Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1880s

“Dallas Day” at the State Fair of Texas

state-fair_dallas-day_100956
Hey, Big D — don’t forget “Dallas Day”!

by Paula Bosse

“Dallas Day” used to be an important day at the State Fair of Texas. Like really important. Like national-holiday-important. Below is a typical mayoral proclamation announcing the sweeping closures of public and private businesses and institutions on “Dallas Day,” from 1899 (click to see a larger image; transcription follows):

1899_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101099Dallas Morning News, Oct. 10, 1899

THE GREAT TEXAS STATE FAIR

PROCLAMATION

Wednesday, Oct. 11, is hereby declared to be, and is to be, a full, free and public holiday within the corporate limits of our good city of Dallas, on account of Dallas Day at the Great Texas State Fair.

All business, public and private, the postoffice, the courts, the banks, and public schools, will close from Tuesday evening, Oct. 10, until Thursday morning, Oct. 12, to the end that all may turn out and have one full day’s benefit of this great educational institution.

Every employer in Dallas is charged to be loyal to this, our proclamation, for his own good, for the good of those he employs, for the good of their wives and families and of their sweethearts.

No loyal concern in Dallas will fail to observe this, our annual holiday, or fail to render to their employes every facility for observing it.

Every citizen of Dallas having in his possession a complimentary ticket to the Fair is hereby requested to keep his ticket in his pocket and to pay his way at the gate. Children in arms will be admitted to the Fair free. School children, accompanied by their teachers, at half price.

Done at Dallas this 9th day of October, 1899.

Signed:
John H. Traylor, Mayor

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For decades, it was expected that most Dallas businesses and government offices would close on “Dallas Day.” The central business district must have been a ghost town. Woe be to anyone needing a new frock, a replacement gasket, a bank draft, or even a postage stamp on “Dallas Day.” The city had bigger fish they wanted its citizens to fry.

1906_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101806Oct. 18, 1906

Here’s an early “Dallas Day” ad from 1889 with pointing fingers:

1889_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_101489Oct. 14, 1889

The State Fair of Texas was (and continues to be) so filled with other ubiquitous “days” (such as old favorites “Hard Money Day” and “Chrysanthemum Day,” as seen in the ad below from 1895) that if Dallas weren’t Dallas, “Dallas Day” might run the risk of getting lost in the jam-packed fair schedule.

1895_dallas-day_sfot_dmn_102495Oct. 24, 1895

There were, of course, “Dallas Day” parades:

parade_state-fair_dallas-day_come-to-dallas_degolyer_SMU_ca1905ca. 1905, via DeGolyer Library, SMU

“Dallas Day” may still be a thing, for all I know (I guess I think of “Dallas Day” as the day Dallas’ elementary school kids get off to go to the fair, a tradition I hope never dies), but it had lost a lot of steam after those early days. Some businesses continued to close or shorten their hours to let employees enjoy the fair, but the era of a city shutting down so that everyone could flock to the State Fair began to fade after those early decades of the 20th century. But imagine how exciting that must have been, with all of Dallas descending on Fair Park en masse.

state-fair_dallas-day_101056Oct. 10, 1956

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

State Fair of Texas, Miscellaneous Tidbits from Its History

state-fair-of-texas_pennant_ebay_crop

by Paula Bosse

The State Fair of Texas is, once again, in full swing. Here are a few random SFOT images and ads from the past.

First up, an ad for the very first state fair in Dallas, in 1886. Almost unbelievably, this “Dallas State Fair” (held on 80 acres of land now known as Fair Park) was one of two competing state fairs held in the city that year — the other one was the “Texas State Fair,” which was held about three miles northeast of the courthouse on a 100-acre site roughly about where Cole Park is near present-day North Dallas High School. The two state fairs ran concurrently, and both were smash hits. The “Dallas State Fair and Exposition” eventually became the State Fair of Texas in 1904. Below are the ads for those competing two fairs. (Click to see a larger image.)

state-fair_first_dallas-herald_100986
The East Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 9, 1886

texas-state-fair_fairland_dallas-herald_102086
The North Dallas fair, Dallas Herald, Oct. 20, 1886

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One of the original buildings built for the 1886 Dallas State Fair was the massive Exposition Building, designed by architect James Flanders. On a site devoted to the career of Flanders, the architect recalled this project many years later: “The progress of the work on the structure was watched by most people with a degree of curiosity far more intense than is excited by the loftiest skyscraper in these days when people have no time to wonder. Such an apparition on the bald prairie attracted crowds of the curious from far and near on Sundays.”

state-fair_exposition-bldg_ca-1890s

Above, the huge Exposition Hall, enlarged from its initial design, which, in 1886 was reported to contain 92,000 square feet of unrivaled exhibition space. Unfortunately, the wooden buildings seen above burned to the ground in the early hours of July 20, 1902. The blaze was so intense that “the whole of the city was lit up with the brilliancy of the sunrise” and that “flames rose to such great height that they were seen as far west as Fort Worth, where it was thought the whole city of Dallas was burning” (Dallas Morning News, July 21, 1902). More on this building can be found on the Watermelon Kid site, here.

Below, the Exposition Building can be seen from the fairgrounds racetrack in a photo published in 1900 in an issue of The Bohemian magazine (via the Fort Worth Public Library).

fairgrounds_racetrack_bohemian_1900_fwpl

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A moment from the opening day parade festivities of the 1903 fair is captured in the photo below, with the following caption from the 1941-42 edition of the Texas Almanac: “Gov. S. W. T. Lanham (in rear seat of pioneer horseless carriage) in opening day parade for 1903 State Fair of Texas formed on Main Street. Fair President C. A. Keating was seated beside him, and Secretary John G. Hunter of Board of Trade is seen standing beside the gasoline buggy.”

state-fair_opening-day_1903_tx-almanac_1941-42_portal
Main Street, looking west, via Portal to Texas History

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Here is a 1911 view of the state fair midway taken by John R. Minor, Jr. in a real-photo postcard. (More on Mr. Minor is here; more images of the Shoot the Chutes water ride can be found here.)

state-fair_street-scene_john-minor_1911_cook-colln_degolyer
via George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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From the 1920s, an ad for Clayco Red Ball gasoline (“It’s RED in color”). I’m always a sucker for ads containing photos or drawings of Dallas landmarks, and here we see the entrance to Fair Park. (Why was the gas red? Why not? It was the brainchild of Dallas advertising man Wilson W. Crook, Sr. who needed a way to make this Oklahoma gas different. He remembered that during his WWI days in France that higher quality airplane fuel was colored red to distinguish it from regular gasoline. When the gas was introduced to Dallas in August, 1924, he devised a promotion that gave away 5 gallons of this gas to every red-headed person who showed up at participating service stations.)

ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224-det

ad-red-ball-gas_state-fair_dmn_101224Clayco Red Ball ad, Oct. 1924

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If we’re talking about the State Fair of Texas and we’ve come to the 1930s, there’s a pretty good chance there’s going to be a photo from the Texas Centennial. And, looky here: a nice shot of concessionaires waiting for thirsty patrons at the Centennial Exposition in 1936. A couple of nickels could get you a Coke and a phone call.

sfot_concessionaires_coke_unt_portal_1936via Portal to Texas History

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During World War II the State Fair was on hiatus. Here’s an ad from the 1941-42 Texas Almanac pre-closure, with a nice pencil sketch of the Esplanade and Hall of State:

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42

state-fair_tx-almanac_1941-42_det

And a 1946 magazine cover story on the imminent reopening of the fair:

state-fair_texas-week-mag_100446_portal_cover
via Portal to Texas History

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In 1956 Big Tex warned/assured you that the Esplanade lights would “knock your eyes out.”

state-fair_big-tex-ad_092456

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Speaking of Big Tex and lights knocking your eyes out, in the 1960s Big Tex was memorialized on the side of a downtown building, like a giant bow-legged Lite-Brite.

sfot_big-tex_illuminated_1960s

Back at Fair Park, Huey P. Nash was supplying fair throngs with barbecue from his Little Bob’s Bar-B-Q stand. In 1964, Nash was the first African-American vendor to be granted a food concession at the State Fair. Little Bob’s (which I believe is still in business) was, at the time of this 1967 ad, located in South Dallas at 4203 S. Oakland (now Malcom X), at the corner of Pine. (Ad is from the 1967 Souvenir Program of the 74th Annual Session of the Missionary Baptist General Convention of Texas; more photos from this publication can be seen here.)

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_1967_photo

sfot_little-bobs-bbq_baptist-convention-program_oct-1967

The 1960s also gave us the Swiss Skyride, which replaced the Monorail (which, when it was introduced in 1956, was the first commercially operated monorail in the United States). The Swiss Skyride was erected in Fair Park in August, 1964, and the 6-minute ride debuted a few months later at the 1964 State Fair of Texas.

state-fair_swiss-sky-ride_tinkle-key-to-dallas_1965_replaced-monorail_
via Lon Tinkle’s children’s book Key to Dallas (1965)

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_101864

sfot_swiss-skyride_FWST_100964

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state-fair-of-texas_pennant_ebay_crop_sm

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Valentine’s Day from 1883

valentines_dal-herald_021483

by Paula Bosse

There was a lot going on around Dallas on Valentine’s Day in 1883. Here’s a round-up from The Dallas Herald, started off with the immortal pearl, “This is St. Valentine’s Day when people send tokens of love and sarcasm.”

valentines-day_dallas-herald_021483

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Sources & Notes

Clipping from the Feb. 14, 1883 edition of The Dallas Herald, courtesy of UNT’s Portal to Texas History. The scanned page may be found here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The State Fair of Texas Over the Decades

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebaySFOT midway, 1961… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The history of the State Fair of Texas is also the history of Dallas — if you live in Dallas, you know a lot about the fair, if only by osmosis. Here are a few images from the decades since the fair began in 1886.

Below, from 1889, a sedate advertisement for the Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition (from The Immigrant’s Guide to Texas, 1889). (All images are larger when clicked.)

state-fair_imm-gd_1889

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A great-looking poster from 1890, colorful and exciting:

sfot_poster_1890

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A midway in its infancy, in the aughts. (I wrote about the “The Chute” water ride, here.)

shoot-the-chute_postcard_ca-1906

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Here’s a group photo showing the food vendors at the 1910 fair. No corny dogs in 1910, but plenty of candy, peanuts, popcorn, ice cream, and, sure, why not, cigars and tobacco.

state-fair-concessionaires_1910_cook-colln_degolyervia George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

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In the 1920s, Fair Park looked a lot smaller:

fair-park_mcafee_degolyer_SMU_ca-1920s
via George A. McAfee Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

Here’s a handy 1922 map of the grounds, from the fine folks at Caterpillar (don’t miss those tractors!) — you can see where the people in the photo above are walking.

state-fair-map_caterpillar_ad_1922

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If it’s 1936, it’s gotta be the Texas Centennial — and here’s an exhibit I’d never heard of: Jerusalem, The Holy City. This was one of many exhibits at the Texas Centennial previously seen at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where it apparently had attracted more than one million visitors. In the weeks leading up to the Centennial’s opening, it was described thusly: “The Holy City will contain a collection of religious artworks and other material. The entrance will represent the Damascus gate of Jerusalem. No admission will be charged but donations will be asked visitors” (Dallas Morning News, May 17, 1936).

tx-centennial_jerusalem-the-holy-city_postcard

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The State Fair of Texas was not held during much of World War II, but it was back in 1946, with Tommy Dorsey, Gypsy Rose Lee, and Jackie Gleason.

state-fair_sept-1946_ad-cow
Sept., 1946

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Neiman-Marcus was at-the-ready in 1950 with suggestions on stylish footwear for ladies wanting to trudge around the Fair Park midway in heels.

For the Million-Dollar Midway — For taking in this famous “main drag” of the State Fair — get into our famous-maker midway heel shoes. Most everybody — after walking a block or two in them — says they’re worth a million! Have all the comfort of low heels, plus the high-heel’s way of making your ankles look prettier.

sfot-neiman-marcus_ad_101650October, 1950

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The 1960s were certainly colorful, and this is a great color photo from 1961 (currently available on eBay as a 35mm Kodachrome slide) — it’s the photo at the top of this post, but in order to cut down on unnecessary scrolling, I’ll slide it in again right here:

state-fair-of-tx_midway_kodachrome_1961_ebay

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The 1970s was a weird decade, and what better way to start off a weird decade than with 80-something-year-old oil tycoon (and eccentric Dallas resident) H. L. Hunt handing out cosmetics at a booth at the State Fair? Hunt — whom Frank X. Tolbert described as “probably the world’s only billionaire health freak” — manufactured a line of cosmetics and other products containing aloe vera, the wonder elixir. Imagine seeing the world’s richest man handing out plastic goodie-bags to awe-struck passersby. Like I said, weird.

h-l-hunt_state-fair_1971

hunt_state-fair_pomona-progress-bulletin_CA_111471Pomona (CA) Progress-Bulletin, Nov. 14, 1971 (click to read)

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And, finally, the 1980s. A century after the State Fair of Texas began, the X-Men came to Big D to do whatever it is they do — and The Dallas Times Herald got a cool little advertising supplement out of it. (If this appeals to you, check out when Captain Marvel came to Dallas in 1944, here, and when Spider-Man came to Dallas in 1983, here.)

sfot_xmen_comic-book_1983

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Sources & Notes

Sources (if known) are noted.

All images are larger when clicked.

I wrote a similar State-Fair-of-Texas-through-the-ages post a few years ago: “So Sorry, Bill, But Albert Is Taking Me to the State Fair of Texas,” here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Ice Factory

dallas-ice-factory_dallas-observer_ebayIce… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Lordy, it was hot today. At one point I looked at my phone and it told me it was 112° (but thanks to the chill factor, it felt like a refreshing 110°). It’s 10:00 p.m. and it’s 100°. That’s too many degrees.

Above is a photo of a horse-drawn Dallas Ice Factory wagon and its driver. There was probably ice in there.

Here’s an ad from 1888 showing the factory:

dallas-ice-factory_1888-directory1888 Dallas directory

Here’s an ad from 1894 not showing the factory:

dallas-ice-factory_1894-directory1894 Dallas directory

Here’s a link to an 1899 Sanborn map showing you where the Dallas Ice Factory was located (in Old East Dallas, at Swiss and Hall): link.

That’s about all I can muster. It’s too dang hot.

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Sources & Notes

Photo from a 2011 eBay listing, reproduced in The Dallas Observer by Robert Wilonsky; now owned by Peter Kurilecz.

Ads from Dallas directories.

Heat from the sun.

And here’s an ice-factory-related post I actually did some work on, when I wasn’t feeling like a sweaty, limp dishrag (…a long, long time ago…): “Oak Lawn Ice & Fuel Co.”

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Oak Cliff: “A City Set On a Hill Cannot Be Hid” — 1887

oak-cliff_railway-over-trinity_dallas-herald_122987Next stop: The Cliff… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Below is an article (which reads like a real estate ad) from the December 29, 1887 edition of The Dallas Herald, rhapsodizing about the wonders of Oak Cliff, the brand new development springing up across the Trinity River, not yet part of Dallas. According to the ad article, “the Cliff” was quickly becoming a bedroom community for neighboring Big City Dallas, which was apparently bursting at the seams with newly-arrived residents looking for someplace to live. Accompanying this paean were six drawings (in varying degrees of artistic accomplishment), including an interesting, if hard-to-read, map of Oak Cliff at the time (all images are larger when clicked). Here is a transcription of the Dallas Herald article (which can be seen in its original layout on the Portal to Texas History website, here).

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OAK CLIFF

STILL BOOMING IN SPITE OF THE BAD WEATHER

The Iron Bridge Will Soon be Completed and the Transportation Problem forever Settled

(Dallas Herald, Dec. 29, 1887)

Oak Cliff was born of natural advantages and abundant enterprise. Mother Dallas has a dozen sprightly children but in the face of all of them, Oak Cliff walks off with the schnap. There is some talk of moving Dallas over to the Cliff, but the city council will not do it. It would not be a good thing. “A city set on a hill cannot be hid.”

oak-cliff_boaters_dallas-herald_122987

We don’t intend to say that Dallas is hid. The Cliff dwellers look down upon her as an open page every day. People from all sections of the state and county have turned both eyes toward Dallas, and her prominence is rapidly increasing. The growth of her population is marvelous. There are at least 2,000 recent arrivals living in tents around the city waiting for houses. Between three and five hundred of these are at Oak Cliff. It is certainly not necessary to add that the constantly increasing prominence and growth of Dallas rendered it necessary to cross the river and find desirable and delightful homes for the people. For a solution of this problem the reader is referred to the above illustration. 

oak-cliff_immigrating_dallas-herald_122987

The dummy engine brought from the Crescent City for that purpose could not pull the people. So a new larger engine was brought on to try the track and haul the folks. From the court-house to Tenth street station there is one unbroken line of excellent track, except the break at the temporary bridge over the Trinity’s channel. The iron bridge is on the ground, the huge pillars are up and the material all ready for the one missing link, which will soon be completed.

The splendid pike leading from Commerce street west is the wagon way to Oak Cliff. This is macadamized from the bridge to Grand Avenue which is a fine graded and macadamized street running entirely through the heart of the new city. Limestone in blocks about a foot square is laid first upon the well graded street and this is finished off with a filling of excellent gravel, almost a foot deep. Leaving the Lancaster road near the bluff, you turn right and follow Grand avenue more than a mile without encountering enough mud to bog a mosquito. Of course other streets, fifty of them, have been graded also. So much for TRANSPORTATION. Good roads of both kinds to the city.

oak-cliff_grand-avenue_dallas-herald_122987

Now we are over there. The first thing we find its altitude. As Col. Oliver, editor of the Oak Cliff Weekly puts it, “we are much nearer heaven.” We feel better. Next we find beautiful scenery all around us for almost a weekday’s journey. The circle around us is broad and grand. We find pleasant groves, enchanting jungles, quiet retreats, hoary rocks, delightful springs and then the lake.

The water tower and school house are not hard to find. No city in the state has better. (School begins January 1st.)

oak-cliff_public-school-bldg_dallas-herald_122987

A nobby little station after the Japanese plan of architecture, is found where each street crosses the railway. Scores of laborers are seen at work on the streets, and the saw and hammer keep up a terrible racket. There are thirteen homes now going up and as many more under contract. Scarcely a day passes without sales by the Dallas Land & Loan Co., as the lists of “Real Estate Transfers” attest. $200,000 will cover the real estate sales of most Texas towns of 5,000 people and under for six months or a year. Oak Cliff has sold that much in six weeks, and began virtually without any population at all. There has been more public improvement at Oak Cliff within the past three months than in the entire city of Dallas, or any city or town in Texas. This is a strong statement but it is backed by the figures. It is true. This improvement has been made by private capital too. It cannot stop now – it does not have to. But it is safe to say it does not wish to.

With such lovely places for home, school privileges, quick and cheap transportation to the city, highly improved streets and an abundance of as pure water as there is in Texas, the investors in Oak Cliff stock need not wait long for their bread to float back to them. But the point of chief interest has not been touched yet. THESE PLEASANT, HEALTHFUL, CONVENIENT PLACES TO LIVE ARE OFFERED AT REASONABLE PRICES. It takes more than most mortals possess to buy a 25 x 75 foot lot of black mud in other places and nothing is left to buy lumber or build a house. You do not need a fortune to get you a home at the Cliff, and you get a lot 100 x 250 or larger, in some instances. Of course you have no city tax to pay. Property will never be lower than it is now. The completion of the iron bridge will be sure to raise the value of lots. (–Dallas Herald, December 29, 1887)

oak-cliff_map_dallas-herald_122987

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Sources & Notes

Text and drawings from the pages of The Dallas Herald, Dec. 29, 1887; the original page layout can be viewed on UNT’s Portal to Texas History site here.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on the early days of Oak Cliff:

  • “Oak Cliff, The Beautiful Suburb — 1888,” here
  • “The Marsalis House: One of Oak Cliff’s ‘Most Conspicuous Architectural Landmarks,'” here
  • “Thomas Marsalis’ Spectacular Oak Cliff Hotel: 1890-1945,” here
  • “Oak Cliff Wants YOU! — 1890,” here
  • “Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church, Organized 1890,” here
  • “‘Oak Cliff Is To Dallas What Brooklyn Is To New York’ — 1891,” here
  • “The St. Joseph Orphanage — 1891,” here

General posts on Oak Cliff/West Dallas can be found here.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

R. S. Munger’s Cotton Gin Manufactory

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1889-dallas-directory_detElm & Trunk, the early years (detail of an ad from 1889)…

by Paula Bosse

When R. S. Munger moved to Dallas from Mexia around 1885, even he probably had no idea how revolutionary his patented inventions would become to the world of agriculture — he had several patents, but his “improved” cotton gin was hailed as the most significant advance in cotton ginning since Eli Whitney’s original invention. Munger had been producing his equipment for a while in Mexia, but he knew that in order for his company to grow, he would have to move to a larger city, one served by the all-important railroad. He arrived in 1885 and moved into an existing “East Dallas” building owned by the wealthy banker (and former cotton farmer…) William H. Gaston (who later became an officer of the company).

The following article appeared in an 1885 edition of the Dallas Herald. It is bulging with superlatives and grand statements which actually weren’t exaggerations: because of Munger’s relocation to Dallas and his products’ massive success, the city became a national hub of agricultural machinery manufacturing. This had a huge impact on Dallas’ economic development, and the unnamed writer of this article deserves credit for his prescient words. (Click to see larger image.)

munger_to-dallas_dallas-weekly-herald_052885Dallas Weekly Herald, May 28, 1885

Another article describes just what Munger’s “improvements” were and also has a description of his factory — the heart of which was a 25 horsepower engine (a quick Google search tells me that 25hp is the size of a standard outboard motor engine).

munger_dmn_092886
Dallas Morning News, Sept. 28, 1886

A very early want-ad:

munger_dmn_072886_very-early-ad
DMN, July 28, 1886

(You can read about Mr. Munger’s career accomplishments in A History of Greater Dallas, published in 1909, here, and in the Handbook of Texas entry here.)

munger-r-s_find-a-graveR. S. Munger (1854-1923)

Fast-forward to today: the factory which Munger began in Dallas in the 1880s is somehow still standing and is known by most as the Continental Gin Building.

Here are a few very early ads of Munger’s cotton-gin-manufacturing empire, from city directories (the illustrated ads are full-page, which even in 1886 cost a pretty penny).

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1886-dallas-directory_listingDallas city directory, 1886

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1886-dallas-directory_aDallas city directory, 1886

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1886-dallas-directory_bDallas city directory, 1886

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1888-dallas-directory_listingDallas city directory, 1888

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1889-dallas-directoryDallas city directory, 1889

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Sources & Notes

Photo of Robert Sylvester Munger from Find-a-Grave.

All other sources noted.

An aerial view of the complex of former Continental Gin Co. buildings can be seen via Google here.

More on the Continental Gin Company can be found in these Flashback Dallas posts:

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thanksgiving in Dallas — 1883

thanksgiving-greeting

by Paula Bosse

Below, a recap of Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, 1883. “Family dinings and wineings were the order of the day.” And more food. And lots more convivial tippling. And young people escaping from the family for buggy rides out to Eagle Ford with friends. …Not so different from today. Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving_dallas-herald_120683

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Sources & Notes

Newspaper article from the Dallas Weekly Herald, Dec. 6, 1883.

Vintage postcard from the blog 19th-Century Wellington.

Other Flashback Dallas posts on Thanksgiving can be found here.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Oak Cliff, The Beautiful Suburb — 1888

oak-cliff_1888_degolyer_SMU_illus_lgOak Cliff, early days… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The above view of Oak Cliff is taken from an 1888 broadside advertising land opportunities in Dallas’ most beautiful, healthful, and picturesque suburb. The text:

OAK CLIFF

This beautiful suburb of Dallas is situated on the south side of the river, on a chain of hills from 200 to 250 feet above and overlooking the city, and about three-fourths of a mile from the MERCHANTS’ EXCHANGE, being from any part of it within ten to twenty minutes’ walk from the business center, or eight to fifteen minutes’ drive, or five to ten minutes’ ride by the suburban cars, which run all the time from the court house, from 6 o’clock in the morning to 11 o’clock at night. Fare, five cents.

Oak Cliff has a first-class water works system, furnishing clear, pure spring water; good schools; broad, macadamized avenues and streets; lovely lakes and parks (from the pavilion, surrounding towns can be seen). Owing to its great altitude and topographical formation, perfect drainage is insured, and it is unexcelled in the Southwest as a healthful and picturesque residence site and educational center. 

Its superior accessibility to business, makes it the most desirable portion of the city to live in for the citizen of Dallas, whether he be poor, rich or of moderate means.

Within the past seven months, residences approximating in value one million dollars, costing from $1,000 to $45,000 each, have been built and contracted for in this popular suburb. A few choice lots remain unsold, and persons desiring a site for a home on easy terms will please call on or address

DALLAS LAND & LOAN COMPANY
Knepfly Building
Dallas, Texas, October 1, 1888

oak-cliff_1888_degolyer_SMU_typog

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Sources & Notes

Images taken from a promotional broadside, which may be seen in full in a downloadable PDF here, from the collection of Texas Promotional Materials held by the DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University.

This drawing is similar to another Oak Cliff promotional piece (also from SMU’s vast collections) which I wrote about in the post “Thomas Marsalis’ Spectacular Oak Cliff Hotel: 1890-1945,” here.

Top image is much larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 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):

mosquito-bar_dallas-herald_080285_sanger-bros-ad-det
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).

mosquito-bar_sanger-bros-ad-det_dallas-herald_073177
Dallas Herald, July 31, 1877

mosquito-bar_sanger-bros-ad-det_dallas-herald_051478
Dallas Herald, May 14, 1878

mosquito-bar_screens_dallas-herald_052482_sanger-bros-ad-det
Dallas Herald, May 24, 1882

mosquito-bars_southern-mercury_070390Southern Mercury, July 3, 1890

screens_dallas-screen-co_1894
1894

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).

mosquito-netting

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.

mosquito-bar_dmn_100110_kerosene
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.

mosquito-bar_dallas-herald_052481_fire
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):

mosquito-bar_dmn_091088_theft
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_1924Terrill School yearbook, 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.

mosquito-bar_town-talk_alexandria-LA_022210_deadly-dispute
Town Talk (Alexandria, LA), Feb. 22, 1910

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mosquito-bar_dmn_052812_couplet
DMN, May 28, 1912

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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 additional photographs and illustrations).

Most ads and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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