Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1920s

“Serving the Southwest From Dallas” — 1928

industrial-dallas-inc_nations-business-mag_060528_illusAll roads lead to Dallas…

by Paula Bosse

Industrial Dallas, Inc. was a nonprofit corporation formed by directors of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce to boost national awareness of Dallas’ favorable business climate and its role as a major hub of business and manufacturing in Texas and in the neighboring states Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The idea was to promote Dallas in a series of advertisements placed in national business-oriented magazines; the three-year campaign (1928-1931) had a budget of $500,000 (the equivalent of $7,000,000 in today’s money) and was led by banker and Dallas booster (and future mayor) R. L. Thornton. Despite the fact that this campaign coincided with the first years of the Great Depression, Industrial Dallas, Inc. was considered a success: it attracted hundreds of new companies to Dallas and firmly established the city’s national reputation as an important commercial center and as a dynamic young city offering limitless business opportunities.



Not everyone was smitten with these Dallas ads, however. Texans who did business beyond the “acceptable” concentric circles of the Dallas, Inc. map were annoyed, as can be seen in this amusing piece by a writer for the Waco newspaper (click to see larger image).

Waco News-Tribune, Dec. 12, 1928

The map:



Two Industrial Dallas, Inc. ads appeared it the June 5, 1928 issue of the magazine Nation’s Business (the top illustration is a detail, the second is a full-page advertisement).

The ads were intended to run only three years — until spring of 1931 — but they continued to run until at least the very beginning of 1932. In 1959, Industrial Dallas, Inc. was resurrected for another publicity blitz (led by Dallas Power & Light president C. A. Tatum, Jr.), and ads again appeared in national publications for three years. One of this later series of ads can be seen here.

An interesting little sidebar about this campaign was that it was expressly credited with attracting the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. to build a new “Master Super Service Station” at the northwest corner of Ross and Harwood in 1929 as part of the company’s multi-million-dollar national expansion program. The company purchased what was then the home of the Knights of Columbus, but it had been known since its construction around 1900 as the grand Conway residence, a palatial house designed by architect H. A. Overbeck for prominent lumber dealer J. C. Conway (it was the childhood home of his daughter Gordon Conway, a noted fashion illustrator). It was reported that after the Firestone Co. purchased the property, Harvey Firestone, Jr. had two carved mahogany mantels removed from the house and shipped to the home he was building “in the North.” It’s sad that such a lovely home (seen here) — not even 30 years old! — would be torn down to build a service station. But time and tide wait for no man. Especially in Dallas.

Images larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

San Antonio Extra: The Texas Transportation Co. and the Pearl Brewery Electric Freight Trolley

texas-transportation-co_cook-coll_degolyer_smu_san-antonioT. T. Co. No. 1, at your service… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I come across a lot of interesting Texas photos that have nothing to do with Dallas, so I think I might, on occasion, post them here, knowing that someone else is also likely to find them interesting. Like the one above.

This photo is from the incredible gift that just keeps giving, the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, held by the DeGolyer Library at SMU. Most of the items in the collection have a Dallas connection, but there are several others of general Texas interest.

When I saw this photo I wasn’t sure what it was. It looked like an electric trolley, but I’d never seen a shape like that before. It turns out it was, indeed, an electric freight locomotive. It was one of two locomotives that belonged to the Texas Transportation Co.’s tiny fleet of two — this was engine No. 1. The T.T.C. operated a freight service on their very short 1.3-mile track for 113 years (1887-2000), serving primarily the Pearl and Lone Star breweries of San Antonio, running freight to and from the breweries and the Southern Pacific rail yard. (More at Wikipedia, here.)

Here’s a later photo of the locomotive (October, 1928), now emblazoned with the Pearl Beer logo.


As hard as it is to believe, this electric freight trolley ran along the streets of San Antonio until the year 2000, when it became a victim of the Pabst Brewing Company’s acquisition and shuttering of the Pearl Brewery. Without the brewery, there was no need for the trolley to continue to run. A month before it stopped running, a man shot video footage of the locomotive(s) trundling through San Antonio. I particularly liked seeing the locos push freight cars as well as pull them (seen at about the 12:50 mark). (Read the notes of the man who shot the video on the YouTube page under “Show More.”)



Top photo — titled “T. T. Co. No. 1. Texas Transportation Co.” — is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist Unviersity; more information about this photo can be found here.

Second photo — titled “Texas Transportation Co. locomotive, engine number 1, engine type Electric” — is from the Otto C. Perry Memorial Collection of Railroad Photographs, Western History Department, Denver Public Library; more information on this photo can be found here.

A great short, illustrated history of the Texas Transportation Co. and the various locomotives that ran on its rails can be found at the Don Ross Group website, here (be sure to read the reminiscences of a man who worked at the Pearl Brewery as a college student in 1960 at the bottom of the page).

I wrote about electric interurban freight-hauling locomotives in the Flashback Dallas post “Interurbans: Freight Movers?”

Click photos to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Keeping Up With Busy Dallas — 1927

dallas-skyline_drawing_forest-avenue-high-school-yrbk_1927Spot the landmarks (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Here are two striking graphic depictions of the Dallas skyline, both of which appeared in the 1927 Forest Avenue High School yearbook. The skyline was impressive in 1927, but it would change a lot in the next few years. One important change would come with the addition of what became the unofficial symbol of Dallas: the Magnolia Building was already there in 1927, but Pegasus would not be installed on top of it until 1934.

Below, a drawing that appeared on the last page of the yearbook, showing a locomotive chugging away from the Big City, with the promise/threat “You may leave Dallas, but you’ll come back.”


This is an interesting little tidbit from the same yearbook:


26.44 square miles in area?! Smallest of any major Texas city?! 42nd in U.S. population?! How times change. According to recent figures, the City of Dallas stretches across 385 square miles, is the third largest city in Texas, and is the ninth largest city in the United States. And the Magnolia Building — seen in both of the drawings above and once the tallest building in the state — is now dwarfed by taller buildings all around it. Dallas has been busy.


Drawings from the 1927 Forest Avenue High School yearbook, The Forester. (Forest Avenue High School was the original name of James Madison High School. The all-white South Dallas high school became an all-black high school in 1956.)

The artist of the top drawing appears to be someone by the name of “Bond.” The bottom drawing is signed “GWH” — George W. Harwood, Jr. I think Bond might have been a professional artist affiliated with the printing company that printed the yearbooks, but here is the dashing photo of GWH, Class of 1930 (I believe he left Dallas and didn’t come back…).


Click drawings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Sunset High School — 1929

sunset-high-school_1929_jan-gradsAbove-the-knee hemlines! (click to see larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Two photos from Oak Cliff’s Sunset High School in 1929. Above, seniors who were to graduate early in January (those girls are wearing surprisingly short skirts!) and, below, the frumpier but generally pleasant-looking faculty.


And the school itself — Oak Cliff’s second high school (Adamson was the first) — then only four years old.



Photos from the 1929 Sunset High School yearbook.

Why, yes, Sunset does have a Wikipedia page, here.

To see what Sunset looks like these days, see it on Google Street View, here.

All photos larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

At the Palace: The Streets of Sin and The Mikado of Jazz — 1928

palace-theater_052628_univ-of-washington-librariesElm & Ervay, 89 years ago… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The photograph above is not the greatest quality, but it’s a photo I’ve never seen before. It shows the Palace Theatre in the 1600 block of Elm Street, just west of Ervay, with the well-known (and very large) Van Winkle’s Book Store in the background. One of the things that makes this photo so interesting is seeing the cumbersome support tower on top of the building holding up the ornate Palace sign. See what a slightly different Palace sign looked like the next year, lit up in neon, here.

The photo above was an amateur snapshot, taken to document the tour of the traveling live stage revue The Mikado of Jazz which played the Palace in late May of 1928. The photo below — which shows the revue’s stage manager and his wife standing on the sidewalk in front of the Palace — was taken at the same time.


Part of a sign visible behind them was probably advertising that the theater was “cooled by refrigerated air.” The ad at the bottom of this post includes this informative little tidbit:

Scientifically correct, the Palace ventilation system refreshes you with cooled breezes issued from the ceiling. You are not chilled!

What was The Mikado of Jazz? It appears to have been a jazzed-up version of The Mikado — making Gilbert & Sullivan relevant to 1920s’ audiences (like Hamilton for the Jazz Age).

Dallas Morning News, May 20, 1928

Also on the bill was Emil Jannings in The Street of Sin, the live stage orchestra, an organ player, and a Felix the Cat cartoon.

Texas Mesquiter (Mesquite), May 25, 1928

The Palace — “Dallas’ Greatest Entertainment!” Enjoyed at a comfortable temperature.

DMN, May 27, 1928


Photographs (taken in May, 1928) are from the Rene Irene Grage Photograph and Ephemera Collection, 1921-1930s, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections: more information on the first photo (the view of the theater from across the street) is here; more info on the second photo is here.

For other posts that show the Palace in this era, see these posts:

  • “Next-Door Neighbors: The Palace Theater and Lone Star Seed & Floral — 1926,” here 
  • “Dazzling Neon, Theater Row — 1929,” here

Click photos and clippings to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The White Rock Lake District: “Where Life Is Worth Living!” — 1926

white-rock-lake-district_dmn_050226_detThe idyllic view from an East Dallas villa…. (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In 1926, East Dallas was in a frenzy of development. There were so many new neighborhoods: Gastonwood, Country Club Estates, West Lake Park, Forest Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Parks Estates, Munger Place Heights, Pasadena, Camp Estates, Hughes Estates, Temple Place.


The New East Dallas
Where living is delightful and where life is worth living!


The article below — which appears to have been written by the realtors selling the property — is actually very informative. (Click to see a larger image.)



Ad and article appeared in The Dallas Morning News, May 2, 1926. Click that ad. It’s big!


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Traffic at Ross and Pearl — 1920s

ross-and-pearl_galloway_park-citiesLooking northeasterly on Ross from N. Pearl (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

The photo above shows the intersection of Ross and Pearl. The streetcar tracks ran along Pearl. We’re looking northeasterly on Ross. To the left, out of frame, would be the Sacred Heart Cathedral (renamed Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe in 1977). The photo comes from Diane Galloway’s wonderful book The Park Cities, A Photohistory. Her caption:

Traffic jams such as this one at Ross and Pearl Streets during the twenties encouraged Dallasites to pack up and move to newer developments away from the city.

With the crowd of people at the left, I think the traffic in this photo might have been caused by church-going motorists. The license plates on the cars seem to match those from 1927 and 1928 (links to license-plate-dating sites at bottom of post).

That impressive house at the top left with the pointed turret? At the time of this photograph, it was the George A. Brewer Undertaking Company. Like the two-blocks-away Belo Mansion, which was converted into the Loudermilk-Sparkman funeral home in 1926 (seen here), this spectacular house was once a private residence. It was built by Charles F. Carter (1848-1912), a wealthy cotton merchant, sometime between 1892 and 1895. It took up a huge lot at what is now the northeast corner of Ross and Crockett (see it at the bottom left of the 1921 Sanborn map, here). Here’s what the house looked like, circa 1895. (All pictures are larger when clicked.)


And, below, you can just see part of the house in a 1910 photo of the new-ish Cathedral at the corner of Ross and Pearl.


In 1920 or ’21 the Brewer Undertaking Co. moved into this house at 2303 Ross Avenue and operated as one of the city’s most prominent funeral homes until 1931 when they moved into a new location farther down Ross. When Brewer moved out, the beautiful house was demolished. In its place … a used car lot. Argh. In 1940, Lone Star Olds (later Lone Star Cadillac) moved in, eventually bought up the whole block, and became one of Dallas’ legendary car dealerships. It moved from its Ross Avenue location in 1985.



Also, even though it isn’t really visible in the top photo, across the street from the old Carter house — at 2310 Ross — was Brynce Court, a u-shaped apartment building. I haven’t been able to verify this, but The Dallas Morning News had a blurb about the “First Apartments” in the city which read as follows:

Dallas’ first apartment complex was a two-building development at 2310 Ross Ave. Built in 1919 [note: it appears to have been built in 1912], Brynce Court was the first set of apartments housed in more than one building.” (DMN, Jan. 7, 1984)

I mention this because it’s a cool little factoid, but also because I stumbled across a photo of it in an ad while looking for info on Lone Star Olds-Cadillac. So I have to show it. Surprisingly, this apartment block (which probably looked a lot less charming after fifty years) stood at that location until at least 1964.

Dallas Morning News, May 15, 1921

DMN, April 22, 1912


I always like to look at things in the background of old photos. Here’s an extremely blurry magnified detail from the top photo, showing a two-story building of shops and businesses at Ross and Leonard. Included in these businesses is the Imperial Drug Store — it’s a little hard to make out, but the vertical sign with white letters appears to read “DRUGS” (this building can be seen in the 1921 Sanborn map mentioned above).


Below, the businesses and residences along Ross Avenue — between  N. Pearl and Leonard — from the 1927 Dallas directory.


Ross and Pearl these days looks nothing like that top photo. See what the same view looks like today, via Google Street View, here. At least the Cathedral lives on.


Top photo from Diane Galloway’s book The Park Cities, A Photohistory (Dallas: privately published, 1989); from the collection of John Stull/R. L. Goodson, Jr., Inc., Consulting Engineers.

Photo of the C. F. Carter House — taken about 1895 —  from William L. McDonald’s Dallas Rediscovered (Dallas: Dallas Historical Society, 1978); from the collection of Mrs. Manning B. Shannon, Jr. (Elizabeth Leachman Shannon).

Photo of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart from the Dallas Public Library, taken in 1910.

(Cropped) photo of Lone Star Cadillac by Squire Haskins from the Squire Haskins Photography, Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Special Collections; more info is here (click thumbnail on UTA page to see much larger image).

Info on dating Texas license plates can be found here (PDF), here, and here. (If the first link doesn’t open, Google “The History of Texas License Plates.” It’s a report issued by the Texas Department of Transportation. It’s 255 pages long (!) and it’s exhaustive!)

Click pictures to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Holy Blues: Blind Willie Johnson and Arizona Dranes — 1920s


by Paula Bosse

Today a little Sunday-go-to-meetin’ music, courtesy of two powerful singers who recorded at about the same time — late 1920s — and who both spent time in Dallas. Blind Willie Johnson was from Marlin, Texas, but he recorded much of his music in Dallas and regularly played street corners in Deep Ellum. Arizona Dranes, also a native Texan, lived in Dallas for several years and was, like Johnson, blind. Listening to both of them, you can hear their influence in the gospel and blues music that came after them. Read about the short life and career of Blind Willie Johnson here. Read about the life and career of Arizona Dranes from Michael Corcoran, here and here. And listen to their music below. It’s fantastic. (All of the tracks by Johnson were recorded in Dallas.)

Blind Willie Johnson, 1927-ish?

That guitar!



Here he is with his wife singing behind him.


Johnson’s song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was included on the Voyager Gold Record, a collection of music chosen to represent Earth’s culture and diversity, carried into space aboard the Voyager.



Arizona Dranes in 1953

That voice!


The song below starts off deceptively “plinky” but picks up considerably when Arizona starts to sing.


Want to know more about Arizona Dranes? Michael Corcoran can tell you what you need to know.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Next-Door Neighbors: The Palace Theater and Lone Star Seed & Floral — 1926

palace-theatre_melting-pot_march-1926_utaElm Street neighbors, March, 1926…. (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, the Palace Theater, one of Dallas’ great moviehouses. It opened in June, 1921, near the northwest corner of Elm and Ervay; this photograph is from March of 1926, three months before the theater’s fifth birthday. It was still a whippersnapper. 

Below, a detail from the photo: by zooming in and tweaking the contrast, the box office is revealed, as are two women chatting in the shadows (all pictures and clippings are larger when clicked).


As interesting as old movie theaters are, I was more intrigued by the three people to the right of the theater (who all look like characters from a period melodrama) and by the business next door. I’ll never know who those men were or who that woman was waiting for, but finding out what business was selling baby chicks (…next door to the Palace?) was pretty easy.


The store was Lone Star Seed & Floral (1627 Elm). They sold seeds and flowers, potted plants, canaries, goldfish, and pet and livestock supplies. They could also help you with all your poultry needs: feed, incubators, medicine, and live chickens. …Right next door to one of the plushest and most luxurious entertainment destinations in Dallas.

Lone Star Seed & Floral appears to have once been Texas Seed & Floral and had been around since at least 1892. They set up shop at 1627 Elm in 1902 and remained there quite a while until they moved in January, 1927, just a few months after the top photo was taken.

The store looks very clean and extremely well organized. My inexplicable love of things stored in card-catalog-file-like cabinets and fold-out bins tells me I’d probably be stopping in fairly regularly after having seen the latest Buster Keaton film next door.


Photo and article from, yes, The Seed World, Aug. 20, 1920

Dallas Morning News, Feb. 26, 1922

But back to the Palace. The banner is publicizing the imminent arrival of John Murray Anderson’s “The Melting Pot,” a stage production which opened at the Palace on March 14, 1926. The Palace Theater, owned by the Publix chain, was about to embark on “a new and surprisingly different type of entertainment,” which consisted of musical revue roadshows staged in New York under the direction of producer John Murray Anderson. Each production — its performers, costumes, and sets — would be sent into the hinterlands, playing a circuit which included Dallas, the only stop in Texas. There was a new show every week. And if you missed it, you really had no excuse: there were four shows daily (five on Sunday). (Anderson was later asked by Billy Rose to help with producing Fort Worth’s Centennial celebration.)

Dallas Morning News, March 13, 1926

DMN, March 15, 1926 (John Rosenfield review)




Top photo from the Billy Burke Photograph Collection, UTA Libraries, Special Collections; more info here.

See the same view today via Google Street View here.

The beloved Palace — once an honest-to-God “movie palace” was unceremoniously demolished in 1971. It had stood at Elm and Ervay for 50 years. The north side of that block is now occupied by Thanksgiving Tower. The theater and the seed store were just west of Ervay — Lone Star Seed & Floral was just to the left of where the 7-Eleven is, on the ground floor of 211 N. Ervay, the blue building seen here (the view is northwesterly from the Wilson Building across the street).

See a great photo of Elm Street in the ’20s in the post “Dazzling Neon, Theater Row — 1929” here.

Click pictures and clipping to see larger images.


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


telephone_sw-bell_dmn_100821_photoYou might want to step back a few thousand feet… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

When was the last time you wondered about the history of the public address system? If you’re like me, the answer to that is probably “never.”

The photo above shows the new technical innovation from the army of Bell Systems engineers that was going to be demonstrated at the 1921 State Fair of Texas: the “Loud Speaker.” The ad (always click images and clippings for larger images):

Dallas Morning News, Oct. 8, 1921


A feature of the STATE FAIR will be the free exhibition of the latest advance in the art of telephony.
By means of this instrument a child’s voice may be heard a quarter of a mile.
A violin, a phonograph record, or a vocal solo may be heard practically all over the Fair Park.
It is a novelty never before shown in the Southwest and has been exhibited only a few times in the United States.
This Feature Alone Is Worth a Trip to the Fair.
Southwestern Bell Telephone Company


My technical expertise is pretty much non-existent, but, basically, this was the introduction of the public address system as developed by Bell Telephone, using their cutting-edge transmitters and amplifying equipment (the articles below contain more information).

An earlier version of this particular set-up had debuted the previous year at the Republican National Convention in Chicago. (Imagine attending a large, noisy political convention with speakers whose voices weren’t amplified.) It had also been used for President Harding’s inauguration speech at the beginning of 1921, a first.

state-fair_loud-speaker_coleman-tx-democrat-voice_100721Coleman Democrat Voice, Oct. 7, 1921

This was before the days of mainstream radio — Dallas’ first commercial broadcasting station, WFAA, didn’t go on the air until June, 1922. The loudspeaker system used at the fair in 1921 allowed entertainment acts and World Series play-by-play to be played loudly overhead, for most of the fairgoers to hear (which sounds a little annoying to me, but it was newfangled novelty and people were quite taken with it).

DMN, Oct. 11, 1921

DMN, Oct. 12, 1921

It also came in handy to make announcements and to page parents of lost children.

DMN, Oct. 15, 1921

The amplification at public events was enthusiastically received and much appreciated, but the real end Bell was working toward was the ability to transmit and broadcast live events happening long distances away (and also to transmit recorded music without any substantial loss of sonic quality — radio, here we come!).

state-fair_loud-speaker_dmn_101621bDMN, Oct. 16, 1921

In fact, the equipment exhibited at the fair was the same equipment used less than a month later when President Harding presented his Armistice Day address to the nation. Not only was his voice amplified to the large crowd listening to him at Arlington National Cemetery, it was also transmitted and then broadcast through “loud speakers” to crowds in New York and San Francisco — another first.

Tulsa Daily World, Dec. 11, 1921

And Texas got to experience this new technology earlier than most others in the country. Little did those Bell engineers realize in 1921 that 30-some-odd years later the booming voice of a gigantic cowboy could be heard greeting visitors all over Fair Park.


A few clippings about the vaunted “loud speaker” before it made its way to the State Fair:

Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 23, 1921

Winnipeg Tribune, March 8, 1921

DMN (from wire reports), Oct. 5, 1921

And an article on the exciting prospects of what lay ahead:

Tulsa Daily World, Dec. 11, 1921


Sources of clippings as noted.

Click for larger images!


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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