Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1880s

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.

 

When the Circus Came to Town — 1886

cole-circus_dallas-herald_101586-detI’m exhausted just looking at this…. (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

W. W. Cole brought his unbelievably jam-packed circus to Dallas at the end of October, 1886. That would have been big news all on its own, but also going on at the exact same time were two fairs. TWO! (This was when Dallas had competing state fairs battling each other across town.) I’m not sure how people handled all that entertainment. Circus attendance alone was reported at more than 16,000 for the Dallas engagement. That’s a lot.

One thing the Cole organization knew about was the power of adjectives. I can’t even begin to take apart this ad, so run your eyeballs over the intense, pop-eyed text and imagine what frontier Dallasites thought. Sit back and enjoy the “vast transcendental splendor” that was W. W. Cole’s extravaganza. (Click to see a larger image.)

ad_cole-circus_dallas-herald_101586Dallas Herald, Oct. 15, 1886

The circus appeared in Austin a few days later. This ad is also great.

cole-circus_austin-weekly-statesman_101486
Austin Weekly Statesman, Oct. 14, 1886

coles-circus_dmn_102486
Dallas Morning News, Oct. 24, 1886

circus_fairs_dallas-herald_102586
Dallas Herald, Oct. 25, 1886

The review:

coles-circus_dmn_102686
DMN, Oct. 26, 1886

Not everyone was impressed:

circus_dallas-herald_102686
Dallas Herald, Oct. 26, 1886

And then there was this weird little story. (I think the ending was tacked on by the writer as a joke. …I think.)

circus_somnambulist_dallas-herald_102686
Dallas Herald, Oct. 26, 1886

After all that excitement, it was probably a relief when the circus left town!

coles-circus-in-austin_dmn_110186DMN, Nov. 1, 1886

cole-circus_austin-weekly-statesman_101486_det

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Sources & Notes

W. W. Cole’s Circus lasted forever — up until, apparently, last year! More here.

I’m never sure how much weight to give to the estimates of the Inflation Calculator, but when you plug the numbers into it, a dollar ticket for adults and a fifty-cent ticket for children would today equal somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-five and thirteen bucks, respectively. That can’t be right, can it? You can’t argue that there was a lot going on in those French waterproof tents, but I can’t imagine people forking over that much when penny-candy was considered extravagant! But apparently 16,000 people happily forked! (W. W. Cole died a very, very, very wealthy man: when he shuffled off his moral coil in 1915, he left an estate of more than five million dollars — or, per the Inflation Calculator, more than 120 million dollars in today’s money.)

Click clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Dallas Rapid Transit, Est. 1888

dallas-rapid-transit_cyclone_cook-coll_degolyer_smu-detRide the Cyclone to Fair Park… (click for larger image) 

by Paula Bosse

The Dallas Rapid Transit Railway chugged into town in 1888, going from charter to operation in seven months. And that included laying their own track. The “dummy” steam engine (a locomotive designed to appear more like a friendly little streetcar and less like a hulking locomotive) seen above, carried passengers from the Windsor Hotel at Commerce and Austin through South Dallas (via S. Lamar and Forest Ave., now MLK Blvd.) to Fair Park. It started business just in time to ferry crowds to the State Fair. The fare was 20 cents, which seems pricey, but this might have been “surge” pricing charged only during the “Greatest Fair and Exposition in the World.” (According to the Inflation Calculator, 20¢ in 1888 would be the equivalent to more than $5 in today’s money.)

ad_dallas-rapid_dmn_101488
Dallas Morning News, Oct. 14, 1888

The new street railway was particularly appreciated by developers looking to sell land in southern Dallas, still considered a “suburb” in the 1880s. Residential streetcar service was essential to prospective builders and buyers, and as soon as the Rapid Transit line was up and running, its name was popping up in South Dallas real estate ads for additions with names like Chestnut Hill, Edgewood, and South Park.

chestnut-hill_edgewood_dmn_031689
DMN, March 16, 1889

In March of 1890 — after a year and a half of steady growth — the Dallas Rapid Transit Railway went electric, tossing out their old steam-powered cars (not even 18 months old!) for brand new, ultra-modern cars powered by electricity. (For a bit of perspective, parts of the country were still relying on the really old-fashioned mule-drawn streetcars.) Dallas’ first electric-powered streetcar hit the rails on March 9, 1890.

dallas-rapid_dmn_031090_electric
DMN, March 10, 1890

Understandably, the sight of these newfangled streetcars was quite the topic of fascinated conversation. How exactly did they work, anyway? The Dallas Morning News published an article with helpful information for the Dallasites of 1890 (and 2016!). (Click to see larger image.)

dallas-rapid_dmn_032390_electric
DMN, March 23, 1890

The photo below (which appears in the great book McKinney Avenue Trolleys) is a staged publicity photo with a woman at the helm, showing that the new electric streetcar was so easy to operate that “even a woman” could do it. In tow behind the sparkling new electric streetcar was the old, past-it steam car, with its engineer racing to try to catch up with the new technology. Get with it, man, it’s 1890!

dallas-rapid-transit-railway_mckinney-ave-trolleys-bk_towing-dummySouthern Traction, April 10, 1973 (via McKinney Avenue Trolleys)

dallas-rapid-transit-railway_mckinney-ave-trolleys-bk_dplDallas Public Library photo (via McKinney Avenue Trolleys)

Initially, the track was only 4 miles long, but that had more than doubled soon after the switch to electric cars.

dallas-rapid-transit_dmn_100190
DMN, Oct. 1, 1890

Things seemed to be going well. The company was expanding, speeds were increasing, and … “No dust” !

dallas-rapid_dmn_102791
DMN, Oct. 27, 1891

But … in 1894 the company went into receivership and was sold in December of that year for $35,000.

dallas-rapid_dmn_120594
DMN, Dec. 5, 1894

It appears that the company struggled on under different owners and slightly different names through at least 1909, but instead of those twilight years being filled with reflective contemplation and bass fishing, they were spent mired in endless lawsuits.

But let’s not dwell on the sputtering end of a business — let’s look back to the beginning, when the H. K. Porter Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was proud to show off its new light locomotive with the noiseless steam motor which was headed, full of hope and enthusiasm, for the little city that could, Dallas, Texas.

dallas-rapid-transit_cyclone_cook-coll_degolyer_smu

dallas-rapid_dmn_032288
DMN, March 22, 1888

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DMN, Sept. 10, 1888

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The steam-powered Cyclone — seen at the top — went on an adventure through the streets of downtown in 1889 when, under a full head of steam, it jumped the tracks and kept on going down paved streets until it crashed into a curb on Main!

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DMN, April 30, 1889

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Sources & Notes

Image at the top (and bottom), “Dallas Rapid Transit, ‘Cyclone’ Locomotive No. 1,” from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; more information here.

Read an interview with J. E. Henderson, president of the Dallas Transit Railway company, commenting on his new street railway (“The New Rapid Transit,” DMN, Oct. 14, 1884) here (yes, it IS difficult to read!).

The two photos of Dallas Rapid Transit electric streetcars are from the book McKinney Avenue Trolleys by Jim Cumbie, Judy Smith Hearst, and Phillip E. Cobb (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2011). If you’re interested in this topic, this book seems pretty essential!

The history of early streetcars in Dallas can be read in the  pages of the WPA Dallas Guide and History here (scroll to the bottom of the page and continue to the following page).

Photos and clippings are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Belmont & Greenville: From Caruth Farmland to Hub of Lower Greenville

hockaday-campus_aerialHockaday campus — Greenville Ave. at the right (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

If you’ve driven down lower Greenville Avenue lately, you’re probably aware that the buildings that most recently housed a retirement home at the northwest corner of Belmont and Greenville were scheduled to be been torn down. When I drove past that intersection a few weeks ago and saw the entire block leveled, I was shocked. It’s weird suddenly not seeing buildings you’ve seen your entire life. It got me to wondering what had been on that block before. I’d heard that Hockaday had occupied that block for several years, but even though I’d grown up not too far away, I’d only learned of that within the past few years. When I looked into this block’s history, the most surprising thing about it is that it has passed through so few owners’ hands over the past 140 or so years.

As far as I can tell, the first owner or this land was Walter Caruth (1826-1897), a pioneer merchant and farmer who arrived in this area in the 1840s (some sources say the 1850s), along with his brother, William. Over the years the brothers amassed an absolutely staggering amount of land — thousands and thousands of acres which stretched from about Inwood Road to White Rock Lake, and Ross Avenue up to Forest Lane. One of Walter Caruth’s tracts of land consisted of about 900 acres along the eastern edge of the city — this parcel of land included the 8 or 9 acres which is now the block bounded by Greenville, Belmont, Summit, and Richard, and it was where he built his country home (he also had a residence downtown). The magnificent Caruth house was called Bosque Bonita. Here is a picture of it, several years after the Caruths had moved out (the swimming pool was added later).

caruth_bosque-bonita_dallas-rediscovered

Most sources estimate that the house was built around 1885 (although a 1939 newspaper article stated that one of Walter’s children was born in this house in 1876…), but it wasn’t until 1890 that it began to be mentioned in the society pages, most often as the site of lavish parties. (Click pictures and  articles to see larger images.)

bosque-bonita_dmn_020390Dallas  Morning News, Feb. 3, 1890

At the time, the Caruth house was one of the few buildings in this area — and it was surrounded by endless acres of corn and cotton crops. It wasn’t long, though, before Dallas development was on the march eastward and northward. This ad, for the new Belmont Addition, appeared in April of 1890, and it mentioned the Caruth place as a distinguished neighboring landmark.

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DMN, April 16, 1890

By the turn of the century — after Caruth’s death in 1897 — it was inevitable that this part of town (which was not yet fully incorporated into the City of Dallas) would soon be dotted with homes and businesses.

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DMN, Sept. 27, 1903

At one time the Caruth family owned land in and around Dallas which would be worth the equivalent of billions of dollars in today’s money. After Walter Caruth’s death, the Caruth family became embroiled in years of litigation, arguing over what land belonged to which part of the family. I‘m not sure when Walter Caruth’s land around his “farmhouse” began to be sold off, but by 1917, the Hardin School for Boys (established in 1910) moved into Bosque Bonita and set up shop. It operated at this location for two years. The Caruth house even appears in an ad.

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DMN, July 15, 1917

I’m not sure if the Hardin School owned the land or was merely leasing it and the house, but in 1919, Ela Hockaday announced that she had purchased the land and planned to move her school — Miss Hockaday’s School for Girls (est. 1913) — to this block and build on it a two-story brick school building, a swimming pool (seen in the photo above), tennis courts, basketball courts, hockey fields, and quarters for staff and girls from out of town who boarded.

hockaday_dmn_051119DMN, May 11, 1919

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DMN, July 6, 1919

Ground was broken in July of 1919, and the first session at the new campus began on schedule in September. Below, the building under construction. Greenville Avenue is just out of frame to the right.

hockaday_greenville_construction_hockaday100Photo: Hockaday 100

hockaday_greenville-ave_1919_reminiscences

hockaday_greenville-belmont_1920s_horses

The most interesting thing I read about the Hockaday school occupying this block is that very soon after opening, the beautiful Caruth house was moved from its original location at the northwest corner of Belmont and Greenville. It was rolled on logs to the middle and back of the property. “Bosque Bonita” became “Trent House.” Former student (and later teacher) Genevieve Hudson remembered the moving of the house in an oral history contained in the book Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas:

caruth-house_hockaday_reminiscences-bk

You can see the new location of the house in the top aerial photo, and in this one:

hockaday_aerial_dplDallas Public Library

Another interesting little tidbit was mentioned in a 1947 Dallas Morning News article: Caruth’s old hitching post was still on the property — “on Greenville Avenue 100 feet north of the Belmont corner” (DMN, May 2, 1947). I’d love to have seen that.

After 42 years of sustained growth at the Greenville Avenue location (and five years after the passing of Miss Hockaday), the prestigious Hockaday School moved to its current location in North Dallas just after Thanksgiving, 1961. Suddenly, a large and very desirable tract of land between Vickery Place and the M Streets was available to be developed. Neighbors feared the worst: high-rise apartments.

The developer proposed a “low-rise,” “semi-luxury” (?) group of four 5-story apartment buildings, each designed to accommodate specific tenants: one for swinging singles (“where the Patricia Stevens models live”), one for single or married adults, one for families with children, and one for “sedate and reserved adults.” It was to be called … “Hockaday Village.” The architect was A. Warren Morey, the man who went on to design the cool Holiday Inn on Central and, surprisingly, Texas Stadium.

Bosque Bonita — and all of the other school buildings — bit the dust in preparation for the apartment’s construction. Hockaday Village (…what would Miss Hockaday have thought of that name?) opened at the end of 1964.

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Oct., 1964

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Oct., 1964

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March, 1965

And then before you knew it, it was the ’70s, the era of waterbeds and shag carpeting. (Miss Hockaday would not have tolerated such tackiness, and I seriously doubt that Mr. Caruth would have ever understood why shag carpeting was something anyone would actually want.)

hockaday-village_dmn_052271_waterbeds
1971

Then, in 1973, the insistently hip ads stopped. In April, 1974 this appeared:

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 28, 1974

The apartments were being offered for public auction by the “Office of Property Disposition” of the Federal Housing Authority and HUD. Doesn’t sound good. So who bit and took the plunge? The First Baptist Church of Dallas, that’s who. The plan was to redevelop the existing apartments into a retirement community called The Criswell Towers, to be named after Dr. W. A. Criswell. But a mere three months later, the Baptists realized they had bitten off more than they could chew — the price to convert the property into a “home for the aged” would be “astronomical.” They let the building go and took a loss of $135,000. It went back on the auction block.

Two years later, in the summer of 1976 … the old Hockaday Village became Belmont Towers — and the new owners must have thought the Baptists’ idea was a good one, because Belmont Towers advertised itself as “mature adult living at its finest” — “perfect for retired or semi-retired individuals.”

hockaday-village_dmn_043083_belmont-towers
April, 1983

It was Belmont Towers for 20-or-so years. In 1998, the buildings were renovated and updated, and it re-opened as Vickery Towers, still a retirement home and assisted living facility. A couple of years ago it was announced that the buildings would be demolished and a new development would be constructed in its place. It took forever for the 52-year-old complex to finally be put out of its misery since that announcement. Those buildings had been there my entire life and, like I said, it was a shock to see nothing at all in that block a few weeks ago.

vickery-towers_050516_danny-linn-photoPhoto: Danny Linn

In the 140-or-so years since Walter Caruth acquired this land in the 1870s or 1880s, it has been occupied by Caruth’s grand house, a boys school, the Hockaday School, and four buildings which have been apartments and a retirement community. And that’s it. That’s pretty unusual for development-crazy Dallas. I’ll miss those familiar old buildings. I hope that whatever is coming to replace them won’t be too bad.

greenville-belmont_bing_aerial
Bing Maps

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Sources & Notes

The top aerial photograph is from the Vickery Place neighborhood website, here. Belmont is the street running diagonally at the left, and Greenville is the street running diagonally at the right. I’m not sure of the date, but the Hockaday Junior College (which I had never heard of before) can be seen at the northwest corner of Belmont and Greenville — the original location of Bosque Bonita before it was rolled across the campus.

That fabulous photo of Bosque Bonita is from the book Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald.

Photo of Hockaday girls playing tennis is from the book Reminiscences: A Glimpse of Old East Dallas.

Photo of girls on horseback … I’m not sure what the source of this photo is.

Photo of the block, post-razing is by Danny Linn who grew up in Vickery Place; used with permission. (Thanks, Danny!)

All other sources as noted.

In case you were confused, the Caruth Homeplace that most of us might know (which is just south of Northwest Highway and west of Central Expressway) was the home of Walter Caruth’s brother William — more on that Caruth house can be found here.

The Hockaday School can be seen on the 1922 Sanborn map here (that block is a trapezoid!).

More on the history of the Hockaday School can be found at the Hockaday 100 site; a page with many more photos is here. Read about the history of the school in the article “Miss Ela Builds a Home” by Patricia Conner Coggan in the Spring, 2002 issue of Legacies, here.

Additional information can be found in these Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Proposal to Change Hockaday Site to Apartment Zoning Opposed” (DMN, Oct. 29, 1961)
  • “Retirement Home Plans Going Ahead” (regarding the purchase by the First Baptist Church of Dallas) (DMN, June 15, 1974)
  • “Church Takes $135,000 Loss on Property” (DMN, Sept. 10, 1974)

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If you made it all the way through this, thank you! I owe you a W. C. Fields “hearty handclasp.”

Photos and clippings larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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