Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1890s

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.

ad-thanksgiving_dmn_112591
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.

thanksgiving_theater_dmn_112491
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.

thanksgiving_post-office_dmn_112591
DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

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

**

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

thanksgiving_football_dmn_111491
DMN, Nov. 14, 1891

The pre-game article.

thanksgiving_football_dmn_112591
DMN, Nov. 25, 1891

The post-game article.

thanksgiving_football_dallas-fw_dmn_112791_highlights
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.

thanksgiving__football_manitoba-free-press_121191
The Manitoba Free Press, Dec. 11, 1891

***

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.

*

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.)

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

dallas-rapid_dmn_091088
DMN, Sept. 10, 1888

**

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!

cyclone_dmn_043089
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.

*

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.

*

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

*

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

keeley-institute_dmn_103195
Dallas Morning News, Oct. 31, 1895

The text is worth a read of its own:

keeley-institute_dmn_103195-det

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?

keeley-institute_1899
1899

*

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):

morphine-habit_dmn_090587
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.

*

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:

oak-cliff_cook-coll_degolyer_smu_back

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):

oak-cliff-train_dmn_112490
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.

marsalis_legacies_fall-2007
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.

oak-cliff-hotel_dmn_122289_groundbreaking
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.

oak-cliff-college_dallas-rediscoverd_dpl

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

eminence-college_southern-mercury_062299
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.

oak-cliff-hotel_dmn_082603_for-sale
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.

oak-cliff-hotel_dmn_090203_sold
DMN, Sept. 2, 1903

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

hotel-cliff_degolyer

hotel-cliff_dmn_071104
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.

forest-inn_dmn_042421
DMN, April 24, 1921

forest-inn_bartlett-tribune-and-news_070424
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.

oak-cliff-hotel_map_google
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?

**

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

***

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. 

*

Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Melons on Ice” — 1890s

wiley-grocery_1890s_haskins-coll_utaA sleepy little town… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

It looks hot in this photo from the 1890s. I bet those “Melons On Ice” in front of Wiley’s grocery store really hit the spot.

wiley-grocery_melons_det-1

*

I love this photo. The Wiley Cash Grocery was in business for only a few years — from about 1892 to 1896. It was located at 153 Commerce, one block east of the brand new county courthouse.

wiley-grocery_1893-directory1893 Dallas directory

wiley-grocery-1893-map
1893 map of Dallas, det.

The business was owned by Anna E. Wiley (~1862-1930) and her husband Jesse P. Wiley (~1863-1942). When they arrived in Dallas around 1887 their address in the city directory was simply “¾ mile w of river.”

Even though the store seems to have been in Anna’s name, Jesse was forced to file a deed of trust in 1896 when the store was faced with crippling debt. The Wileys owed approximately $1,545 to creditors (about $45,000 in today’s money), but their assets were only about $1,500, plus $800 of “good accounts.” Unsurprisingly, the store was gone by 1897. (Click article below to see a larger image.)

1896-wiley-grocery_dmn_021596
Dallas Morning News, Feb. 15, 1896

This photo captures such an odd view of downtown Dallas — it’s hard to believe that the site once occupied  by the Wiley store is now the site of the John F. Kennedy Memorial. A present-day view can be seen here.

***

This photo is from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; additional info is here. See this great photo REALLY big here.

The map is a detail from an 1893 map of Dallas from the collection of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission; see the full map here.

All pictures and clippings are larger when clicked.

*

Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Mail Wagon

mail-wagon_dallas-jewish-historical-societyPhoto: Dallas Jewish Historical Society

by Paula Bosse

My mailman-hating duck post of yesterday reminded me of this photo I’ve had tucked away in a digital file for months but have never used because I have no information about it. It shows several people — possibly a family? — gathered in and around a U.S. Mail wagon — “Collector No. 20.” The horse team is probably close by. As this photograph was found on the Dallas Jewish Historical Society website, one must presume that the people seen here are Jewish. Why they’re posing with an unhitched mail wagon is unknown, but it’s a cool photo.

I read a bit about these wagons, which were used to collect mail from boxes around the area and from train depots. The larger ones had a driver for the team of horses, a collector, and two clerks in the back who sorted mail as they headed back to the main post office. (Click for larger image.)

mail-wagon_dmn_100296Dallas Morning News, Oct. 2, 1896

Rural mail delivery began in Dallas in 1901, and wagons like this were eventually used to reach far-flung areas beyond the city. Some of them were set up to be mini mobile post offices, out of which the mail carrier could sell things like stamps and money orders while they were on their appointed rounds of delivering and collecting mail (these mobile post offices actually caused several rural post offices to close).

mail-wagon_FWST_032301
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 23, 1901

There were two main problems with these horse-drawn wagons which showed up time and time again in newspaper reports:

  1. They were constantly involved in collisions, mostly with electric streetcars slamming into them. I’m not sure why this happened so much — perhaps the trolleys were too fast and too quiet — but it was a constant problem.
  2. Also, these wagons, stuffed with letters and packages (and whatever goodies might have been contained therein), were often hijacked at gunpoint or stolen when left unattended. Kind of a holdover from frontier days of holding up stagecoaches.

The life of a turn-of-the-century mailman was fraught with danger.

***

Sources & Notes

Top photo from the Dallas Jewish Historical Society; I’d love to know some — any! — information about who these people were and why they were posing with a mail wagon.

Read the 1925 memories of mail carrier James H. Jackson, who began his career with the Dallas post office in 1884, in the Dallas Morning News article “Dallas Postoffice Grew As City Grew” by W. S. Adair (DMN, Feb. 1, 1925).

Another Dallas-mailman-related story I found interesting can be found in my post “Jim Conner, Not-So-Mild-Mannered RFD Mail Carrier,” here.

Images larger when clicked.

*

Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The St. Joseph Orphanage — 1891

st-josephs-orphanage_dallas-rediscoveredThe new Oak Cliff orphanage, ca. 1891 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The St. Joseph orphanage was built in Oak Cliff in 1891 on 6-8 acres donated to the Catholic Diocese by Thomas Marsalis. The building was a large house, built and furnished with funds raised from local donations.

The house itself, consisting of two stories and a basement, is well finished throughout. Rooms are large and cool, the ceilings high and the entire building is capable of being made a model of comfort and elegance. A great many liberal donations have been received which have assisted largely in this work. (Dallas Morning News, July 16, 1891)

The orphanage was a Catholic institution — run at various times by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word — but it was “non-sectarian” in that the children or families in need were not required to be of the Catholic faith.

Some of these children have one parent living, others are without parents or friends or, deserted by worthless parents, have been abandoned to the cold charity of the world and find parents and friends in the self-sacrificing sisters of charity…. (DMN, Feb. 9, 1902)

st-josephs-orphanage_smu_ca1913-1919DeGolyer Library, SMU

In the late ‘teens or early ’20s, the Catholic Ladies’ Aid Society of Fort Worth began an annual tradition of hosting a party for the children at Forest Park in Fort Worth. The 1923 picnic entertained 300 children. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran a story about the event under the unfortunate headline “It’s Not So Bad To Be An Orphan After All.” (Click article for a much larger image.)

st-josephs-orphanage_FWST_060123FWST, June 1, 1923

According to William L. McDonald in his book Dallas Rediscovered, “the orphanage was converted into a Carmelite convent and school in 1929 and demolished in 1945.” In December, 1930, the girls moved into their new (huge!) home in Oak Lawn (at Blackburn), in the old Dallas University building (later the Jesuit campus). The boys, I believe, moved to the Dunne Memorial Home. Here is a photo of the girls’ new home, which was taken over by Jesuit High School in 1941. (The impressive building originally built in 1906 was demolished in 1963.)

jesuit_legacies_fall-2005

**

st-josephs-orphanage_dmn_042991Dallas Morning News, April 29, 1891

st-josephs-orphanage_dmn_071691
DMN, July 16, 1891

orphanage_dmn_020902
DMN, Feb. 9, 1902

orphanage_dmn_113013-inudstrial-school-to-open
DMN, Nov. 30, 1913

st-josephs-orphanage_catholic-charities-of-dallas

***

Sources & Notes

Top photo from Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald, is from the collection of the Dallas Public Library.

Photo titled “Children and Nuns, St. Joseph’s Orphanage, Dallas, Texas” was taken by Frank Rogers and is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; more information can be found here.

Photo of the old Dallas University/University of Dallas/Trinity University is from the article “Jesuit High School” by Liz Conrad Goedecke, which appeared in the Fall, 2005 issue of Legacies.

Bottom photo of St. Joseph’s Orphanage is from a PDF titled “A Brief Visual History of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas,” here (p. 19).

More on the original St. Joseph orphanage can be found here (scroll down to the 1902 article, “Charities of Dallas”).

The original St. Joseph orphanage was at the southwest corner of West Page and South Adams, in Oak Cliff. See the 1922 Sanborn map, here. According to the Dallas Central Appraisal District website, the land is currently owned by the Dallas Housing Authority, which, as recently as 2014, had sought permission to build a new “home for the aged” on this property. The Bing Maps aerial view shows the Brooks Manor low-income housing project which had occupied this block for several decades before its recent demolition.

brooks-manor_bing

The Google Street view from Jan. 2016 shows an empty block.

orphanage_googleGoogle Maps

The original building at the top is not to be confused with the later St. Joseph home for girls (or the earlier Virginia K. Johnson home for unwed mothers), which was also on West Page, but a couple of blocks to the east. More on that can be found here. (It was at the Page and Madison, seen on the 1922 Sanborn map, here.) (Perhaps this was the campus the St. Joseph school moved to when Jesuit took over the campus in Oak Lawn in 1941?)

All photos and articles are larger when clicked.

*

Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Union Depot Hotel Building, Deep Ellum — 1898-1968

union-depot-hotel_1909_uta-detThe old Union Depot Hotel, about 1909 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, we see the hotel known originally as the Union Depot Hotel, built in 1898 across from the very busy old Union Depot, at the intersection of two major rail lines: the Houston & Texas Central (the H&TC, which ran north-south) and the Texas & Pacific (the T&P, which ran east-west). The tracks crossed at the intersection of Central and Pacific — streets named after the two railroads — in the area east of downtown we now call Deep Ellum. The hotel was on the southwest corner of that intersection.

The large, two-story hotel (which also housed a popular cafe and bar) was built by William S. Skelton — more commonly known as Wiley Skelton — to cash in on the large number of travelers coming to Dallas via the bustling passenger depot right across the street. When it opened, it was charging a hefty two bucks a day (the equivalent of about $60.00 in today’s money) — a large-ish sum in 1899, but … location, location, location. This two-dollar-a-day rate to stay at Skelton’s hotel was the same as the base rate of Dallas’ ritziest, priciest hotels, The Windsor and The Oriental. How could Skelton’s “wrong side of the tracks” hotel charge similar rates as the city’s most elegant hotels? Convenience, convenience, convenience. The Union Depot Hotel could not have been more convenient to weary travelers unless it had been located inside the depot.

union-depot-hotel_houston-post_012599Houston Post, Jan. 25, 1899

Skelton was a popular and successful businessman (and noted saloon pugilist) who was known far and wide for his substantial physical bulk. He was a founding member of the city’s “fat men’s club” and was reported to be the heaviest man in the city. When he died suddenly at the age of 45 (probably not a huge surprise, as his obituary mentioned that his weight had, at one time, reached 438 pounds), his new hotel had been open only weeks (perhaps only days).

skelton_dmn_011699Dallas Morning News, Jan. 16, 1899

His unexpected death threw the running of the hotel into confusion. His brother (another famed “fighting fat man”) took over the business side of its operations and occasionally placed ads in the paper seeking a hard-to-find buyer.

union-depot-hotel_1901_portal1901 ad

union-depot-hotel_dmn_111602DMN, Nov. 16, 1902

Eventually the hotel was sold, and it went through several owners and name changes over the years. Then, in 1916, a major catastrophe struck: brand new Union Station, which was waaaay on the other side of town, opened, consolidating passenger rail service to one depot, resulting in the shuttering of most of the city’s smaller depots. Location, location, location wasn’t such a great thing for the old Skelton hotel after this.

The hotel went through many changes over the years, but after the closing (and later razing) of the old Union Depot, it was on a general, inevitable, slide downward. By the time it was demolished in 1968 — when large swaths along Central Avenue were leveled to facilitate highway construction — the building was in disrepair and, apparently, long-vacant. It stood for 70 years.

*

Below is a photo taken from Elm Street in 1908 or 1909, when the hotel (seen at the top left) was owned by Charles S. Conerty and named the Conerty Hotel (you can see the name on two signs, but you have to really zoom in to make them out). Conerty, an Irishman who had previously run bars, owned the hotel very briefly. By May of 1909, plagued with legal troubles stemming from his being charged with selling liquor on a Sunday, Conerty sold the hotel (which he seems to have been running as a boarding house), stating in his classified ad that he was “leaving city.” (He did not leave the city.) In 1910, with a new owner, the hotel was once again known as the Union Depot Hotel.

Back to the photo. Across Central Avenue from the hotel is the old Union Depot, where there was always a lot going on. Let’s look at the photo a little more closely. (Click photos to see larger images.)

old-union-depot_degolyer_ca1910

old-union-depot_degolyer_det1

old-union-depot_degolyer_det2

old-union-depot_degolyer-det3

old-union-depot_degolyer_det4

old-union-depot_degolyer_det5

old-union-depot_degolyer_det6

Just seven or eight years after this photo was taken, all that human traffic was gone.

In the fall of 1968, having been vacant for years and counting down its final hours, Dallas Morning News writer Doug Domeier wrote about the old run-down hotel which had long outlived the passenger depot it had been built to serve (see the article “Demolition Leveling Once-Noisy Deep Elm,” DMN, Oct. 19, 1968). Domeier’s entertaining article about those early days includes memories of Lizzie Mae Bass, who once worked in the hotel’s cafe as a waitress and remembers when “horses back[ed] away in fright when a locomotive pulled in at the lively intersection linking the Houston and Texas Central with the Texas & Pacific.”

And today? You’d never EVER suspect that that patch of empty land at the edge of Deep Ellum was ever occupied by one of the city’s busiest train depots.

*

So where was it? Get a good visual idea of how things were laid out in the Sanborn map from 1905, here. Below is a street map that shows where the hotel was (red star) and where the train depot was (blue star). These days? Depressing. See it here (the view is looking north from Elm — the hotel would have been under the overpass, the train station straight ahead).

union-depot-hotel_1952-mapsco1952 Mapsco

It’s interesting to note that during the heyday of the Union Depot, the west side of the block of Central Ave. which ran between Elm and Pacific was the only block in this area not filled with black-owned businesses or residences. When the depot shut down and white-owned businesses moved out, the block began to fill with popular African-American establishments. It’s also interesting (to me, anyway!) to realize that the Gypsy Tea Room of the 1930s was just a few steps to the left of the hotel in the top photo. It took me forever to try to figure out where the Gypsy Tea Room had been — I wrote about it here.

***

Sources & Notes

Top photo is a detail of a larger photo, from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; it is accessible here. The same photograph is shown in full farther down the post — this copy is from the DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University, and it is accessible here. The quality of both photos makes it difficult to zoom in on them with much clarity, but both sites offer very large images to view.

As mentioned above, an entertaining Dallas Morning News article full of historical info about the area around the depot is highly recommended: “Demolition Leveling Once-Noisy Deep Elm” by Doug Domeier (DMN, Oct. 19, 1968). (I’m not sure why the hotel is referred to as the “Grand Central Station Hotel” throughout — just substitute “Union Depot Hotel” whenever you come across that incorrect name.) The article also has a few paragraphs about the Harlem Theater which was also about to be torn down as part of what Domeier described as the “brutal change” then affecting Deep Ellum.

See a great early-’20s photo of the hotel building (the Tip-Top Tailors moved in around 1922) in the book Deep Ellum: The Other Side of Dallas by Alan Govenar and Jay Brakefield, here (the view is from Pacific to the southwest).

A related Flashback Dallas post — “The Old Union Depot in East Dallas: 1897-1935” — can be read here.

All images larger when clicked.

*

Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

D. B. Keiper, Cistern and Tank Builder

ad-keiper_cisterns_directory_1884Ad from the 1884 Dallas directory

by Paula Bosse

For all your cistern and tank needs, D. B. Keiper’s your man.

keiper_dallas-herald_061881Dallas Herald, June 18, 1881

keiper_dallas-herald_101384Dallas Herald, Oct. 13, 1884

keiper_dallas-herald_120484Dallas Herald, Dec. 4, 1884

keiper_dmn_091586Dallas Morning News, Sept. 15, 1886

keiper_dmn_093088DMN, Sept. 30, 1888

keiper_dmn-121391DMN, Dec. 13, 1891

***

Top ad from the 1884 Dallas directory.

I didn’t find out much about the Pennsylvania-born David Butz Keiper (1827-1895), except that he bought a lot of lumber, sold a lot of cisterns and tanks, and took out a huge number of newspaper ads over the years.

One wonders if he might have built and installed the underground cistern of the Rosenfield house I wrote about in “The Blue House of Browder,” which was built around 1885 — this “for sale” ad appeared in 1887, when Keiper seemed to be Dallas’ king of cisterns:

1887_browder_dmn_050887-FOR-SALEDMN, May 8, 1887

Keiper specialized in underground wooden cisterns (made from cypress lumber) to hold collected rainwater, but there were many different types of cisterns in use around Texas in the nineteenth century. Mark H. Denton wrote an interesting article, “Cisterns in Texas,” for Current Archeology in Texas (April 2011), with illustrations but with little on wooden cisterns; read Denton’s article here (scroll to bottom of p. 4 of the PDF).

Image too small? Click it!

*

Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Snag Boat Dallas — 1893

snagboat_dplSnag Boat Dallas of Dallas, Trinity River (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

“Snagboat.” It’s a great word. And if you’ve taken even a glancing look into the history of the Trinity River, you’ve probably come across it. What is it? According to the Wikipedia entry, it is “a river boat, resembling a barge with superstructure for crew accommodations, and deck-mounted cranes and hoists for removing snags and other obstructions from rivers and other shallow waterways.” If you’re from Dallas, “shallow waterway” will immediately bring to mind our very own Trinity River, which, unless it’s flooding, you probably rarely even think of as being an actual river. But Dallas money-men have tried their damnedest for what seems like EVER to make the Trinity do what they wanted it to do.

In the late 19th century, a group of Dallas businessmen organized the Trinity River Navigation and Improvement Company and began to sink large sums of money into it. The goal was to make the Trinity navigable for large boats between the Gulf of Mexico and Dallas. They knew that if they could open this waterway to vessels carrying all manner of freight that they could make a lot of money. A lot.

In order to make the Trinity navigable, it first had to be cleared of all sorts of impassable debris in it, on it, over it, and along it. The stretch of the river around the soon-to-be inland port of Dallas was particularly snarled with all sorts of things making passage of large boats through its waters impossible. A snagboat was needed, and construction on the Snag Boat Dallas of Dallas began in November of 1892.

snagboat_dmn_112692Dallas Morning News, Nov. 26, 1892

The construction of the boat was followed closely in the Texas papers, and giddy ads/editorials like this one were filling the pages of Dallas newspapers.

ad-water-rates_dmn_011593DMN, Jan. 15, 1893

“Water rates” — charges for freight shipped via boat — were lower than the rates charged by railroads. Were the Trinity able to support freight traffic, this new competition would mean that railroads would lower their rates, and the savings for manufacturers and builders would  be substantial. As a result, manufacturing and building in the city would boom, and before you knew it, Dallas would become “the greatest city on Earth in the South”!

A few days before the official launch of the boat, reporters, businessmen, and the public were invited to a preview. An interesting account in The Galveston Daily News described the boat’s machinery (which included a “liquid battering ram”) and took the reader on a tour of the crew’s quarters (which had separate sleeping and dining areas for black and white crew members, per the “Separate Coach Law” of 1891).

snagboat_galveston-daily-news-021993Galveston Daily News, Feb. 19, 1893

The boat began its snagging work in February, 1893, and, in order to keep readers abreast of all Snag Boat Dallas developments, there were almost daily updates on its progress in the newspapers, and (in lieu of photographs) Dallas Morning News illustrators provided scenes of the boat’s important work.

snagboat_dmn_021293DMN, Feb. 12, 1893

snagboat_dmn_022693DMN, Feb. 26, 1893

The celebrity snagboat succeeded in clearing the debris, and in May, 1893, the steamer H. A. Harvey, Jr. arrived in Dallas, having, yes, navigated the Trinity River from the Gulf, even though it had faced two months’ worth of difficulties along the way (problematic water levels, low bridges which had to be dismantled in order for it to pass under, underwater impediments which had to be dynamited into oblivion, etc.). When it finally pulled into Dallas — accompanied by the hard-working snagboat that had paved its way — the city shut down and had a massive celebration. The Dallas Morning News went so far as to print several of its pages in red ink (!). This proof that the Trinity River was, in fact, navigable, meant that the city was on the cusp on becoming “the greatest city in the South.” The DMN (which was not shy in its almost rabid boosterism of this project) published an editorial for those Dallasites who might “not fully comprehend” the significance of why they were celebrating.

harvey-impact_dmn_052293DMN, May 22, 1893

Dallas would become an important inland port. “It can be done.”

Except that we know that it couldn’t be done. Too many other natural forces were working against the Trinity River entrepreneurs. The Harvey and the snagboat didn’t actually do much after that tumultuous reception in 1893. Sure, they moved some small loads back and forth along the Dallas stretch of the river, but that grand vision of taming the Trinity never came to pass. Even now, more than 120 years later, it still has yet to happen. Dallas has done pretty well without the Trinity River being truly navigable, but people can’t seem to stop trying to somehow monetize it. It’s probably time we just appreciated our little section of the Trinity River for what it is: a little trickle of a river that has (so far) survived everything we’ve tried to do to it in the name of “progress.”

*

For closure, snagboat fans: the hard-working little Dallas had an ignominious end. It was tied to an old pier and left to rot on the water before it was eventually cannibalized and slowly picked apart. Its end came in January of 1898 when it was finally “broken up.”

rip_dmn_052897DMN, May 28, 1897

RIP, Snag Boat Dallas of Dallas — we hardly knew ye.

*

The Harvey (which quietly left town when it was sold to a Louisiana company in 1898) has gotten the lion’s share of the historical attention, but the snagboat is the one that did all the work. Here are two more photos of the Dallas and its crew taking a break from snagging to pose for posterity.

snagboat_dfwurbanwildlife

The photo below shows just what the crew of the snagboat was up against. The caption was written by C. A. Keating, president of the Trinity River Navigation Company.

snagboat_keating_1890s

snagboat-caption_keating

And, finally, what prompted me to find out more about the snagboat in the first place: this ad for the Dallas Lithograph Company from the 1893 city directory. It featured an illustration of a little boat chugging along on the idyllic (and blissfully snag-free) Trinity River, with the Old Red Courthouse in the background and a little tent pitched on the bank. I wasn’t all that familiar with snagboats, but that’s what I thought it looked like. I’m sure it’s supposed to be something grander, but I’ll think of it as a snagboat anyway.

ad-dallas-lithography-co_1893-directory-det

ad-dallas-lithograph-co_1893-dir1893 Dallas directory

***

Sources & Notes

I came across the top photo (which is from the archives of the Dallas Public Library) on the web page for the 99% Invisible podcast, here. I was so enthralled with the pictures on this page that I didn’t even realize until just now that there was a podcast to listen to, called “The Port of Dallas” — about this very topic! Listen to it at the top of the page — it’s very entertaining. I think Julia Barton and I were separated at birth!

There are lots of other photos on that page, including a photo of the H. A. Harvey, Jr. and a photo showing what the Dallas Morning News looked like printed in red.

Second photo of the Snag Boat Dallas is from the DFW Urban Wildlife blog, here. More great photos there!

The final photo of the Dallas and the photo’s caption are from C. A. Keating’s autobiography, Keating and Forbes Families and Reminiscences of C. A. Keating (Dallas: self-published, 1920).

All other clippings, as noted.

To read about how people have tried and tried and tried over the years to make the Trinity River do what they wanted it to do — and failed — read the article “Navigating the Trinity, A Dream That Endured for 130 Years” by Jackie McElhaney (Legacies, Spring 1991), here.

UPDATE: I swear I was completely unaware of Julia Barton’s podcast about the “Port of Dallas” when I wrote this post, but I’m happy to report there is ALSO a video, from a presentation she did at the TEDxSMU talks in October. Watch it here. (Thanks, for alerting me to that this, Julia — my “internet twin”!)

Most clippings and photos are larger when clicked. The last photo of Snag Boat Dallas is very big.

*

Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

%d bloggers like this: