Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1890s

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.

Elm & Akard, Photographer J. C. Deane, and The Crash at Crush

elm-and-akard_george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUYessirree! Elm & Akard, 1936/1937… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

One of the best collections of historical Dallas photos — and certainly one of the easiest to access online — can be found in SMU’s DeGolyer Library. I can’t say enough good things about the astounding quality of their vast collection or the willingness to make large scans of their photos available online, free to share, without watermarks (higher resolution images are available for a fee, for publication, etc.). I love you, DeGolyer Library (and all the people and entities behind your impressive digitization process)!

When going through recently uploaded photos, I came across three showing the same intersection in three different decades: the southeast corner of Elm and Akard streets (now the 1500 block). The building appears to be the same in each of the photos, and that is interesting in itself — but I was excited to find a connection in one of them to one of my favorite weird Texas historical events.

And that is the photo below. It’s a cool photo — there’s some sort of parade underway, but it’s weird to say I didn’t even really notice that right away — there’s so much else to look at. This is Elm street looking toward the east (or, I guess, the southeast). The photographer is just west of Akard Street. At the bottom left of the photo is the United States Coffee & Tea Co. (which I wrote about here); in the background at the right is the Praetorian Building on Main; and just left of center is the Wilson Building addition under construction (which dates this photo to 1911). But the building that interested me the most is the one at the bottom right, the one at the southeast corner of Elm and Akard. I noticed “Deane’s Photo Studio” on the exterior of the upper part of the building. I recognized the name, having seen it on various Dallas portraits over the years, but now I realize there were two photographers named Deane in Dallas in the first half of the 20th century: Granville M. Deane (who had a longer career here) and his brother, Jervis C. Deane — J. C. Deane was the photographer who occupied the upper-floor studio at 334 Elm (later 1502 Elm) between 1906 and 1911. His studio was above T. J. Britton’s drugstore.

elm-east-from-akard_deane-photography_ca1912_degolyer_SMUElm Street, looking east from Akard, 1911  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

J. C. Deane (born in Virginia in 1860) worked as an award-winning photographer around Texas, based for much of his career in Waco. He was in Dallas only a decade or so, leaving around 1911, after a divorce, noting in ads that he had to sell his business as he was “sick in sanitarium.” After leaving Dallas he bounced around Texas, working as a studio photographer in cities such as Waco and San Antonio. I have been unable to find any information on his death.

The reason that J. C. Deane holds a place in the annals of weird Texas history? He was one of the photographers commissioned to photograph the supremely bizarre publicity stunt now known as The Crash at Crush, wherein a crowd upwards of 30,000 people gathered in the middle of nowhere, near the tiny town of West, Texas, in September, 1896, to watch the planned head-on collision of two locomotives (read more about this here). Long story short: things did not go as planned, and several people were injured (a couple were killed) when locomotive shrapnel shot into the crowd — one of those badly injured was J. C. Deane who was on a special platform with other photographers. For the sake of the squeamish, I will refrain from the details, but Deane lost his right eye and was apparently known affectionately thereafter as “One Eye Deane.” (For those of you not squeamish, I invite you to read all the gory details, related by Deane’s wife, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News which appeared on October 1, 1896, here.) The photos below are generally credited to Deane, back when he was just good ol’ happy-go-lucky “Two-Eye Jervis.” (All these photos are larger when clicked.)

deane_crash-at-crush_1_austin-american-statesman_091662Before…

deane_crash-at-crush_2_austin-american-statesman_091662During…

deane_crash-at-crush_3_austin-american-statesman_091662And after…

I’ve been fascinated by the Crash at Crush ever since I heard about it several years ago, and now I know there’s a Dallas connection — and there’s even a photo of the building where he worked.

Back to Elm Street.

The photo at the top…. Here it is again so you don’t have to scroll all the way back up:

elm-and-akard_george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUSoutheast corner of Elm & Akard, 1937/1937  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

What the heck kind of craziness is this?! I mean I LOVE it, but… it’s very… unusual. I would absolutely never have guessed that this building had been in downtown Dallas. And it appears to be the same building seen in the 1911 photo, just with a very fashion-forward new face. Those little hexagonal windows! Along with that fabulous B & G Hosiery sign, there was a nice little bit of art deco oddness sitting there at the corner of Elm and Akard. The Kirby Building, seen at the far right, seems like a creaky older statesman compared to this overly enthusiastic teenager. The businesses seen here — Ellan’s hat shop, B & G Hosiery, and Berwald’s — were at this corner together only in 1936 and 1937. I could find nothing about this very modern facelift — if anyone knows who the architect is behind this, please let me know! (See a postcard which features a tiny bit of this fabulous building here — if the colors are correct, the building was green and white.)

In November, 1941, Elm Street’s Theater Row welcomed a new occupant, the Telenews theater, which showed only newsreels and short documentaries. By that time the A. Harris Co. had purchased the building at the southeast corner of Elm and Akard and expanded into its upper floors. Telenews opened at the end of 1941 and Linen Palace was gone from this Elm Street location by 1943, dating this photo to 1941 or 1942.

theater-row_by-george-mcafee_degolyer_SMUElm Street, 1941/1942  (DeGolyer Library, SMU)

All of these are such great photos. Thanks for making them available to us, SMU!

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Sources & Notes

The three Dallas photos are from the George A. McAfee collection of photographs at the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University — some of the photos in this large and wonderful collection were taken by McAfee, some were merely photos he had personally collected. The top photo (taken by McAfee) is listed on the SMU database with the title “[Looking Southeast, Corner of Elm and Akard, Kirby Building at Right]” — more info on this photo is here. The second photo, “[Looking East on Elm West of Akard / Praetorian Building (Main at Stone) Upper Right Center]” is not attributed to a specific photographer; this photo is listed twice in the SMU database, here and here. The third photo, “[Looking East on Elm from Akard on “Theatre Row” (Including on North Side on Elm from Left to Right — Telenews, Capitol, Rialto, Palace, Tower, Melba and Majestic],” appears to have been taken by McAfee, and it, too, appears twice in the online digital database, here and here.

The three photos from the “Crash at Crush” event are attributed to Jervis C. Deane, and were taken on September 15, 1896 along the MKT railroad line between West and Waco; the images seen above appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on Sept. 16, 1962. More on the Crash at Crush from Wikipedia, here — there is a photo there of the historical marker and, sadly, Jervis Deane’s name is misspelled. Sorry, Jervis!

Read the Dallas Morning News story of the train collision aftermath in the exciting article lumberingly titled “CRUSH COLLISION: The Force of the Blow and Damage Done. Boilers Exploded with Terrific Force, Scattering Fragments of the Wreckage Over a Large Area. The Showers of Missiles Fell on the Photographer’s Platform Almost as Thick as Hail – Description of the Scene,” here.

The southeast corner of Elm and Akard is currently home to a 7-Eleven topped by an exceedingly unattractive parking garage — see the corner on Google Street View here.

There is a handy Flashback Dallas post which has TONS of photos of Akard Street, several of which have this building in it: check out the post “Akard Street Looking South, 1887-2015,” here.

All photos larger when clicked.

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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.

 

Flashback Dallas in D Magazine: “The Trinity Bridge-Jumpers”

d-mag_lost-dallas-cover_mar-2018

by Paula Bosse

I was flattered to be asked to contribute something to the “Lost Dallas” issue of D Magazine (great stories and photos, by the way — it’s on newsstands now!). When asked for a topic that might be interesting or offbeat, I remembered a story I had come across a few years ago which I had always meant to write about: an 1897 event in which a professional diver and an amateur “jumper” crossed paths at the old Commerce Street Bridge in front of a crowd of several thousand. The thought of diving/jumping from a Dallas bridge into the Trinity River — unless it’s at flood-stage — is, frankly, something I would never have considered, but it happened. There is a short overview of the event in the print edition of the magazine, but my full version — “The 1897 Battle of the Trinity Bridge Jumpers” — is available to read online at D’s website, here.

I won’t repeat the story here, but for you faithful lovers of history who read the full story (and who sneer at the very concept of tl;dr), here are a few images and bits of background info to flesh out the story a bit.

WILSON & SEXTON

It all began with a small announcement in The Dallas Morning News:

bridge-jumper_wilson_dmn_031797DMN, March 17, 1897

No photographs of the main characters are available, but drawings of the two men were featured in the pages of The News on March 22, 1897. First, J. B. Wilson, the “professional” bridge-diver who traveled from town to town plying his trade. As the drawing below shows, Wilson personally walked through the large crowd in his special diving costume, carrying a cigar box, soliciting “donations” from the crowd (one man attempted to slip in a live water snake he had in his pocket — Wilson was not amused).

trinity-bridge-jumper_wilson_drawing

Secondly, the unexpected hero of the day, young Arch Sexton: candy-maker, thrill-seeker. Sexton had this to say of the drawing: “That was an excellent picture of me in The News this morning. The artist knows a good-looking man when he sees him” (DMN, March 23, 1897).

trinity-bridge-jumper_sexton_drawing

THE COMMERCE STREET BRIDGE

The centerpiece of this story is the old Commerce Street Bridge, built around 1890 (it weathered the great flood of 1908 and was eventually replaced by a new bridge in 1915). This was before the Trinity River had been straightened and moved. This is what the bridge looked like on a typical day:

commerce-street-bridge_legacies_fall-1995photo via Legacies

And, below, the course of the river in 1897. The jump would have happened only a couple of blocks from the Old Red Courthouse, very close to what is now the edge of Dealey Plaza.

map_1898_trinity-det_portal
1898 map detail, via Portal to Texas History

STEVE BRODIE

Lastly, because I started the D magazine article with a look at the idol of bridge-jumpers everywhere (and because of this guy bridge-jumping became a whole thing), I should mention Steve Brodie, the man who attained worldwide fame and became massively wealthy as a result of claiming to have jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886 (the first person to have done so and survived). His claim of having jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge was disputed from the very beginning, but charges of fakery did not affect his celebrity — in fact, it might even have sharpened his mastery of constant self-promotion (which, in turn, inspired thousands of copycat bridge-jumpers across the country who hoped to cash in on some of that sweet Brodie moolah). When he wasn’t entertaining legions of fans at his well-known Bowery saloon, he kept his name in the headlines by devising other (also disputed) feats of daredevilry, promoting prize fights, and even appearing onstage in a version of his life’s story (complete with a nightly reenactment of the famed bridge jump). Watch a short but informative video about him here.

brodie-business-card_1897

brodie-saloon_postcard

He was so famous that his name became a slang term: “took a Brodie” or “pulled a Brodie” meant “made a dangerous leap” or, more broadly, “took a chance.” Here’s a slang-filled cartoon from 1936 which featured the term fifty years after Brodie’s jump.

slang_do-a-brodie-1936-cartoon

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That’s the background. If you haven’t already, please mosey on over to D Magazine to read the full-length article I wrote about the Dallas bridge-jumpers of 1897! (And try to work “Steve Brodie” into a conversation today….)

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Sources & Notes

The main reason this story stuck with me was that the original Dallas Morning News report was so amusingly written. I have no idea who wrote it — he identified himself only as “the News’ marine reporter” — but I hope his literary talents led him to bigger and better gigs than an un-bylined newspaper writer scouring the Dallas docks for morsels of news. His sarcastically bemused reports on this long-forgotten exhibition of bridge-jumping (and the follow-ups) can be found in the following entertaining articles:

  • “A Tale of the Trinity: ‘High Diver’ Wilson and ‘High Jumper’ Sexton Split the River Wide Open; Steve Brodie Outdone” (DMN, March 22, 1897), here
  • “A Day With the Divers: The Marine Reporter of The News Passes a Few Hours In Haunts of Jolly Jack Tar” (DMN, March 23, 1897), here
  • “A Day With High Divers: A. B. Sexton and Nick M. Miller Created a Commotion In Marine Circles” (DMN, April 19, 1897), here

Thanks for the opportunity to share this odd tale, D Magazine! See all of the “Lost Dallas” articles (and photos) here.

All images are larger when clicked.

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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):

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.

 

The Dallas Clippers: Early Dallas Baseball

baseball_dallas-clippers_cook-coll_degolyer_smu

by Paula Bosse

The Dallas Clippers were one of the city’s earliest baseball teams — their games were covered in local papers as early as 1888, and they appear to have played through at least 1905.

I’m not sure what’s going on in this photo. Tryouts? Practice? The stances are interesting — the way they’re holding their gloves (especially the catcher) — the gloves themselves. Cool photo. Here are a few details, a little closer up.

clippers_1

clippers_2

clippers_3

Those gloves are interesting — similar styles can be seen in the Wikipedia entry, here.

clippers_3a

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Many early baseball games in Dallas were played at the “base ball park” located in Oak Cliff Park (the park now known as Marsalis Park). A fantastic article on early sports in Dallas (“Gradual Development of the Scope and Popularity of Sports in Texas” — no byline — Dallas Morning News, Oct. 1, 1910) can be read here.)

baseball_oak-cliff-ball-park_dmn_012888
Dallas Morning News, Jan. 28, 1888

baseball_oak-cliff-ball-park_dmn_020388
DMN, Feb. 3, 1888

baseball_oak-cliff-ball-park_dmn_060688
June, 1888

And this interesting little bit of early sports reportage appeared in the pages of the Dallas Herald in 1884, covering both black and white teams:

baseball_dallas-herald_082684
Dallas Herald, Aug. 26, 1884

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Sources & Notes

Photo “Dallas Clippers Baseball Team” from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this photo is here.

Click pictures to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved

Thanksgiving, 1891: The First Turkey-Day Football Game in Dallas

thanksgiving-card_pinterest_sm

by Paula Bosse

Thanksgiving is a holiday known for eating until you’re full as a tick and football — the highlight for many is the traditional Dallas Cowboys game. But when was the very first Thanksgiving Day football game played in Dallas? 125 years ago — in 1891. It was played on November 26, 1891 in Oak Cliff (…which wasn’t strictly part of Dallas at the time, but… yeah, 1891). The game was between teams from Dallas and Fort Worth, teams which had been organized only a few months previously. The sport of “rugby football” had been gaining popularity around the United States, particularly as a college sport. One of the biggest games of the young sport was the university game played on Thanksgiving Day. In 1891, the Yale-Princeton Thanksgiving game was played in New York before thousands and thousands of spectators. Yale won that year, 19-0 (see the exciting illustration below in which helmets for players are non-existent, but a man who appears to be the referee is wearing a stylish bowler hat). (Click for larger image.)

thanksgiving__football_yale-princeton_1891_lost-century

This Ivy League game was almost more of a society event than a sporting event. To get a feel for the atmosphere of these university games, read this really great contemporary article — “The Man of Fashion, We Observe Thanksgiving Day with Great Eclat” by Albert Edward Tyrrell — on the fashions and behavior of these generally well-heeled crowds (it also contains an interesting look at how Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1891, by the swells as well as the non-swells). My favorite piece of minutiae was that young ladies were not above sneaking flasks of liquor into games, hidden in their fashionable hand-warmers. I give you “the loaded muff”:

football_thanksgiving_loaded-muff_dmn112291

But I digress. However much those early Texas football enthusiasts might have hoped for similar large, flask-sipping crowds, the first Thanksgiving football game held in Dallas (and possibly in Texas) attracted a smaller crowd of hundreds rather than thousands (including “about 100 ladies”). Though the crowd was miniscule compared to the one up in New York that day, it did not lack in boisterousness and excited appreciation.

thanksgiving_football_dmn_112591_ad
Dallas Morning News, Nov. 25, 1891

Dallas and Fort Worth had met twice before their matchup in Oak Cliff — both times with Dallas emerging victorious, and … not to be too anti-climactic, but the big inaugural Thanksgiving Day game on November 26, 1891 resulted in another Dallas win (24-11). (This shouldn’t be too surprising, seeing as the overwhelming majority of the players on the Dallas team of 15 grew up playing rugby in rugby-playing countries: 7 were British and 5 were Canadian —  only 3 were native-born Americans. Still. Whatever it takes.) (The dullish play-by-play of the game can be read  below.)

So what else was going on in Dallas in the Thanksgiving season of 1891? Here are a few morsels.

Men might have contemplated getting a new $12.50 suit from M. Benedikt & Co. (a suit which would cost about $335.00 today) — especially after seeing this eye-catching Uncle-Sam-riding-a-(scrawny)-turkey ad. (Click pictures to see larger images.)

ad-thanksgiving_benedikt_dmn_112191
DMN, Nov. 21, 1891

Ladies were kept up-to-date on the millinery, dress, and hairstyle fashions of the season by reading newspaper articles such as “What Is Really Worn, The Fashions That Find Favor at Thanksgiving” (which can be read here).

thanksgiving_milinery_dmn_112291
DMN, Nov. 22, 1891

And stores that sold cookware, bakeware, and china took out ads to inform Dallasites that they really needed some new items in order to properly prepare for the big day — one’s guests shouldn’t be forced to be served a feast from tacky serving dishes or eat from chipped plates.

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DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

If one wasn’t spending Thanksgiving Day attending one of the city’s many church services, feeding the children at the Buckner Orphans Home, feeding one’s guests and one’s family, visiting friends, or trekking over to Oak Cliff to see that football game, he or she might have considered attending a matinee at the Dallas Opera House — Maude Granger (“The Peerless Emotional Actress”) was back in town and raring to emote.

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DMN, Nov. 24, 1891

Almost everyone had the day off from work, but, oddly enough, most postal workers had to work at least part of the day. Neither rain nor sleet nor tender turkey breasts and cranberry sauce stayed those couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, I guess.

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DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

At least no one was dreading/eagerly anticipating Black Friday back in ’91.

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Back to football. First, a friendly D-FW practice run before the Big Game.

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DMN, Nov. 14, 1891

The pre-game article.

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DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

The post-game article.

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DMN, Nov. 27, 1891

And an article from a proud Canadian newspaper, boasting of the number of Queen Victoria’s faithful subjects playing for the Dallas team.

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The Manitoba Free Press, Dec. 11, 1891

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Sources & Notes

Thanksgiving card found on Pinterest.

Illustration of the 1891 Yale-Princeton game is from the Lost Century of Sports website, here. (I’m not really a sports fan, but if I were, this website of 19th-century sports might be one of my favorites!)

For more on how Thanksgiving finally came to be celebrated in Texas in 1874 (it took a long time for the Southern states to agree to celebrate what many thought was a “Yankee abolitionist holiday”), see my post “Encouraging Dallasites to Observe Thanksgiving — 1874,” here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Most pictures and clippings larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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DMN, Oct. 1, 1890

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

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DMN, Oct. 27, 1891

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

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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.

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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

***

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.

 

Under the Paw of the Tiger: Taking the Cocaine, Morphine, and Opium “Cure” — 1890s

ad-dallas-ensor-institute_souv-gd_1894
“No cure, no pay…”

by Paula Bosse

In the 1890s, Dallas had a big cocaine problem. And a big morphine problem. And a big opium problem. In fact, the whole country did. Before the over-the-counter dispensing of these drugs was made illegal, they were easily obtained in any drugstore. Cocaine was especially cheap: a nickel or a dime (the equivalent of about two bucks in today’s money) could get you plenty. Things seem to have hit the breaking point in Dallas in 1892, with scads of lurid cautionary tales about crazed and doomed hopheads filling the papers, but the problem had been building for a while.

With this sudden surge in readily available opiates came a surge in institutions attempting to help the addicted kick their habit. Between 1893 and 1895 or 1896, there were three such places one could go to “take the cure” in Dallas: the Dallas Ensor Institute (which was located at what is now 1213 Elm Street, between Griffin and Field, where Renaissance Tower now stands), the Hagey Infirmary (in what is now the 2100 block of Main, just east of Pearl), and, most famously, the Keeley Institute (which for many years was on Hughes Circle in The Cedars, just south of Belleview, between S. Akard and S. Ervay). The first two  were gone after only a couple of years, but the Dallas branch of the then-famous Keeley Institute lasted in Dallas at a few different locations until at least 1936.

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The text of the 1894 Dallas Ensor Institute ad above:

No Gold – No Mineral
The Dallas Ensor Institute
For the Cure of
Liquor, Morphine, Cocaine
and Tobacco Habits
No. 287 Elm Street,
Opened in the City of Dallas on the 1st day of July, 1893, and has successfully cured Two Hundred and Sixty-Three people all told, who are to-day sober men with the exception of three.
We Guarantee a Cure in every case, to the entire satisfaction of the patient, or it COSTS HIM NOTHING
REMEMBER, NO CURE, NO PAY.
Consultation Free and Correspondence Solicited.
Address Lock Box 367.
C. B. BEARD, Manager
Call and see us

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The more widely known Keeley Institute opened in Dallas around 1895 (click ad for larger image).

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Dallas Morning News, Oct. 31, 1895

The text is worth a read of its own:

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It’s interesting that the Keeley ad and the Ensor ad both admit to being less than perfect in their success rate — to the tune of “three.” I wonder if they were the same three people?

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Even though the addiction rate was getting to be something of an epidemic — especially, it seems, among women — pharmacists were split on whether the city council should ban sales of these drugs except when ordered by a doctor. While all of them saw first-hand the hopeless addicts who came in every day proffering scrounged dimes, many were loath to lose the steady business — they were making a pretty good living. It wasn’t until about 1901 that the city council outlawed the sale of narcotics unless accompanied by a prescription; the State of Texas enacted a similar law four years later. Not that that stopped people from continuing to “hit the pipe” (a phrase I was surprised to see had been around in 1910), but it probably did save many lives in the days when addiction was not very well understood and was not very effectively treated.

***

Sources & Notes

Dallas Ensor Institute ad from the Souvenir Guide of Dallas (Dallas: D. M. Anderson Directory Co., 1894).

Interested in more on a druggy Dallas?

  • See an ad for the Hagey Infirmary in my post “Hagey Infirmary, No Patient Too Frail — 1894,” here.
  • See my post “‘Delusions of Affability’ — Marijuana in 1930s Dallas,” here.
  • And, heck, see my other cocaine-related post, “New Year, New Teeth — 1877” — about a dentist who might have been dipping into his own medicine chest a little too frequently — here.
  • See the Dallas Morning News article “When Dope Sold Like Aspirin,” by Kenneth Foree (DMN, Sept. 5, 1951) for a really interesting look at Dallas during its first wave of drug problems. Imagine, if you will, the sight of a woman so in need of a fix that, despite having vehemently assured the druggist only moments earlier that the “medicine” she was purchasing was not for her, she began to lick the bottle before she even left the store. Cocaine is a hell of a drug….

A Dallas Morning News article which was cited by Kenneth Foree in the above article was this one, from 1887 (click to see a larger image):

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DMN, Sept. 5, 1887

The song referenced in the Foree article mentioned above is “Take a Whiff on Me,” which Lead Belly — who played around Deep Ellum in the ‘teens and ’20s — recorded in the 1930s. One of the verses of the song sometimes called “Cocaine Habit Blues” has a Dallas shout-out: “Walked up Ellum and I come down Main / Tryin’ to bum a nickle just to buy cocaine / It’s oh, oh, baby take a whiff on me.” Hear his version of the song (and read the lyrics) here (the “Ellum” line is at the 1:29 mark).

Most images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thomas Marsalis’ Spectacular Oak Cliff Hotel: 1890-1945

oak-cliff_cook-coll_degolyer_smu_front“Visit the Oak Cliff…” (click for much larger image) Photo: SMU

by Paula Bosse

I saw this image yesterday while browsing through the George W. Cook Collection (DeGolyer Library, SMU). It’s from about 1890. It’s great. BUT, the other side of this card is even better:

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I’m not sure how realistic this drawing is, but it’s great! Oak Cliff never looked so … quaint. The best part is the depiction of the little commuter railway that Oak Cliff developer Thomas L. Marsalis built in the 1880s to handle commuter traffic between Oak Cliff and Dallas — a necessity if his development west of the Trinity was to grow. There were two little steam trains which made a complete circle and offered spectacular views of  Dallas as they headed toward the river. Here’s an account of visitors from Kansas City who enjoyed their scenic ride (click to see a larger image):

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Dallas Morning News, Nov. 24, 1890

Marsalis had made his fortune in the grocery business, and much of that fortune was funneled into making his vision a reality: Oak Cliff would become a large, beautiful, prosperous community. He spent huge amounts of money developing the then-separate town of Oak Cliff. A wheeler-dealer and an obsessive whirlwind, money was no object to Marsalis as he charged at full speed to make Oak Cliff a booming North Texas garden spot.

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Thomas L. Marsalis — the “Father of Oak Cliff”

The jewel in T. L.’s O.C. crown was the 100-room resort, the Oak Cliff Hotel (which in its early planning had been called the Park Hotel). Ground was broken on Dec. 21, 1889. Projected to cost $75,000, it is said to have cost over $100,000 when construction was completed, or, over $2.6 million in today’s money.

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DMN, Dec. 22,1889

A thorough description of the spectacular $100,000 showplace can be read in a Dallas Morning News article from May 25, 1890, here. When it opened on July 10, 1890, the News’ coverage of the opening included the following lyrical passage:

When darkness had settled down over the cliff the large hotel showed off to its best advantage, as at a short distance away it looked like some living monster with hundreds of fiery eyes. The lights showing from every window made a startling sight to those who coming upon it had previously seen a dark pile looming up in the night.

oak-cliff-hotel_minutaglio

It was, by all accounts, a popular hotel and social gathering place. But, in November of 1891 — having been open only a little over a year — a notice appeared in the papers that the hotel would be closing for the winter for “renovations.” It never reopened. Marsalis had over-extended himself. His dreams for Oak Cliff began to dim as the stacks of unpaid bills mounted, and he found himself mired in lawsuits for the next several years. He eventually had to admit defeat, and he and his family moved to New York.

Six months after that notice of “renovations” appeared, the huge building was leased to Prof. Thomas Edgerton, who planned to open a “female seminary.”

oak-cliff-college_flickr

The Oak Cliff College For Young Ladies opened  in the fall of 1892. And it was a spectacular-looking schoolhouse.

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The college lasted until the beginning of 1899 when it changed hands and became Eminence College for a brief year and a half.

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Southern Mercury, June 22, 1899

After Eminence College appears to have gone bust, the building was vacant by 1901. There was talk that Oak Cliff should purchase the property and reinstall a school, but, eventually, the building went up for auction in September, 1903.

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DMN, Aug. 26, 1903

The building sold to T. S. Miller, Jr. and L. A. Stemmons for $6,850, a fraction of what Marsalis had spent building it. That’s a pretty steep depreciation.

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DMN, Sept. 2, 1903

But, no fear, Hotel Cliff opened on April 18, 1904. Still looking good.

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DMN, July 11, 1904

Hotel Cliff was in business through about 1915. There were some “lost” years in there when it seemed to be in limbo (during some of this time it was undergoing extensive renovation), but in 1921 it re-opened as the Forest Inn.

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DMN, April 24, 1921

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Bartlett News, July 4, 1924

The Forest Inn had a long run — 24 years. In 1945 the property was sold, and T. L. Marsalis’ spectacular resort hotel was demolished. It was estimated that it would take ten weeks to finish the demo job — Marsalis had spared no expense building his hotel, and it had been built to last.

The destruction is a tough job, Jack Haake, wrecking contractor, said. Despite its age, the building is so well built that much time is being required to take it apart. The lumber is of the best grade and much of it still is in good condition, Haake said. Scores of huge 2×6 planks, thirty-two feet long, were used in the building, and that timber is in excellent condition. (“Historic Oak Cliff Hotel Being Razed For New Structure,” DMN, Sept. 10, 1945)

The land apparently remained vacant until Southwestern Bell Telephone announced plans to build a three-story office building on the property in 1954; the building opened the following year. In 1986, the building was renovated and became the Oak Cliff Municipal Center, which still occupies the site.

Where exactly was that huge, wonderful hotel that Thomas Marsalis built? It was located at what is now the southwest corner of East Jefferson Blvd. and South Crawford Street. A view of that corner today can be seen here. To get an idea  of how much land the hotel/college once occupied, check out the 1905 Sanborn map, here (and this is after 15 years of explosive growth of Oak Cliff, so it obviously originally had much more open land around it); by 1922, encroachment was well underway, and the property was already being chopped into smaller parcels.

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Google Maps

I wonder what Thomas Marsalis would think of Oak Cliff today? And I wonder what Oak Cliff would have become had Marsalis never put his money and energy into its early development?

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There is a lot of misinformation on various online sources about the timeline of this building. As best I can determine, here is the correct chronology:

  • 1889: groundbreaking for hotel, in December
  • 1890-1891: Oak Cliff Hotel
  • 1892-1899: Oak Cliff College For Young Ladies
  • 1899-1901: Eminence College (also for young women)
  • 1902-1903: vacant
  • 1903: building sold at public auction, in September
  • 1904-1914: Hotel Cliff
  • 1914-1915: Oak Cliff College (reorganized, back for one last gasp)
  • 1915-1920: basically empty, with a couple of token tenants
  • 1921-1945: Forest Inn
  • 1945: demolished

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Sources & Notes

First two images show both of sides of an advertising card; “Visit Oak Cliff” is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University — more information is here.

Photo of Thomas Marsalis from Legacies, Fall, 2007.

Colorized image of hotel from the front cover of The Hidden City: Oak Cliff, Texas by Bill Minutaglio and Holly Williams. The sign is hard to read, but this may show the building during the Hotel Cliff days.

The detail of an Oak Cliff College envelope comes from the Flickr page for the Texas Collection, Baylor University, here. (Sure hope Mr. Edgerton was able to get a refund on that printing job — having “Oak Cliff” misspelled on official college correspondence probably caused a grimace or two!)

Large black and white photograph of Oak Cliff College appeared in William L. McDonald’s Dallas Rediscovered; photo from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Hotel Cliff postcard from the Cook Collection, SMU; information is here.

See the beautiful house Marsalis built for himself (but which he might never actually have lived in) in my post “The Marsalis House: One of Oak Cliff’s ‘Most Conspicuous Architectural Landmarks,'” here.

Thomas L. Marsalis is a fascinating character and an important figure in the development of Oak Cliff, but his post-Dallas life has always been something of a mystery. I never really thought of myself as a “research nerd” until I started this blog, but reading how a few people in an online history group pieced together what did happen to him was surprisingly thrilling. This round-robin investigation began in the online Dallas History Phorum message board, here, and finished as the Legacies article “Where Did Thomas L. Marsalis Go?” by James Barnes and Sharon Marsalis (Fall 2007 issue). If you have some time, I highly recommend reading through the Phorum comments and then reading the article. It’s very satisfying!

All images and clippings larger when clicked. 

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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