Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Animals

Orphaned Factoids: Year-End Grab Bag, 2017

wigtons-sandwich-shop_flickr_colteraWith a name like “Wigton’s…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Time for another year-end collection of miscellaneous bits and pieces that don’t really belong anywhere, so I’m compiling them here in a weird collection of stuff. Enjoy! (Most clippings and photos are larger when clicked.)


Above, Wigton’s Sandwich Shop, owned by Charles J. Wigton. It looks like it was located near the dreaded East Grand-Gaston-Garland Road intersection. I found one listing in the 1932 city directory for this little “soft drink stand” which also served as the residence of Mr. and Mrs. C. J. Wigton. (Found on Flickr.) And somehow there’s a second photo of this place out there — the one below was found on eBay.



colors_ad_dallas-herald_112580Dallas Herald, 1880

You know, you just don’t see colors like “scared mouse,” “subdued moonshine,” and “sunset in Egypt” anymore. Pity. (Ad for A. A. Pearson’s millinery house.)


dancing_dallas-herald_1859Dallas Herald, 1859

“All those who are indebted to me for dancing lessons, MUST POSITIVELY SETTLE UP. I mean what I say.” Do not mess with dancemaster Howard. (I’m actually a little shocked someone was offering dancing lessons in Dallas, which, in 1859, was podunker than podunk.)


ad-debonair-danceland_ca19691969 Dallas directory

This is the only photo I’ve been able to find of Debonair Danceland (what a great, great name for a club). Depending on whether you were a regular, the adjectives generally used to describe the legendary dancehall are either “notorious” or “beloved.” It opened in 1967 and closed in 1995. As Bill Minutaglio wrote in The Dallas Morning News, it was “one of Dallas’ last rough-hewn links to the brawny honky-tonk highway” (DMN, July 25, 1995). It certainly had a colorful life. For starters there was a “suspicious” double bombing that ripped the place apart in 1968 (I don’t know if the photo in the ad above shows the place pre- or post-blast). There was a lot of … um … “activity” that went on at Debonair Danceland over the years which kept police-beat reporters busy. It was also apparently quite popular with bored housewives who tippled away their afternoons. (See a not-very-clear-but-at-least-larger grainy image of the photo in the ad here.)


ad-home-killed-beef_hillcrest-yrbk_19401940 Hillcrest High School yearbook

“Home-killed beef” is the best-killed beef.


weiland-funeral_1930-directory1930 Dallas directory



The Chas. F. Weiland Undertaking Co. was one of the city’s top funeral homes. They really promoted the fact that they had a “licensed lady embalmer” — I suppose some people preferred to have their mothers and other dearly beloveds tended to by a woman.


headcheese-poisoning_galveston-news_011994Galveston News, 1894

Beware the head cheese. …Always.


vegetarian_dallas-herald_050274Dallas Herald, 1874

Maybe even go cold turkey and completely ditch the head cheese for a diet consisting solely of “a salad of herbs.”


paper_houston-telegraph_121056Houston Telegraph, 1856

“The Dallas Herald is out of paper. It comes to us this week printed on wrapping paper. It is rather hard to read….”


police_dallas-herald_dallas-herald_050980Dallas Herald, 1880

I’m sure there is an interesting and most likely embarrassing story behind the implementation of this new police regulation.


kites-at-night_dallas-herald_072577Dallas Herald, 1877

This sounds wonderful.


ad-robertson-horseshoer_1900-directory1900 Dallas directory

Go to the M. O. Robertson, the expert horseshoer who will not fail to give satisfaction. Because all those others? They’re gonna fail. Not “if” but “when.”


ad-boedecker-bros_oysters-ice-cream_city-directory_18901890 Dallas directory

The sensation generated by seeing an ad with the words “oyster” and “ice cream” next to each other — cheek-by-jowl, as it were — is not a pleasant one.



Who knew? Ukulele-mania was alive and well in Big D in the ’20s.


sanger-bros_first-fashion-illus-in-ads-1881_centennial-ad-det_19721972 ad (detail)

A little tidbit on the history of commercial fashion illustration in Dallas, from a Sanger’s ad celebrating the company’s Centennial.



Another Sanger’s ad. This one with a, let’s say “more populist” example of the store’s fashion-illustration chops.


cat-wanted_dallas-herald_112387Dallas Herald, 1887

“WANTED—A good gentle well disposed cat to use in taking pictures. Apply to J. H. Webster, High Priced Photographer, 803 Elm or 804 Main streets.”

Okay, I’m a sucker. I love cats, and I love self-proclaimed “high-priced photographers.” Ergo, I must love this ad. I do. Seems like a good time to share a couple of 19th-century photographs of cats. 

cat_jones-coll_degolyer1860s, via SMU

cat_baby_degolyer1890s, via SMU


Sources & Notes

Dallas Herald clippings are from the Texas Digital Newspaper collection provided by UNT to the Portal to Texas History; you can peruse many scanned issues of The Dallas Herald (not to be confused with the later Dallas Times Herald) here.

“Cat Posed with Mexican Serape” is a cased ambrotype from the Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photographs collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more details on this photo can be found here. The article “Everyone Loves the Cat!” can be read on the SMU CUL blog “Off the Shelf,” here.

“Baby Seated with Cat” is also from the Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photographs collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU; more info on the photo is here.

Want more? See other “Orphaned Factoid” lists here.

Most images are larger when clicked. Click away!


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Cowtown Extra: Fort Worth Zookeeper Ham Hittson and His Forest Park Friends

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_fawn_062937_UTAZookeeper Hittson and tiny friend… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today, Fort Worth. I was looking for photos of the old Forest Park in Oak Cliff (which was renamed Marsalis Park in 1925) and came across photos of the Forest Park Zoo. A search on the internet showed me that there was also a Forest Park Zoo in Fort Worth. I’ve never actually been a big fan of zoos, but I saw the photo above and was won over by its sheer cuteness. So let’s just take a little trip westward and enjoy some photos of cute animals, most of which feature zookeeper Henry Hamilton (“Ham”) Hittson.

Ham Hittson (1912-1966) began working as a zookeeper at the Forest Park zoo in the early 1930s — if his obituary is correct, he became the zoo’s director in 1933 — at the age of only 21! During World War II he served for two years in the Coast Guard, assigned to work with sentry and attack dogs and with patrol horses. After the war he returned to the zoo (he was the director of the zoo for 21 years) and eventually became the director of the Fort Worth Park Department. His 1966 obituary (he was only 54 when he died) noted that he was instrumental in forming the Fort Worth Zoological Association. And, well, these photos are very sweet.

(All photos are from the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Click pictures to see larger images; click the link below each photo for more information.)


The photo at the top is my favorite — it shows Hittson with a tiny fawn born the previous day. The photo above and the one below were taken on June 29, 1937.

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_fawn_062937-b_UTAMore info here

Below, Hittson with a new baby lion cub named Will (June 29, 1939).

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_lion-cub_062939_UTAMore info here

Actor Jimmy Stewart stopped by the zoo on May 22, 1953 to check out the zoo’s new rhinoceros, Marilyn Monroe. F. Kirk Johnson, zoological board president, is at the left and Hittson, then park department director, is at the right.

FW-zoo_jimmy-stewart_052253_UTAMore info here

Back to Ham’s zookeeper days: in the photo below (taken on August 2, 1940), he’s standing with one of the zoo’s top attractions, an elephant named Queen Tut. He’s bidding her farewell as he is about to leave for New York where he will pick up a baby elephant to be her companion. (Hittson and the zoo’s veterinarian brought the one-year old elephant back with them in a trailer — they must have attracted a lot of stunned looks along the highway as they drove back from New York.)

FW-zoo_hamilton-hittson_elephant_080240_UTAMore info here

The arrival of this new elephant was big news — there were almost daily updates in the pages of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In order to buy the elephant, the zoo had had to take out a loan from the bank, and in what was both a speedy way to pay off the debt and a clever way to garner publicity, there followed a successful drive to raise money to pay off the “mortgage” — countless school children happily did their parts by contributing pennies, nickels, and dimes in the fundraising effort and then flocked to the zoo to see the newest member of the zoo family and welcome her to Fort Worth.

And here’s Queen Tut with her new little pal, Penny, on September 10, 1940.

FW-zoo_queen-tut-and-penny_091040_UTAMore info here



Sources & Notes

There are tons of photos of the Forest Park Zoo in the UTA Libraries Special Collections, here (20 pages’ worth!).

Click photos to see larger images.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

“Our First Joy Ride” — 1911

mule-joyride_pop-mechanics_jan-1912Mules taking a load off, Main & Ervay, 1911

by Paula Bosse

Flipping through the pages of a Jan. 1912 issue of Popular Mechanics — as one does — I came across a photo of a truckload of joyriding mules which was accompanied by this explanatory text:


Ah, a publicity stunt. A Chicago newspaper offered a bit more background, and gave us the delightful phrase “joy-riding equine debutantes.”

mules_chicago-inter-ocean_102311Chicago Inter Ocean, Oct. 23, 1911

Another report added that the mules were “adorned with a collection of discarded women’s hats and bonnets elaborated with all the old ribbons, feathers and similar gee-gaws […] securely tied on with pink and red mosquito netting…. The procession was headed by Dallas’ most prominent business men in a brand new White 1912 ’30.'” (Automobile Topics magazine, Oct. 28, 1911)

Despite the fact that this, let’s face it, pretty unusual “parade” happened on Main St., with apparent participation by “prominent businessmen,” I can find no mention of it in local newspapers. Maybe because it was a publicity stunt and there was no advertising fee collected by the papers. The story ran in a handful of newspapers (Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, DC), and the Washington Post ran the photo below under the headline “New Way to Advertise Motor Trucks.”

mules_washington-post_102211Washington Post, Oct. 22, 1911

The White Motor Company (makers of the mule-laden truck) must have been quite taken with the unnamed entrepreneur’s banner, because they used the exact same wording on a banner draped on one of their trucks which was a featured attraction on Transportation Day at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Let’s hope the original Dallas guy got a little something out of all this.


On further investigation into The Case of the Joyriding Mules, it appears that this was the brainchild of the General Manager of the White Motor Co., A. E. Creeger (or perhaps that of one of his gung-ho underlings). In a 1912 article in The Dallas Morning News, Creeger talks about the relatively soft truck market in Texas (!), and it’s easy to see why he was doing all he could to draw attention to his company’s line of trucks — even if it meant loading them up with “emancipated” livestock.

And here’s one of his ads from almost exactly one year after the mule stunt:

white-motor-co_dmn_101312Oct. 13, 1912


Sources & Notes

Top photo appeared in the January, 1912 issue of Popular Mechanics.

The “parade” (which took place sometime in the middle of October, 1911) is seen heading west on Main Street, just about to pass Ervay. The inescapable Wilson Building dominates the photo, with the tall, white Praetorian Building in the background. The restaurant at the right — at 1705 Main — was the California Restaurant, a Dallas eatery specializing in Chinese food since at least the 1890s.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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