Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: HOF

The Gill Well

gill-well_highland-park_dallas-rediscoveredThe Highland Park pagoda… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I never heard of the Gill Well growing up — in fact, it wasn’t until around the time I started this blog — about three or four years ago — that I first became aware of it. Though largely forgotten today, the Gill Well used to be a pretty big deal in Dallas: for years, early-20th-century entrepreneurs tried valiantly and persistently to capitalize on the mineral-heavy artesian water from this well — the plan was to use this hot spring water in order to turn Dallas (or at least Oak Lawn) into, well, “the Hot Springs of Texas.” We came so close!

So — Gill Well? Who, what, when, where, why, and how?

In 1902 city alderman and water commissioner C. A. Gill proposed sinking an artesian well near the Turtle Creek pumping station in order to determine if the flow of water in underground springs was sufficient to augment Dallas’ water supply (there was, at the time, another such test well being drilled in West Dallas). The City Council was on board and wanted this test well to be a deep well, “the deepest in the state — in order to settle once and for all the question as to whether or not there lies beneath the earth in this section a body of water, or ‘an underground sea,’ as some call it, of sufficient size to supply the needs of all the people” (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 6, 1902).

Fellow alderman Charles Morgan explained Gill’s proposition to the people of Dallas in a prepared statement to the Morning News:

By sinking artesian wells it is not intended to abandon the plans proposed to secure an adequate storage supply from surface drainage, but that the artesian wells shall augment the supply. We can not get too much water, but if we secure an ample artesian supply our storage basins will be reserve. There will be no conflict. We simply make success double sure. (Alderman Charles Morgan, DMN, Aug. 24, 1902)

The well was sunk in September or October of 1902 near the Turtle Creek pumphouse (which was adjacent to where a later station was built in 1913, the station which has been renovated and is now known as the Sammons Center for the Arts — more on the construction of that 1913 station and a photo of the older pumphouse can be found here); the drilling was slow-going and went on until at least 1904, reaching a depth of more than 2,500 feet. It’s a bit out of my area of expertise, but, basically, good, palatable artesian water from the Paluxy sands — water “free from mineral taint” — was found, but, deeper, a larger reservoir of highly mineralized “Gill water” — from the Glen Rose stratum — was found. That was good news and bad news.

gill-well_dmn_120103Dallas Morning News, Dec. 1, 1903

The “bad news” came from the fact that a part of a pipe casing became lodged in the well, causing an obstruction in the flow of the “good” water from the Paluxy formation. Again, it’s a bit confusing, but the heavy flow of 99-degree-fahrenheit mineral water (which was corrosive to pipes) threatened to contaminate the “good” Paluxy water … as well as the water from the Woodbine formation from which most (all?) of the private wells in Dallas secured their water. (Read detailed geological reports on the well in a PDF containing contemporaneous newspaper reports here — particular notice should be paid to the comprehensive overview of the well and its problems which was prepared for the Dallas Water Commission by Engineer Jay E. Bacon and published in the city’s newspapers on May 10, 1905).

So what the City of Dallas ended up with as a result of this Gill Well was a highly dependable source of hot mineral water. But what to do with it? Monetize it!

As part of the city’s water supply, the mineral water was made available to Dallas citizens free of charge: just show up at one of the handful of pagoda-covered dispensing stations with a jar, a bucket, or a flask, and fill up with as much of the rather unpleasant-smelling (and apparently quite powerful!) purgative as you could cart home with you. (For those who didn’t want to mingle with the hoi polloi, home delivery was available for a small fee.) One such “pagoda” was erected a short distance away, in front of the city hospital (Old Parkland) at Maple and Oak Lawn (the healthful water was also piped directly into the hospital for patient use).

gill-well-parkland-pagoda_brenham-weekly-banner_040605
Brenham Weekly Banner, April 6, 1905

One man, however, began offering the water for sale beyond Dallas, hoping to cash in on the free-flowing tonic (see the mineral-content breakdown here), but the city clamped down on him pretty quickly as he was not an authorized agent. From his 1906 ad, one can see that the reputation of Gill water and its healing and restorative powers was already widely known.

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DMN, Aug. 2, 1906

If the water was not to be sold, what was the City of Dallas going to do with it? It was decided to pipe the the water a short distance from the test well to nearby property adjacent to the land now occupied by Reverchon Park, then lease the access to the water to a capitalist who would build a sanitarium/spa where people could come to “take the waters” — to bathe in the naturally warm, mineral-heavy artesian water with mystical recuperative properties. The sanitarium would make money by charging its patrons for its services, and the city would collect a small annual income based on the number of the sanitarium’s bathing tubs and the amount of water used:

Compensation to the city shall be $10 per tub per year and one-half-cent per gallon for all water used. (DMN, Jan. 4, 1907)

The Gill Well Sanitarium and bath house opened in January, 1907, on Maple Avenue just north of the MKT Railroad (now the Katy Trail). (Most clippings and pictures in this post are larger when clicked.)

gill-well-sanitarium_dmn_010407DMN, Jan. 4, 1907

I searched and searched and searched for a picture of the building and, hallelujah, I finally found one, in the pages of The Dallas Morning News, taken by photographer Henry Clogenson. (This is the only picture I’ve been able to find of it, and, I have to say, it’s not at all what I expected the building to look like. It actually looks like something you’d see in a present-day strip mall.)

gill-well-sanitarium_dmn_011307_photoDMN, Jan. 13, 1907

gill-well-sanitarium_dmn_010607_ad
Advertisement, DMN, Jan. 6, 1907

Business at the new sanitarium was very good, and the public fountains/spigots at both the sanitarium property and a block or so away at the city hospital continued to be popular with residents who needed a boost or a “cure” and stopped by regularly for a sip or a pail of the free mineral water.

gill-well_ad_dallas-police-dept-bk_1910_portal1910 ad

In 1912 a natatorium (an indoor swimming pool) was added and proved even more popular. It was open to men, women, and children; admittance and bathing suit rental was 25¢ (about $6.50 in today’s money). (Contrary to the headline of the ad below, it was not Dallas’ first natatorium — there was one near City Park on South Ervay by at least 1890 — but it was probably the first pool in the city filled with warm mineral water.)

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DMN, April 14, 1912

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DMN, July 7, 1912

gill-well-natatorium_dmn_100612DMN, Oct. 6, 1912

The last paragraph of the ad above mentions a plan to pipe Gill water to a hotel downtown — not only would the Gill Well Sanitarium Company’s services be offered in the heart of the city amidst lavish hotel surroundings (instead of in Oak Lawn, way on the edge of town), but the company would also be able to compete with Dallas’ other (non mineral-water) Turkish baths — then they’d really be rolling in the cash. As far as I can tell, nothing came of the plan, but the men behind it were pretty gung ho, as can be seen in this rather aggressive advertorial from the same year:

ad-sanitorium-baths_blue-bk_1912The Standard Blue Book of Texas, 1912

All seemed to be going well with the sanitarium until the city and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (the MKT, or the Katy) decided to remove the railroad’s grade crossings through the Oak Lawn area (all work which was to be paid for by the railroad). Double tracks were to be added and crossings were either raised or the streets were lowered. The crossings affected were Lemmon, Cedar Springs and Fairmount (where street levels were cut down to go under the tracks) and Hall, Blackburn, and Bowen (where tracks would be elevated). Also affected: Maple Avenue. (Read more about the MKT plan in the Dallas Morning News article from Aug. 23, 1918 — “Dallas Is Eliminating Four Grade Crossings” — here.)

The Maple Avenue-Katy Railroad crossing had long been a dangerous area for wagons, buggies, and, later, automobiles. Not only was it at the top of a very steep hill (see what that general area north of that crossing looked like around 1900 here), but it also had two sharp curves. The decision was made to straighten Maple Avenue between the approach to the railroad crossing and Oak Lawn Avenue at the same time Maple was being lowered and the Katy track was being raised. (Read the announcement of this plan — “Straighten Maple Avenue Is Plan” — from the Nov. 29, 1917 edition of The Dallas Morning News, here.) The only problem — as far as the Gill Well Sanitarium was concerned — was that the straightened road would go directly through the sanitarium property. I don’t know if the long-time owner of the sanitarium, J. G. Mills, knew about this approaching dire situation, but in 1915 — just a few short months after boasting in advertisements that more than 50,000 patients had availed themselves of the sanitarium’s amenities in 1914 — he placed an ad seeking a buyer of the business (although, to be fair, he’d been trying to sell the company for years):

gill-well_dmn_080815_for-saleDMN, Aug. 8, 1915

(In the ad he states that the buyer had an option to purchase the actual well, but the city had never expressed any desire to sell either the well or the full rights to the water.)

The Gill Well Sanitarium Co. appears to have been dissolved in 1916, but there was still hope that a sanitarium/hot springs resort could continue on the property. In 1917, interested parties petitioned the city to change its plans to straighten Maple, arguing that it would destroy any ability to do business on the site, but the city went forward with its plans, and in November, 1919, the City of Dallas purchased the land from the group of partners for $21,500 (about $305,000 in today’s money).

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DMN, Nov. 13, 1919

The monetization of water from Dallas’ fabled Gill Well ended after ten years.

I had never heard of Maple Avenue being straightened. Below is a map of Turtle Creek Park (which became Reverchon Park in 1915), showing Maple’s route, pre-straightening — the main buildings of the sanitarium were in the bulge just west of Maple, between the Katy tracks and the boundary of the park.

reverchon-park_turtle-creek-park_map_1914-15
1915 map, via Portal to Texas History

Another view can be seen in a detail from a (fantastic) 1905 map, with the approximate location of the Gill Well Sanitarium circled in white:

maple-ave_1905-map_portal_det_gill-wellWorley’s Map of Greater Dallas, 1905

A year or more ago I saw the photo below on the Big D History Facebook page but had no idea at the time what I was looking at: it apparently shows Maple Avenue in 1918, taken from about Wolf Street (probably more like Kittrell Street), which was then near the city limits, looking north. You can seen the curve Maple makes and the steep hill — that large building at the right must be the sanitarium and/or the later-built natatorium. (The view today can be seen here.)

maple-ave_road-construction_from-wolf_1918_big-d-history-FB

So the Gill Well Sanitarium and Bath House was closed, the land was purchased by the City of Dallas, Maple Avenue was straightened, and, in the summer of 1923, the remaining abandoned buildings on the property were demolished. But that didn’t spell the end of the famous Gill Well water.

Highland Park’s “Gill Water” Pagoda

Around 1924, “Gill water” tapped from the Glen Rose Strata was made available to Highland Park, via a small “watering house” and drinking fountain on Lakeside Drive (at Lexington), a location which proved to be quite popular. The mineral water was a byproduct of Highland Park’s “deep well” which was drilled in 1924 to tap the pure artesian springs of the Trinity Sands Strata in order to augment the water supply of the City of Highland Park: in order to get down to the Trinity Sands, one had to pass through the Glen Rose Strata — I guess the HP powers-that-be figured they might as well tap the hot mineral water and offer their citizens access to it by building a small fountain and dispensing station. In 1928, the little “watering station” structure was spiffed up with the addition of a tile roof, attractive walkways, and drainage. The photo seen at the top of this post has frequently been misidentified as the Reverchon Park well, but it is actually the Highland Park “pagoda.” Here it is again:

gill-well_highland-park_dallas-rediscoveredfrom the book Dallas Rediscovered

It can be identified as the Highland Park location because of the photo below from the George W. Cook collection of historic Dallas photos from SMU’s DeGolyer Library — it shows what appears to be a later view of the same pagoda, now slightly overgrown. The steps to the bridge across Exall Lake and the bridge’s railing can be seen at the far right (the bridge led to the Highland Park pumping station, which can be seen on a pre-watering-station 1921 Sanborn map here).

gill-well_highland-park_cook-collection_degolyer_smuGeorge W. Cook Collection, SMU

And, well, there’s the sign that reads “Highland Park Deep Wells — Free to the Pubic” — here’s a close-up:

gill-well_highland-park_cook-collection_degolyer_smu_det

(The same sign from the top photo can be seen in a high-contrast close-up here.)

After seeing this photo, I realized that a photo I featured in a post from last year showed the pagoda in what looks like its earliest days, at Lakeside Drive and Lexington Avenue (the bridge can be seen at the left):

hp_lakeside-drive_rppc_ebayeBay

I was unable to find out when this HP pagoda bit the dust, but the location as seen today on Google Street View is here. (It’s pretty strange to think that a steady stream of people from all over Dallas drove to the Park Cities to fill up jugs with free mineral water; my guess is that the wealthy Lakeside Avenue residents weren’t completely enamored of the situation.)

Reverchon Park Pavilion

Even though the Gill Well Sanitarium Co. had dissolved in 1916, and the last traces of its buildings had been torn down in 1923, the famed well’s water didn’t disappear from the immediate Oak Lawn area. In February of 1925, the City of Dallas opened a $5,000 pavilion, “making up for twenty years indifference to what is said to be the finest medicinal water in the South” (DMN, Feb. 11, 1925). This pet project of Mayor Louis Blaylock seems to have continued to be a place for Dallasites to get their mineral water at least through the 1950s, according to online reminiscences. This 1925 “pavilion” is described thusly in the WPA Dallas Guide and History:

The water, which resembles in many respects the mineral waters of European resorts and is used in several county and city institutions, is carried to the surface in pipes and can be drawn from taps arranged around a semicircle of masonry near the entrance to the park. Here cars stop at all hours of the day and people alight to drink the water or to fill bottles and pails.

I have not been able to find a photograph of that post-sanitarium dispensing site. A 1956-ish aerial photo of Reverchon Park can be found here. I don’t see a “semicircle of masonry” in an area I assume would be located near Maple Avenue and the Katy tracks.

According to a comment on the DHS Archives Phorum discussion group, there was also a public spigot nearer to the original well, along Oak Lawn Avenue, across the street from Dal-Hi/P. C. Cobb stadium.

There is surprisingly little accurate information on the Gill Well online. I hope this overview helps correct some of the misinformation out there. If anyone knows of additional photos of the sanitarium and/or natatorium, please send them my way and I’ll add them to this post. If there are any photos of the Reverchon Park pavilion, I’d love to see those as well. There is a 1926 photo of the Highland Park location which shows two women and two girls filling receptacles — I am unable to post that here, but check the Dallas Morning News archives for the short article “Free Mineral Well Waters Popular” (DMN, May 29, 1926).

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Incidentally, even though the wells have been capped, that hot mineral water is still there underground and could be tapped at any time. Dallas could still be the “Hot Springs of Texas”!

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Sources & Notes

Top photo is from p. 199 of Dallas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald. The photo is incorrectly captioned as showing the location of the “Gill Well Bath House and Natatorium, c. 1904” — it is actually the Highland Park dispensing station at Lakeside Drive and Lexington Avenue in about 1928.

Photo showing Maple Avenue, pre-straightening, is from the Big D History Facebook page; original source of photo is unknown.

Second photo of the Highland Park Gill Well location (with the vegetation looking a bit more overgrown) is from a postcard captioned “Drinking Bogoda [sic], deep mineral well in Highland Park, Dallas, Texas” — it is from the George W. Cook Dallas/Texas Image Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; more information on this image is here.

Photo showing Lakeside Drive with the pagoda at the left is a real photo postcard captioned “Lake Side Drive in Highland Park” — it was offered last year on eBay.

Sources of all other clippings, ads, and maps as noted.

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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The Neiman-Marcus Corporate Flag, Designed by Emilio Pucci — 1966

neiman-marcus-corporate-flag_emilio-pucci_1966_dallas-public-library“Emilio Pucci was our Betsy Ross…”

by Paula Bosse

While looking through the Neiman Marcus Collection at the downtown Dallas Public Library, I stumbled across this perhaps long-forgotten part of Neiman-Marcus history: the “corporate flag” designed by Italian fashion legend Emilio Pucci. The image was featured on a Neiman’s postcard; the text on the back of the card reads:

Flying high over the fashion land of Neiman-Marcus: our new corporate flag, the Lone-Star-and-Stripes. Emilio Pucci was our Betsy Ross.

Betsy Ross and Emilio Pucci mentioned in the same breath! An 18th-century American seamstress who became a patriotic icon, and an Italian fashion designer whose vividly colorful, boldly patterned designs came to symbolize the youth and energy of the 1960s… talk about your strange bedfellows!

The only thing I could find about this unusually colorful flag was a brief mention in a Dallas Morning News fashion article about Neiman’s 28th Neiman-Marcus Exposition Award in early February of 1966. Gay Simpson wrote in The News that the luncheon centerpieces “carried the colors of the new Neiman-Marcus house flag. The flag, designed by Emilio Pucci, Italian couturier, has the colors of a Texas sunset dramatized with the Lone Star and stripes” (DMN, Feb. 9, 1966).

Stanley Marcus wrote in his 1974 memoir Minding the Store that his business relationship with Pucci (“the most copied designer of our time, aside from Chanel”) began in Italy in 1948 when Marcus met with the struggling young designer and placed an order for several of his scarves. Though Neiman-Marcus had not yet expanded beyond their single department store in Dallas, the store’s reputation and influence were certainly known in fashionable circles around the world, and this N-M “stamp of approval” must have been immensely important to Pucci, whose name was not yet known. This friendship and business relationship blossomed into a mutually beneficial and very profitable partnership, and it seems perfectly reasonable that Pucci would design a flag for his friend and early supporter, Stanley Marcus. (Read more of Marcus’ thoughts on Pucci here.)

There you have it. Who knew?

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As a postscript, any Dallas blog worth its salt cannot let a mention of Emilio Pucci go by without noting his main connection to the city: Pucci will forever be remembered as the man who brought outrageously colorful and super groovy mod designs to the stewardess uniforms of Dallas-based Braniff International Airways (designs so retinally exciting that they make that little Neiman’s flag look a little dowdy in comparison!).

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Sources & Notes

The image of the corporate flag is from a Neiman’s postcard, which can be found in the extensive (!) Neiman Marcus Collection of the Dallas Public Library (the back of the card can be seen here); it is used with permission. Thanks to the incredibly helpful staff of the Dallas History & Archives division of the downtown Dallas Public Library. (Much thanks, particularly, to Digital Archivist Misty Maberry!)

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Dallas/The Big D” by William E. Bond — ca. 1962

dallas-big-d_william-e-bond_business-week-collection_ca1962Yonder lies Big D… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

This print — titled “Dallas/The Big D” by native Texan William E. Bond (1923-2016) — is fantastic. I love everything about it. It was commissioned by Business Week magazine to be used as part of its “Business America” series, an advertising campaign showcasing fifteen American cities captured in woodcuts. Every element of this scene is great, but let’s look at a detail showing just the Dallas skyline, with a hard-to-miss Pegasus. I also see what looks to be the Mercantile Building and the Republic Bank Building in there. And … that sky!

bond_william-e_dallas-big-d_print_business-week_ca-1962_det

william-e-bond_sig

Bond’s homage to Dallas was reproduced in the 1963 book Woodcuts of Fifteen American Cities from the Business Week Collection. Below, text from the book (my assumption is that the first paragraph is the copy that appeared in a print advertisement for Business Week — it appears that the ad campaign used the artists’ works collected in this book to illustrate the ads, with each ad mentioning local companies with large BW subscribership).

Dallas … leapfrogging ahead commercially and culturally. Cotton, cattle, and oil put the Big D on the map. But aircraft, electronics and machinery keep it moving. Companies like Texas Instruments (682 Business Week subscribers), Ling-Temco-Vought (106), Collins Radio (135), Dresser Industries (123). In Dallas, and everywhere in business America, men who manage companies read Business Week. You advertise in Business Week when you want to inform management.

And this was Bond’s bio with a quote from him on “the Big D”:

“Dallas is a great many things. It is a giant of a city in the midst of a giant country – full of life and energy and the will to grow and keep growing. Anyone who knows Dallas feels this spirit. And it is this feeling that I have tried to capture.”

Born in 1923 in Crandall, Texas, Mr. Bond attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles. He has won many gold and silver awards in art director and illustrator shows, including a gold medal in the New York Illustrators Show in 1962. Mr. Bond uses a variety of media, including paper prints, sculpture, and painting. He has been an agency art director most of his career, and is now a free-lance designer.

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Bill Bond was born in Crandall, Texas in 1923, studied art at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, and spent several years as an award-winning commercial artist in Dallas. He worked as an advertising art director for The Dallas Times Herald, the Sam Bloom Agency, and Tracey-Locke; during this time he frequently participated in group art shows around the city. When he retired, he focused his creative talents on sculpture, becoming known for his wildlife pieces and Western bronzes. He died in Kerrville in 2016 at the age of 92.

william-bond_obit-photo

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Sources & Notes

The book that features a reproduction of this print is Woodcuts of Fifteen American Cities from the Business Week Collection (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, Inc., 1963). From the introduction:

One of the principal methods of communication in the 20th century, and one of the biggest businesses, is advertising. Here, too, industry has regularly and effectively used fine art – in the creation of some memorable advertising campaigns.

From 1960 to 1962 Business Week commissioned fourteen prominent woodcut artists to illustrate its “Business America” series. Reproductions of the fifteen woodcut illustrations which were produced appear on the following pages.

Bill Bonds’ obituary is here.

Thanks to Bob Dunn for posting an image of Bond’s print in the Retro Dallas Facebook group. I liked it so much I went out and bought a copy of the (large) book! A few copies are available online here.

Images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2017 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

How Dallas Used to Get Election Returns

election-returns_1928_frank-rogers_dplA Dallas crowd waits for returns in 1928 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I think there’s some sort of political thing going on? Like most every other human being in the United States (…and beyond), I’m pretty sick of hearing about politics and politicians. Like nauseous sick. So why not write about elections! Below are some fun facts about how Dallasites used to get their election returns — share them with your fellow voters while standing in line at the polling station. They will think you are either very interesting or very annoying.

Forget the issues and the personalities, let’s look at election results: how were they passed along to the public in the days before radio and television? Other than newspapers (the primary source of all things informational), there was a time when results were “bulletined” by throwing images onto stretched canvases or even onto the sides of  buildings by a powerful stereopticon or “magic lantern.” These results were continuously updated as manual counts in local races were tabulated; farther-flung races were updated via tallies received by telegraph or telephone. Crowds gathered in front of buildings — usually newspaper offices — to watch the returns. Some accounts have this form of information dissemination beginning in the 1860s (see an illustration from 1872 here), with the practice becoming more widespread by the 1880s and more technologically advanced by the 1890s.

Below, an illustration showing jubilant crowds watching congressional returns in Columbus, Ohio in 1884.

ohio_election-results_1884
Columbus, Ohio, 1884

Things had been refined by 1896, as this illustration from the Atlanta Constitution shows. The caption: “Flashing out the returns in front of the Constitution office. Thousands of people gathered in front of the Constitution Building last night and watched the returns come in.” In the rain! That’s dedication.

atlanta-1896_twitter
Atlanta, Georgia, 1896

Also in 1896 — things got crazy in New York, with a ridiculously large “screen” hung from a very tall building.

projections_electrical-engineer_mag_111196_photo
NYC, 1896

magic-lantern_nyc_films-and-american-presidency
from “Film and the American Presidency”

The first mention I found in The Dallas Morning News about projecting election results before a large crowd was in 1891. Not only did the newspaper have a large bulletin board (maybe like a large chalk board?), they also used the stereopticon. (The full article about the results of the 1891 election can be read here.) (All pictures and clippings are larger when clicked.)

1891_election-returns_dmn_040891
Dallas Morning News, April 8, 1891

The magic lantern was called back into service the next year (read an entertaining DMN article about an 1892 election here in which the crowd huddled in front of the screen watching the returns despite rain and open saloons) — in fact, this “electric bulletin board” was so popular it was used for at least 40 more years.

In 1896, interest was really intense — an unbelievable 94% of Dallas’ registered voters had turned out to cast ballots. (It took four days to tally the votes!) A huge crowd gathered around the News building at Commerce and Lamar to watch the bulletins which were “flashed by means of a powerful stereopticon on a large canvas screen stretched across the street” (“Republicans Doubled Votes in ’96” by Sam Acheson, DMN, Jan. 1, 1968).

By 1900 this stereopticon thing was getting to be standard operating procedure.

1900_election-result_dmn_110600
DMN, Nov. 6, 1900

1908_election-result_dmn_050208
DMN, May 2, 1908

By 1911, “25,000 or 30,000 persons” were showing up to watch the returns.

1911_25-or30000-people_dmn_072311
DMN, July 23, 1911

I guess people used to just phone the papers after elections to ask about the results. The News would rather you didn’t, thanks.

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DMN, July 21, 1916

1918 was an interesting year for a few reasons: (1) WWI was underway, (2) the polls opened — for some reason — at 9:27 AM and closed at 8:27 PM (?), and … (3) it was the first election in Dallas in which women were allowed to vote. There was suddenly a huge number of registered voters to have to deal with. Newspaper reports showed registration of women outnumbering men in several precincts. The large number of new voters meant that votes began to be counted “one hour after the polls are opened and will continue until the work is concluded” (DMN, July 19, 1918). Which seems odd. Also, women were encouraged to vote early in the day so as to avoid long lines and men were instructed to watch their behavior if there were women present.

1918_election-result_dmn_072618
DMN, July 26, 1918

It’s surprising that the use of projectors to display election returns was used as late as 1930, well after the advent of radio. Apparently the Texas Election Bureau and Press Association had rules forbidding radio stations from announcing election results over the air until they had been printed in the newspaper — they were, however, allowed to give “relative standings” to their audiences at fifteen-minute intervals (DMN, July 27, 1930).

Seems like the newspapers held all the power (probably not a huge problem for radio stations since most of them were owned by the newspapers, and, of course, no problem at all for the papers who printed oodles of “extra” editions). By 1930, though, crowds had gotten so large downtown that they were diverting people to Fair Park where they could sit and enjoy the cool breezes as they listened to see if their candidates had won or lost. (“Sitting” seems to be the operative word here.) But soon radio would wrest the “instant news bulletin” power away from the newspapers, and these quaint magic lantern watching-parties would be unnecessary. Eventually people wouldn’t know they’d ever even existed.

Fast-forward to today. I can’t even imagine trekking downtown to watch election results come in at a snail’s pace, magic lantern or not. It’s the 21st century, man, and I’ll be plopped in front of my TV, channel-hopping, stress-eating and stress-drinking, and wondering what friendly country I might consider “visiting” for a while.

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Sources & Notes

Top photo shows crowds of Dallasites watching election returns. This Frank Rogers photo — a Dallas Public Library photo reproduced in A. C. Greene’s book Dallas, The Deciding Years — shows a crowd (which seems to be devoid of women) watching the 1928 presidential election returns on Elm Street. Another Rogers photo from the DPL, undated, probably taken 5 or 6 years earlier:

election-returns_elm-street_dpl_frank-rogers

It’s convenient that he was able to include his studio in the background! The photograph is undated, but Frank Rogers and the Adam Schaaf Piano Store shared a building — at 1303 Elm — between 1922 and 1923. The building to the right is the Dallas Times Herald Building, and it would make sense that the crowd was looking toward the other side of the street. In fact, this may have been the night that the KKK famously marched through downtown, past the large crowds gathered in front of both the Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Morning News offices, to celebrate that their candidates had won … and won big.

klan-march_dmn_082722
DMN, Aug. 27, 1922

The illustration showing Ohio returns in Columbus being projected on the night of Oct. 14, 1884 is from Frank Leslie’s Weekly (this illustration was featured in the book Politicking and Emergent Media: U.S. Presidential Elections of the 1890s by Charles Musser).

The 1896 illustration is from the Atlanta Constitution, found on Twitter.

The 1896 photograph of the World Building in New York is from the trade journal The Electrical Engineer, Nov. 11, 1896. The paragraph below it is from the book Film and the American Presidency by Jeff Menne and Christian B. Long.

Further reading from the archives of The Dallas Morning News (regarding the July 26, 1930 election):

  • “News and Journal To Give Two Election Count Parties” (DMN, July 25, 1930) — an announcement to voters where they could get the “flashed” returns of the next day’s voting (in front of the News building “as usual,” and at Fair Park “where results will also be thrown on a screen at the moving picture booth near the grand stand”
  • “Fates of Favorites Watched on News and Journal Screens” (DMN, July 27, 1930) — two photos showing crowds at Commerce and Lamar and at Fair Park watching the returns

Click pictures and clippings to see larger images.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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

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

by Paula Bosse

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

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

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The text of the 1894 Dallas Ensor Institute ad above:

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

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

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?

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Even though the addiction rate was getting to be something of an epidemic — especially, it seems, among women — pharmacists were split on whether to appeal to the city council to ban sales of these drugs unless 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. According to the article below — which describes what was going on in Dallas at the time, narcotic-wise — it wasn’t until late 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 was 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.

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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….

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

Most images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Magnolia Building by Night”

magnolia-bldg-night

by Paula Bosse

Still standing. Still beautiful.

See a similar postcard, with a wider view — and a blobbier Pegasus — here.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thomas Marsalis’ Spectacular Oak Cliff Hotel: 1890-1945

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

by Paula Bosse

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

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?

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

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

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Sources & Notes

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

Photo of Thomas Marsalis from Legacies, Fall, 2007.

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

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

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

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

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

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

All images and clippings larger when clicked. 

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Dallas Fire Stations — 1901

fire-dept_engine-co-3_gaston-and-college_1901Fire horse in Old East Dallas relaxing between calls (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

A few turn-of-the-century photos of Dallas’ fire stations, from a 1901 photographic annual. These seven firehouses were built between 1882 and 1894. One of these buildings is, miraculously, still standing on McKinney Avenue.

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At the top, Engine Co. No. 3, at Gaston and College Avenues. In service: January, 1892. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, capacity 750 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location (Gaston and Hall) here. (And since I just used it a few days ago, here’s a 1921 Sanborn map, showing Mill Creek running right through the property.)

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fire-dept_central-station_main-harwood_1901

Above, Central Fire Station, Main and Harwood Streets. In service: October, 1887. Equipment: a double-sixty-gallon Champion Chemical Engine and a City Hook and Ladder Truck. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here (the site of the old City Hall/Municipal Building).

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fire-dept_mckinney-leonard_engine-co-1_1901

Engine Co. No. 1, McKinney Avenue and Leonard. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, 750 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. In service: August, 1894. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here. NOTE: This is the only one of these firehouses still standing. I wrote about it here.

UPDATE: Well, sort of. Thanks to a comment on Facebook, I researched this station a bit more and found that it was rebuilt and modernized at the end of 1909 — using materials from the original building seen above, built on the same plot of land. So instead of being 122 years old, the building on McKinney today is a mere 106 years old.

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fire-dept_commerce-hawkins_engine-co-2_1901

Engine Co. No. 2, Commerce and Hawkins Streets. In service: January, 1882. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, capacity 750 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see a shot-in-the-dark guess at a present location here.

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fire-dept_ervay-kelly_hose-co-2_1901

Hose Co. No. 2 and Chemical Co. No. 2, Ervay Street and Kelly Avenue. In service: September, 1894. Equipment: a Cooney Hose Carriage and double-sixty-gallon Champion Chemical Engine. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here (right behind where the word “Cedars”).

fire-dept_bryan-hawkins_hook-and-ladder-1_1901

Hose Co. No. 1 and Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1, Bryan and Hawkins Streets. In service: January, 1893. Equipment: Preston Aerial Truck with 75-foot extension ladder, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the approximate present location here.

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fire-dept_commerce-akard_engine-co-4_1901

Engine Co. No. 4, Commerce and Akard Streets, next door to the City Hall. In service: August, 1894. Equipment: an Ahrens Steamer, capacity 1,100 gallons per minute, and a Cooney Hose Carriage. See it on a 1905 Sanborn map here; see the present location here (just out of frame at the right was the City Hall; the block is now the site of the Adolphus Hotel).

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city-hall_1901_fire-dept-annual_portal

City Hall, Commerce and Akard Streets, now the location of the Adolphus Hotel. Half of the shorter building to the left housed the police department and Engine Co. No. 4.

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The “Historical” page from the book (click to read).

fire-dept-hist_dallas-fire-dept-annual_1901_portal

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Since there is no sign of the actual equipment in these photos, here’s what horse-drawn steam engines (Ahrens steamers) looked like at this time. (Photo from the Wisconsin Historical Society).

fire-steam-engine_wisconsin-hist-soc

UPDATE: I found this photo on Flickr, showing equipment from those early days being driven through the streets of Dallas during a fire prevention parade.

fire-department_pumper_flickr_coltera

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Sources & Notes

Photos by Clifton Church, from the Dallas Fire Department Annual, 1901, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

A contemporary map of Dallas (ca. 1898) can be viewed on the Portal to Texas History site, here.

More Flashback Dallas posts on historic Dallas firehouses can be found here.

All photos larger when clicked.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Dallas Skyline at Night — ca. 1965

downtown_chamber-of-commerce_ca1965Goodnight, Pegasus… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

It might just be because this photo is so grainy, but it’s very dreamy-looking — a sort of soft-focus view of Dallas’ sophisticated nighttime skyline.

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The photo is credited to the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. I’m pretty sure this came from a high school yearbook, but I’m afraid I neglected to note which one.

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Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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