticipated onslaught of visitors and was decorated with flags and bunting along the lengthy parade route of Main, Elm, and Commerce streets. Revelers had elaborate costumes made for the processions and the grand masked balls, some with fabric imported for the occasion from France

mardi-gras_dal-herald_021876Dallas Herald, Feb. 18, 1876 (not 1676!)

The Dallas Herald and The Dallas Commercial were incessant in their whipping up of excitement for the big day. And it worked. People streamed into town from all over Texas. Hotels were packed, and it was estimated that over 20,000 spectators watched one or both of the day’s parades.

The following day, The Dallas Herald apparently devoted their entire front page to coverage of the event, under this wordy headline:

A Day in Dallas, Our First Attempt at a Carnival Fete. The City Aglow with Enthusiasm and Wild with Rollicking Revelry. Visit of King Momus — His Cordial Reception by the People — The Procession in His Honor. The Season of Merry-Making Brought to a Happy Close with Balls and Bouts — Well Done, Dallas!

(Sadly, this issue is not available online, perhaps because there were none found to scan as it sold out more than five editions and was probably the paper’s best-selling edition to-date.)

Dallas’ first Mardi Gras had been an unqualified triumph, and newspaper editors and city leaders were beside themselves with joy. The parade — and the city — had been covered enthusiastically and favorably by newspapers around the country, and the success of the huge celebration was seen as having been better advertising for the exuberant and growing city than could ever have been hoped.

Galveston? Pffft!


A few tidbits from that first Mardi Gras.

There were very few “incidents” reported surrounding the festivities. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of incidents that occurred that day, just that not a lot of them found their way into the newspapers (apparently whiskey was free-flowing all day long, and one suspects there were “incidents” aplenty connected with that). Among the very few non-“jolly” things that happened on Carnival Day and the day following included the following:

  • A small boy had been run over by a carriage (“but not dangerously hurt”)
  • A child and a horse had been burned severely when a can of gasoline was thrown into a bonfire “to increase the flame”
  • A member of the Stonewall Greys who had participated in the noontime parade had fallen whilst “foolishly scuffling” and had “received a slight but painful wound from a bayonet”

Also, there was some sort of “fireball discharged from a rocket” which caused some consternation:

fireball_dal-herald_022676Dallas Herald, Feb. 26, 1876


All residences and businesses along the parade route during the evening procession were “commanded” to be illuminated. Even if gasoline-fueled bonfires were raging along the parade route, the elaborate procession was probably poorly lit.


My favorite “float” was the huge wagon of lumber meant to draw attention to East Texas timber and the thriving lumber industry in Dallas. One report said “the immense moving forest of pine” was drawn by “32 yoke of oxen” — another said “nearly 100 Texan steers.” Whatever it was, that must have been spectacular to see.

oxen-team_dal-herald_022676Dallas Herald, Feb. 26, 1876


The massive amount of publicity and praise that Dallas received quite clearly irked other cities. Austin seemed especially perturbed. There had been a small outbreak of smallpox in McKinney preceding the big day, and several digs at Dallas (like the one below) appeared in newspapers around Texas, accusing the city’s leaders of knowingly endangering the welfare of the entire state just so they could put on their little parade. The exaggerated furor passed fairly quickly, and the het-up schadenfreude expressed by rival cities was amusing.

small-pox_austin-weekly-standard_031676Austin Weekly Standard, Mar. 16, 1876


An invitation issued by the Mystic Revellers:


mardi-gras_mystic-revellers_1876_envelope_memphis-public-libraryColton Greene Collection, Memphis Public Libraries


The photo at the top shows the parade wagons representing the brand new Dallas Cotton Exchange (which seems to have been organized the previous month). As described in The Galveston Daily News, the Cotton Exchange’s offering “represent[ed] King Cotton enthroned on six bales of cotton, with numerous subjects appropriately costumed, and occupying two cars” (Feb. 25, 1876). Below are a couple of magnified details of the photo. I’m not sure, but it looks as if the horse and rider in the foreground are covered with cotton. Like tarring and feathering … but fun … and with cotton. The King of Cotton is surrounded by what look like henchmen. The masked man on the right in the elaborate costume is both cool and kind of creepy. (Click both photos for larger images.)




Sources & Notes

Top photo appeared in the book Historic Photos of Dallas by Michael V. Hazel (Nashville: Turner Publishing Co., 2006); photo from the Dallas Historical Society.

Newspaper clippings as noted.

To read the coverage of Dallas’ Mardi Gras parades and balls —  “a grand pageant and general jollification” — see the front page of The Galveston Daily News (Feb. 25, 1876), here (third column, top of page — zoom controls are on the left side of page).

I wrote a previous post called “Mardi  Gras Parade in Dallas — ca. 1876” which features a photograph which might be from this first Mardi Gras. That post and photo can be seen here.

Happy Mardi Gras!

mully-graw_dal-herald_022476Dallas Herald, Feb. 24, 1876

Photos larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

You Know What They Say: Big Feet, Big Cigars — 1877

ad-ben-loeb-cigars_dallas-herald_070777“Go to Ben Loeb’s” — 1877 advertisement

by Paula Bosse

Not your typical advertising cut. Wonder if ol’ Ben paid a local artist a handful of cigars in exchange for this great eye-catching art?

An early subliminal ad?


Ad from The Dallas Herald, July 7, 1877.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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