Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Everyday Life

Happy Valentine’s Day from 1883


by Paula Bosse

There was a lot going on around Dallas on Valentine’s Day in 1883. Here’s a round-up from The Dallas Herald, started off with the immortal pearl, “This is St. Valentine’s Day when people send tokens of love and sarcasm.”



Sources & Notes

Clipping from the Feb. 14, 1883 edition of The Dallas Herald, courtesy of UNT’s Portal to Texas History. The scanned page may be found here.


Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Main & Ervay, Pedestrians — 1970


by Paula Bosse

The other day SMU released fantastic 35mm color film footage captured from a camera mounted atop a car cruising downtown streets in 1970. Today they released a little more, this time a short clip showing pedestrians walking across the intersection of Main and Ervay (be sure to watch this silent footage in full-screen mode).

The Skillern’s drug store in this footage was at 1700 Main, on the southeast corner of Main and Ervay, in the Mercantile Bank Building complex; the building across Main on the northeast corner was Dreyfuss & Son Men’s Clothing, and the large building in the distance (at St. Paul) is the Titche’s department store. The end of the clip has shots of the (surprisingly red) (and no longer standing) Jefferson Hotel; sharing the frame is the fountain in Ferris Plaza (Union Station would be to the left of the camera operator, across Houston Street). This footage was shot for Dallas Theater Center productions, which I hope to write about soon.

Cool footage, SMU. Keep it coming!


Here are a few screenshots. There were a lot of vivid colors being worn by downtown workers and shoppers in 1970. I’m so accustomed to seeing black-and-white images of Dallas, that all this color is a little startling!





Below, a brief glimpse of the H. L. Green store, in the Wilson Building on the northwest corner of Main and Ervay. (And evidence that, yes, men also shop on their lunch hour.)




Sources & Notes

These screenshots are from 35mm color film footage owned by the Dallas Theater Center, held at Southern Methodist University (the direct link to the YouTube video is here). Again, thanks to SMU curator Jeremy Spracklen.

See more of this fantastic color footage of downtown in the Flashback Dallas post “A Drive Through Downtown — 1970.”


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“There’s No Place Like Home … In Dallas” — 1940s

dallas-homes_so-this-is-dallas_ca-1943Dallas homes, ca. 1943 — from modest to palatial… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

These photos are from a Chamber of Commerce-like booklet intended to lure new residents to the city. The photo montage above is from about 1943, and the one below is from about 1946. There are some beautiful houses here. In the photo above, I recognize Highland Park in the center and possibly lower right (the lower right has a lot of empty space behind it — maybe Bluff View or Preston Hollow?). The top right might be Oak Cliff? The house that makes me swoon is the white house at the lower left. It and the house above it look as if they might have been in Lakewood. If anyone knows the location of any of these houses — and if they’re still standing — please let me know!

The text that accompanied the above photo montage (circa 1943):


Visitors to Dallas invariably comment on its beautiful homes, both large and small, and the care with which they are kept modern and clean.

The women of Dallas have their garden clubs, which are organizations of flower lovers. They vie with each other in striving to make their homes attractive to the passerby and homelike to those who live within.

One reason for this is the high percentage of home ownership. A recent study indicates that 60 per cent of families living in one-family residences own their own home. This is far above the national average.

For several years Dallas has been on a truly remarkable building boom in its residential sections. New homes are springing up at the rate of 14 a day and new subdivisions are being opened as rapidly as others are sold out. The outer fringe of Dallas is, in effect, a brand-new city. Lots that were cotton fields a few years ago now contain beautiful new homes and landscaped gardens.

Any type of home plot is available to the prospective home builder here. If he desires a home in a close-in busy section, that can be found in many places. If he prefers a modest cottage on the outskirts, there are a dozen subdivisions where it can be found. If he is seeking a palatial residence or a rustic cottage on a country estate, he can find that too, and on short notice.

Dallas takes much pride in its wide recognition as a city of homes.



The text that accompanied this photo (circa 1946):


Dallas… Has Planned Beauty

The beauty of Dallas may be attributed to the wide awake and broadminded citizens of some 25 years ago, who at that time, engaged nationally known landscape artists to design and plan the future Dallas. So well was this done and so cooperative were the people of Dallas that in this short time Dallas is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the nation.

Dallas has attractive parks, driveways, public buildings and in fact hardly a house, no matter how humble, that is not improved with planting. As a city of homes the saying, “It is not a home until it is planted well” applies to Dallas. No tenant house is built today that is not surrounded by a setting of nature’s beauty. To the Garden Clubs and various women’s organizations much credit must be given for their untiring efforts to eliminate slum districts, unsightly streets and the planting of our highways.

Much credit is due the nurserymen and landscape architects, who are ever ready to give advice, planting instructions, and who have furnished shrubs, flowers and assistance to many charitable institutions and public places, as well as make talks to the clubs and organizations on when, how and what to plant in order to constantly improve Dallas. The Garden and women’s clubs annually stage flower shows and have garden contests.

All this has made Dallas today, a city beautiful – a place where you want to live.


Sources & Notes

Photos are from the booklet So This Is Dallas, published by The Welcome Wagon. The top photo is from the circa-1943 edition, used with permission, courtesy of the Lone Star Library Annex Facebook page. The second photo is from the circa-1946 edition, from the author’s collection.

Photos are larger when clicked.


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):

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).

Dallas Herald, July 31, 1877

Dallas Herald, May 14, 1878

Dallas Herald, May 24, 1882

mosquito-bars_southern-mercury_070390Southern Mercury, July 3, 1890


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).


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.

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.

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):

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.

Town Talk (Alexandria, LA), Feb. 22, 1910


DMN, May 28, 1912


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.


Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


School Lunches of Yesteryear

lunch-ladies_frontier-top-tier_dplMorning prep work: the calm before the storm (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Above, Dallas lunch ladies shelling what looks like black-eyed peas for an unidentified school’s midday meal. I can’t say I’ve ever imagined lunchroom employees ever doing something like this. In the 1920s and ’30s, schools used fresh foods when they could, but they were definitely using a lot of canned fruits and vegetables, too. All this effort — and all these women — for peas.

In a quick search for what school lunch menus were like in the late ’20s and early ’30s, here were a few delicacies that would never be found in a school cafeteria these days:

  • Roast veal
  • Sardine sandwiches
  • Creamed onions
  • “Italian hash”
  • Banana and peanut salad
  • Salmon loaf
  • Tongue salad
  • Stuffed dates
  • Prune whip/prune salad/prune pudding



Sources & Notes

Photo from the Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


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