Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Tag: Historic Dallas

Showtime on Elm Street

theater-row_night_majestic-melba-tower-palace_portalLit up like Broadway… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Who doesn’t love nighttime photos of Dallas’ Theater Row, generating enough electricity to be seen from space. The Majestic, the Melba, the Palace. And a buck a night at the Majestic Hotel across the street, the window shades of which could not possibly have been enough to block out the blinding, strobing neon. This is a similar view to the fabulous photo from 1942 by Arthur Rothstein seen here. This is absolutely the period of Dallas’ history I wish I could have experienced first-hand.

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Sources & Notes

Photo titled “[Businesses on theatre row at night]” is from the Spotlight on North Texas Collection, UNT Media Library, UNT Libraries — more information can be found on the Portal to Texas History site here.

theater-row_night_majestic-melba-tower-palace_portal_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ross Graves’ Cafe: 1800 Jackson — 1947

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947_cashierGraves Cafe… (photo by Marion Butts/Dallas Public Library)

by Paula Bosse

Ross Graves (1903-1973) seems to have been something of a successful bon vivant who dipped his toe into a variety of businesses catering to Dallas’ African-American community: he was the proprietor of, variously (and often simultaneously), a night club, a liquor store, a gas station, a barber shop, and, most successfully, a restaurant, which was in business for almost 20 years (sometimes referred to as Ross Cafe or Graves Place). Below is a photo from 1947 showing the Ross Graves Cafe at 1800 Jackson Street (at Prather) in downtown Dallas (we see the south side of Jackson, with the view to the west).

graves-cafe_1800-jackson_negro-directory_1947

This photo accompanied an ad with the following text:

graves-cafe_negro-directory_1947-48-text

He opened the cafe around 1937 and kept it going until 1955 when he “retired” (he also dipped his toe into hosting dice games at the cafe and was busted in 1954 on gaming charges — he was given a 2-year probated sentence the next year). (Also, the building was part of a large donation to the city in 1955 — more about that below.)

The photo at the top shows, I’m guessing, Mr. Graves standing at the cafe’s cash register with an employee in 1947. He’s also seen in the photo below.

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947(photo by Marion Butts/Dallas Public Library)

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I was originally intrigued by the photo of the exterior of the cafe — I couldn’t picture where it had been. But in trying to find out more about the building, I learned about the life of Ross Graves and came across some interesting little tidbits which paint a a picture of a fun-loving man with an active social life, lots of friends, and a healthy bank account. Below are a few clippings from the Pittsburgh Courier, a newspaper published in Pennsylvania which served as something of a national newspaper for Black America, with political, sports, and entertainment news from around the country. There was always news from Dallas in it — in fact, they had a local office here (3306 Roseland). There was even a Dallas-based society/gossip columnist named Mrs. O. J. Cansler (whose column had the rather unfortunate name of “Kolumn Komments”). She was quite frothy and wrote with the breathless excitement one expects in a society columnist. (I highly encourage anyone with a subscription to Newspapers.com to check out her “kolumn” — it’s a breath of fresh air to read about Dallas’ Black community presented in such a lively and fun manner (or in ANY manner, really — you weren’t going to find any of what she was writing about in the Dallas Morning News or the Dallas Times Herald). Especially interesting are mentions of long-forgotten clubs and nightspots where bands and performers from Dallas’ vibrant musical scene played. Here are a few appearances of Ross (and his wife, Ruby) from the pages of the Pittsburgh Courier.

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1939_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_111139_kolumn-komments_o-j-cansler
Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 13, 1939

Graves was 36 years old at the time.

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1942_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_080842_toppin-the-town_columnPittsburgh Courier, Aug. 8, 1942

The Regal Ballroom (listed as the Regal Nite Club in city directories) was at 3216 Thomas, at Hall. It didn’t last very long, but while it did, it was, apparently, “swellegant”! Here’s a mention of it as the location of a swing band contest in 1940 (won by Don Percell):

graves_regal-club_pittsburgh-courier_060840Pittsburgh Courier, June 8, 1940

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1942_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_101742_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-canslerPittsburgh Courier, Oct. 17, 1942

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Graves’ second wife, Ruby Graves, was known for her “smart toggery.”

1944_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_101444_ruby-gravesPittsburgh Courier, Oct. 14, 1944

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Ross and Ruby were quite the hosts:

1945_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_040745_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-canslerPittsburgh Courier, Apr. 7, 1945

I love this. This is the sort of thing you would never have read in the Morning News or the Times Herald. I want to know more about Claudia’s — “that night spot just out of the city limits that has everybody talking.”

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graves-cafe_ad_pittsburgh-courier-051245Pittsburgh Courier, May 12, 1945

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1946_graves_pittsburgh-PA-courier_062246_kolumn-komments_mrs-o-j-cansler
Pittsburgh Courier, June 22, 1946

Just popping up to NYC in their new Fleetwood to take in a boxing match. As one does.

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Ross and Ruby eventually ended up living in a house on “swellegant” South Boulevard (2500 South Blvd.). At least one of their daughters was an Idlewild debutante, who made her debut in 1967 (read about the world of Black debutantes in 1937 Dallas here). Milam County native Ross Graves died on Dec. 4, 1973 at the age of 70. He had lived in Dallas for 50 years. And I bet he had a good time.

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The location of Ross Graves’ Cafe was at 1800 Jackson Street, between Ervay and St. Paul, in a weird stretch of Jackson where two blocks were connected without a  break, in a row of buildings without an intersecting street. (The buildings are long gone, but the location can be seen on Google Maps here.) An interesting detail about these two blocks — the 1700 and 1800 blocks of Jackson Street — is that this property was owned by Dr. John W. Anderson, a prominent Black physician. After his death, his widow, Pearl C. Anderson, deeded the land to the Dallas Community Chest, the proceeds of which would be used to help needy Dallasites. (The donation was conservatively estimated at $200,000 at the time — about $2 million in today’s money). She donated the property in 1955, the same year Graves retired.

graves-cafe_dallas-directory-1947Jackson Street, 1947 Dallas city directory

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Sources & Notes

Photos of the interior of Ross Graves’ Cafe are from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library. Call Number for the top photo is PA2005-4/380.1; Call Number for the second is PA2005-4/380.2 (both are incorrectly identified as being in Deep Ellum).

The photo of the exterior of the cafe is from the Dallas, Texas Negro City Directory, 1947-1948 (many thanks to Pat Lawrence).

graves-cafe_marion-butts_dpl_1947_cashier_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

SMU Campus, An Aerial View from the North — 1940s

smu-campus_from-the-north_squire-haskins_UTA_nd(Squire Haskins Collection, UTA Libraries)

by Paula Bosse

When you see aerial views of the SMU campus, they’re usually looking to the north, toward Dallas Hall. Which is one reason this photo by ace photographer Squire Haskins is interesting. It’s also noteworthy because it shows “Trailerville,” the trailer camp set up on the campus from 1946 to 1953 for married war-vet students, and it also shows the pre-fab men’s dormitories, which look like army barracks. Housing in post-WWII Dallas was was very, very tight, and people had to make do and were crammed into all sorts of spaces. (See a very large image of this photo on the UTA website here.)

For reference, Mockingbird Lane is running horizontally at the top (I was wondering if that might have been the Mrs. Baird’s bakery (built in 1953) at the top left, but it’s not far enough east), Bishop Blvd. is in the center, and Hillcrest Avenue is at the right. And there’s also a whole lot of empty land — a startling sight if you’ve seen the present-day bursting-at-the-seams campus.

Here are a few blurry close-ups. First, Trailerville (which I’ve been meaning to write about for years!) — just northeast of Ownby Stadium:

smu-campus_from-the-north_squire-haskins_UTA_nd_det-2

Men’s dorms in temporary buildings which were removed in 1952/53:

smu-campus_from-the-north_squire-haskins_UTA_nd_det-1

And something that isn’t the Mrs. Baird’s Bread factory (scroll down to see what it was):

smu-campus_from-the-north_squire-haskins_UTA_nd_det-3

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Thanks to the comments below by reader “Not Bob,” it appears that the photo of the long building at the top left corner — on the site later occupied by Mrs. Baird’s Bread — was once an armory for the 112th Cavalry (Troop A) of the Texas National Guard. The building was originally built in 1921 as the headquarters of the Wharton Motor Company, a short-lived automobile and tractor manufacturer. It appears to have closed by 1922 and the company was bankrupt by 1924. The 112th Cavalry (with about 40 horses) moved in at the end of 1927 — they were forced to move out by the end of 1930 because of neighbor complaints (and a lawsuit) about the horses being in such close proximity to residences. By the time of the photo above, it was the Town and Country food business which rented freezer-locker space to the public. Mrs. Baird’s Bread decided to build on the site in 1949 (with the intention, presumably, to raze the existing building) — construction began in 1952 and the factory opened in 1953 (incidentally, the factory was designed by legendary Dallas architect George Dahl). (I should write about the Wharton building sometime — it has an interesting history.) 

The commenter (“Not Bob”) also linked to a similar view of the campus in 1955, post-Trailerville:

smu_from-the-north_1955_degolyer-library_SMU_cropped(DeGolyer Library, SMU)

By then, Central Expressway had been built and Mrs. Baird’s was cranking out that delicious aroma that filled the neighborhood for decades:

smu_from-the-north_1955_degolyer-library_SMU_det-mrs-bairds

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Sources & Notes

“Aerial view of the campus of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas” is by Squire Haskins, from the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries; more information on this photo can be found here (click thumbnail photo to see larger image).

“1955 aerial view of campus from the north” — by William J. Davis — is from the collection of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University; more information on this photo is here.

smu-campus_from-the-north_squire-haskins_UTA_nd_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

SMU Cartoon Timeline — 1935

smu-timeline_1935-rotundaJust the highlights…

by Paula Bosse

Here’s a handy little chronology of the first 20 years of Southern Methodist University’s history, found on the endpapers of the 1935 SMU yearbook, the Rotunda

Click to explore (“glub”):

smu-timeline_1935-rotunda_crop-1a

smu-timeline_1935-rotunda_crop-1b

smu-timeline_1935-rotunda_crop-2a

smu-timeline_1935-rotunda_crop-2b

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Sources & Notes

Images from the 1935 Rotunda, yearbook of Southern Methodist University.

For more on SMU’s first year, 1915-1916, see these Flashback Dallas posts:

smu-timeline_1935-rotunda_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Majestic Theatre’s Centenary

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920sThe Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm Street

by Paula Bosse

The Majestic Theatre opened on Elm Street 100 years ago this week. We’re lucky to still have such a beautiful building, one which we came close to losing in the late ’60s/early ’70s when so many other “old” buildings were being demolished in downtown Dallas.

The Majestic opened at 1925 Elm on April 11, 1921. The promotional blitz was pretty intense: for months the local papers were full of every little tidbit about the building and the grand opening. A pilot was even hired to drop leaflets and float balloons over 25 North Texas towns in order to reach those farther afield who might be outside the Big City theater loop. 

There was a lot of bragging that the showplace theater cost over $2 million, a huge amount of money at the time. That would be about $30 million in today’s money, and there is no way that beautiful, beautiful theater and its luxurious decor could be built today for a mere $30 million.

Like I said, we’re lucky to have it. Happy 100th, Majestic!

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Here it is under construction in 1920:

majestic_under-constructioin_100120_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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Just read this (click to see a larger image):

majestic-theatre_dmn_040321_grand-openingDallas Morning News, April 3, 1921

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At night, just down from the Melba (originally the Hope):

majestic-theatre_night_cinema-treasuresvia Cinema Treasures

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And it still looks beautiful in the 21st century:

majestic-theatre_LOC_carol-highsmith_20142014, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

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majestic-theatre_2009_wikipedia2009, via Wikipedia

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theater_majestic_052522_where-its-cool“Where it’s really cool” (1922)

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Sources & Notes

More about the history of the Majestic Theatre can be found at Cinema Treasures.

The official theater website is here — check out the upcoming shows!

majestic-theatre_tsha_1920s_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Lutheran Ministers Visit Dallas — 1911

open-streetcar_rppc_1911_ebayBest way to see the sights of 1911 Dallas…

by Paula Bosse

I’m always a sucker for photos of streetcars. I’m not sure I’ve seen one quite as open as this one.

This image was featured on a real-photo postcard — below the photo, the sender had written “Conference at Dallas, Texas. Sept. 8-12, 1911.”

The card was addressed to Miss Sidonie Wissmann in Matson, Missouri and was mailed from Palacios, Texas on Oct. 11, 1911.

Dear Sidonie,

Here you have a postal of Dallas, Tex. We are all on that “special” car taking a trolley ride through Dallas on a hot afternoon. If you wish to see me, look at the sixth seat from the front end of the car.

You must have some pretty cold weather up there. Saturday at about noon, the wind began to blow from the north. It grew stronger, and Sat. night it was pretty cool. I was at Francita’s [?] staying with Mr.  Luebben.  My bed was just before the north window. The wind blew with great force. The window was open. Instead of closing the window, I clung to the covers that were there (a thin quilt and a white spread) to keep them from flying away. I put everything but my face under the covers. So I lay in the north wind all night. Those “Northers” are feared by these southern people. I did not take cold. But several people were holding their nose the next day. When I left for Blessing in the P.M. I saw one man at the depot have a bad cold. Monday night I closed my windows in Palacios.

Some curious news!! Here you are: On account of the bad connections, I walked from Blessing to Palacios Monday A.M. 8:30-11:30. Twelve miles!! Hard work.

–Fred–

I checked The Dallas Morning News to see what kind of conference was held in Dallas in September, 1911 — it was the Texas State pastoral conference of the Missouri evangelical Lutheran synod. One of the 60 Lutheran ministers in attendance was Rev. F. H. Stelzer (Fred Stelzer), fresh out of seminary in Missouri — in fact, he was so fresh out of seminary that he had been ordained for only two weeks when he visited Dallas and wrote his sweetheart this card.

Fred Stelzer (1888-1978) and Sidonie Wissmann Stelzer (1888-1950) eventually married and had 8 children. They lived in Thorndale, Texas where Fred was the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church for 40 years. But when he was a newly ordained 23-year-old minister, he visited Dallas where he rode a cool “special” streetcar to see the sights,and spent a miserable night trying to sleep in a freezing-cold room with an open window, under nothing more than a thin quilt and a white spread.

lutheran-tour_dmn_091111Dallas Morning News, Sept. 11, 1911

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Sources & Notes

Real photo postcard found on eBay.

open-streetcar_rppc_1911_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Jerry Bywaters: “City Suburb at Dusk” — 1978

bywaters_city-suburb-at-dusk_1978_amer-art-review_2008Northwest Highway noir…

by Paula Bosse

You’re a Dallasite. You’ll probably immediately recognize the location of this (somewhat uncharacteristic) painting by famed Dallas painter Jerry Bywaters: it’s Northwest Highway, looking west from just past Hillcrest. Its title — “City Suburb at Dusk” — is a bit misleading. It was sort of a suburb (Preston Hollow) back when Jerry was a young man, but by 1978, when this was painted, its “suburb” days were long, long gone.

I love this painting. On the “suburb” side it’s got Kip’s, El Fenix, Centennial Liquor, and the cool curved Preston Tower. On the University Park side it’s got the silhouettes of the omnipresent water tower (once a much more pleasing shape than it is today, back when it was painted in a whimsical red-and-white checkerboard pattern), the spire of the Park Cities Baptist Church, and a Preston Center-adjacent office building. West Northwest Highway never looked so tranquil.

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Sources & Notes

“City Suburb at Dusk” by Jerry Bywaters, 1978 — oil on masonite, 18 x 24, collection of G. Pat Bywaters.

Printed in American Art Review, Vol. XX, No. 1, 2008.

bywaters_city-suburb-at-dusk_1978_amer-art-review_2008_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Bird’s-Eye View Down Main Street — 1954

dallas_birdseye_1954_color_ebayMain Street, 1954

by Paula Bosse

A nice color photo showing Main Street, looking west from about Field. For reference, Hotel Southland was in the 1200 block of Main, at Murphy, and Turner’s Clothiers, across the street, was at 1113 Main.

There’s a lot to look at (click to see a larger image). It’s always nice to see a viaduct (top right).

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Sources & Notes

Photo found on eBay.

dallas_birdseye_1954_color_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Thompson’s, 1520 Main — 1916

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers_XLOpen for business…

by Paula Bosse

Above, the newly constructed building at 1520-1522 Main Street, between Akard and Stone, home to Thompson’s, a national chain of restaurants owned by John R. Thompson of Chicago. It was built and opened in 1916.

thompsons_dmn_071615Dallas Morning News, July 16, 1915 (click for larger image)

The site had previously been the location of the Happy Hour Theater (which can be seen in this photo), the demolition of which was announced in January, 1916. 

1520-main_dmn_010416DMN, Jan. 4, 1916

And it was a beautiful building!

thompsons_atlantic-terra-cotta-co-coll_UT_frank-rogers

Thompson’s remained in this location until the 1930s. When Bond Clothes took over the space in 1938, news accounts rather ominously mentioned that the building would be completely remodeled, inside and out.

Workers are engaged in ripping out the front of the building. An all black glass front will be installed on most of the building and near the top of the second floor glass brick will be featured. Bronze trim will be used throughout. (DMN, Feb. 13, 1938).

All that beautiful glossy white terra cotta “ripped out”!

But things got worse. Much worse. It’s hard to believe, but this is the same building:

1520-main_selzer-assoc_facebook_crop_campisisPhoto from Selzer Associates Facebook page

In recent years, though, Selzer Associates Architects and Nedderman & Associates worked some absolutely stunning restoration magic. (Read the story of the restoration in Texas Architect magazine here, starting on p. 36.) I mean, look:

iron-cactus_google-street-view_feb-2020Google Street View, Feb. 2020

It’s beautiful again! Thank you, magic-workers!

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Sources & Notes

The circa-1916 photograph by Dallas photographer Frank Rogers is from the Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin — more info on this photo can be found here.

See an interior shot of a Thompson’s restaurant in a 1927 photo here.

Read more about the Thompson’s restaurant chain in the following articles:

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

A Few Photo Additions to Past Posts — #15

streetcar_belmont_color_ebaySorry, “Llano only…”

by Paula Bosse

Time for another round-up of miscellaneous photos I’ve come across over the past few months and which I’m adding to previous posts.

First, the photo above, showing a Belmont streetcar, has been added to the post “Ghost Rails of the Belmont Streetcar Line.” I’m not sure where or when the photo was taken, but it makes me very happy to see an actual streetcar which would have travelled through the neighborhood I grew up in. (Source: eBay)

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The photo below, showing Marvin’s Drug Store (aka the Rowan Building) on the northwest corner of Main and Akard, has been added to “Marvin’s Drug Store, Main and Akard.” (Source: eBay)

rowan-bldg_marvins-drug-store_ebay

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This photo of the Haskell Exchange Building has been added to “The Haskell Exchange — ca. 1910.” (Source: Dallas Historical Society)

haskell-exchange_ca-1915_DHS

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Below, a photo of Wigton’s Sandwich Shop, which was located near one of my least favorite 3-point intersections in Dallas (East Grand-Gaston-Garland Road, near White Rock Lake), joins another photo of the same establishment in the post “Orphaned Factoids: Year-End Grab Bag, 2017.” (Source: eBay)

wigtons-sandwich-shop_white-e-grand-and-gaston_ca-1930_ebay

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I love the long-forgotten “waiting station” which was adjacent to the Jefferson Hotel and faced Union Station across Ferris Plaza. I’m adding two photos to “Ferris Plaza Waiting Station — 1925-1950.” (Sources: first one is from eBay, second one is a cropped image from the DeGolyer Library, SMU)

waiting-station_ebay

waiting-station_jefferson-hotel_degolyer-lib_SMU_cropped

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Two images of the Cabana have been added to “The Cabana Motor Hotel of Dallas.” (Sources: both are from UTA’s Squire Haskins Collection — more info on the first (cropped) image can be found here, and on the second one here)

cabana-motel_aerial_squire-haskins_UTA_cropped

cabana-motel_squire-haskins_UTA

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This 1958 ad for Texas Instruments (when it was located on Lemmon Avenue, near Love Field) mentions hyperbolic paraboloids, which means that it has, of course, been added to a weirdly popular post, “The Hyperbolic Paraboloids of the Prairie.” (Source: eBay)

texas-instruments_hyperbolic-paraboloid_1958_ebay

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Two 1964 photos of Jack Ruby pal/roomie George Senator have been added to “Newly Discovered Footage of Jack Ruby — 1960.” (Source: Associated Press)

senator-george_at-jack-ruby-trial_associated-press-website_030964_1

senator-george_at-jack-ruby-trial_associated-press-website_030964_2

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Two images of a Mystic Revellers invitation from Dallas’ first Mardi Gras celebration in 1876 have been added to “Mardi Gras: ‘Our First Attempt at a Carnival Fete’ — 1876.” (Source: Memphis Public Libraries, Colton Greene Collection)

mardi-gras_mystic-revellers_invitation_1876_memphis-public-library

mardi-gras_mystic-revellers_1876_envelope_memphis-public-library

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This 1936 Coca-Cola ad which ran during the Centennial has been added to “‘The Pause That Refreshes at the Texas Centennial’ — 1936.” because I had previously had only part of the full-page ad. (Source: eBay)

tx-centennial_coca-cola_ebay_1936

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And these last two are replacing other photos already used. The first one, from 1924, showing Knox Street looking southeasterly from Travis, replaces a previously used photo which had part of the image on the right side (with the horse) cropped out. It’s been added to “Knox Street, Between Cole and Travis.” (Source: DeGolyer Library, SMU

knox-street_degolyer-lib_SMU_1924

And, finally, this photo, which shows the Woolworth store, at the northwest corner of Main and Stone, and the Praetorian Building (now the site of a giant eyeball) has replaced a tiny, low-resolution image in the post “The Praetorian Building and Its 19th-Century Neighbors.” (Source: Dallas Public Library)

praetorian_william-langley_DPL_ca-1940

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streetcar_belmont_color_ebay_sm

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Copyright © 2021 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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