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Collections ( Letters )

1911 Houston Society with Gladys Ewing

Number of Items: 95 items

Get into the swing of high society with Houston debutante Gladys Ewing in 1911. This digital collection represents Miss Ewing’s own scrapbook, commemorating social events and personal engagements through ornate invitations, gift cards, handwritten diary entries, and news clippings from the society pages. Created when she was 18 years old, her scrapbook contains 95 pages of material dated mostly from November 1911 to February 1912.

The daughter of Judge Presley Kittredge Ewing and philanthropist/activist Mary Ellen Ewing, Gladys Ewing served as Maid of Honor to the Queen of the No-Tsu-Oh Carnival, an annual festival in Houston that featured formal balls and parades. (The word No-Tsu-Oh is Houston spelled backwards.) The scrapbook includes telegrams congratulating her on this crowning appointment, as well as newspaper photos, beautifully graphic notecards with ribbons and pressed flowers still intact, and Miss Ewing’s explanatory notes written on the pages.

Some of the brief diary entries recall trips out of town, swim parties, automobile rides, dinners, and other social events – almost always including the names of other guests. One such entry comprises a list of Miss Ewing’s many gentleman callers on Christmas Eve. The scrapbook also contains a four-page “gift registry” of sorts, in which Miss Ewing wrote little poetic rhymes about gifts received and the people who sent them.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in The Ewing Family Papers.

Captain O.C. McDavid World War II Letters

Number of Items: 238 items

This 238-item digital collection of World War II-era correspondence, dating between 1943 and 1945, focuses on Captain O.C. McDavid’s tour of duty in the Pacific Theatre of war.  These letters consist of his letters to family members and their letters to him.  Many of his letters home are illustrated with cartoons and drawings, thus providing visual interest to Captain McDavid’s descriptions of army life.  

As with much wartime correspondence, censorship of operations and engagements with Axis forces allow only scant details for those interested in the minutiae of South Pacific strategy.  Instead, what emerges in these letters has to do with McDavid’s observations of foreign cultures and how they relate to the struggle for the South Pacific.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, McDavid was sent to the South Pacific. During his Army service he was stationed in New Guinea, the Gilbert Islands, a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the South Pacific, and in the Philippines. In New Guinea, Captain McDavid was placed in charge of establishing village governments with local populations and building infrastructure to support sanitation, security, and healthcare, and his duties were similar in his other postings. The locations where Captain McDavid saw service figured directly in the Allied advance to take territory occupied by the Japanese and to gain staging areas for U.S. forces to move forward.

O.C. McDavid, born in Ruth, Mississippi in 1911, began what would become a newspaper career during his high school years by sweeping floors in the print shop at his hometown’s Enterprise Journal.  His responsibilities grew to include running the print shop as well as writing, which resulted in attending high school part-time in order to pursue his newspaper career full time.  He became the city editor and political reporter at the Jackson, Mississippi Daily News.  McDavid joined the National Guard and received his federal induction prior to America’s entry into the war.  Following earlier camp deployments, he was sent, in August 1943, with the 31st “Dixie” Infantry Division, for training at Fort Pickett, Virginia.  The 31st was composed of Guard soldiers from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  Earlier, McDavid had been tapped by his commanding general to edit a weekly camp newspaper, The Dixie, which bore the name of his infantry division.  The 31st left Fort Pickett in March 1944.  Sailing out of Newport (now Newport News), Virginia, the division arrived in New Guinea in late April.

Following the war, McDavid returned to the newspaper business, becoming managing editor, then managing editor emeritus of the Jackson Daily News.  Upon retirement in 1981, he devoted his time to painting and metal sculpture.  McDavid earned the George Ohr Public Service Award, which honors Mississippians who have supported crafts as art.  He died on March 12, 1998, in Jackson, Mississippi.  The following year, the Mississippi Press Association established an annual student journalism conference in his name.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Captain O.C. McDavid World War II Letters

Civil War Letters

Number of Items: 174 items

This digital collection of more than 150 Civil War-era letters contains correspondence from the M.L. Calk, W.D. Lowther, and William W. Edgerton letters. Calk and Lowther were Confederate soldiers from Alabama and Texas, respectively, while Edgerton was a Union soldier from New York. The collection is made up of personal correspondence during the war. Calk and Edgerton both correspond with family members, while Lowther writes to his fiancée.

Martin L. Calk was a member of the 23rd Alabama Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army. His regiment was formed under the command of Colonel Franklin K. Beck on November 19, 1861 at Camp Wilcox, near Montgomery, Alabama. Calk served with the 23rd Alabama Volunteer Infantry Regiment in both the Kentucky (September-October 1862) and Vicksburg (December 1862-July 1863) Campaigns.

W.D. Lowther, the second Confederate soldier, served in Company D, 2nd Texas Brigade, 17th Consolidated Regiment. This company was attached to Colonel George M. Fluornoy's 16th Texas Infantry Regiment of Major General John G. Walker's Texas Division when the latter officer relieved Brigadier General Henry McCullough.  During the time Lowther is writing, the 12th Texas Division, often referred to as “Walker’s Greyhounds,” was attempting to repulse Union forces in Arkansas and Louisiana in order to rout the U.S. Army’s efforts to cut off Texas from the rest of the Confederacy and interrupt its considerable supplies from reaching east into the southern states.

William Wilberforce Edgerton, a native of south central New York, was a private with the 107th New York Infantry Regiment (Campbell Guards).  Following a station at the defenses in Washington, he saw action in numerous campaigns, starting in Maryland with the Army of the Potomac’s XII Corps, 1st Division, 3rd Brigade at the 1st Battle of Antietam as part of the Maryland Campaign (September 4-20, 1862), and, in Virginia, the Chancellorsville Campaign (April 30-May 6, 1863) and as part of the reinforcements sent to aid the Army of the Tennessee for the Chattanooga Campaign (October-November 1863).  Finally,  Edgerton saw action as part of the Army of the Cumberland’s XX Corps, 1st Division, 1st Brigade in the Atlanta Campaign (May-September 1864), the Savannah Campaign (November-December 1864), and the Carolinas Campaign (January-March 1865).  The 107th New York Infantry Regiment was mustered out in Washington on June 5, 1865.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the M.L. Calk Civil War Letters, the W. D. Lowther Civil War Letters, and the William W. Edgerton Civil War Letters.

Houston Negro Hospital

Number of Items: 950 items

This collection contains the documents of Joseph Cullinan related to the founding and early operation of the Houston Negro Hospital. Cullinan, a Houston businessman, helped start the hospital with a monetary donation to be used in construction of the building. The hospital was the first nonprofit hospital for African Americans in Houston, and these varied documents provide insight into the founding, construction, initial problems, and political and social forces at play during its early years.

In the early 1920s, the need for a new African American hospital became clear to the community and its physicians. Though a group of physicians had established the Union-Jeremiah Hospital to serve the community, they quickly realized the need for something larger. Cullinan, a successful oilman who had founded Texas Company (later Texaco), was impressed with the group’s work and donated $80,000 to the group in 1923.  On June 19, 1926, the building’s cornerstone was dedicated to Cullinan’s deceased son, an Army officer who led African American soldiers during World War I. Cullinan, who made additional donations to the hospital, was consulted and kept informed about hospital business.

The hospital, located in Houston’s Third Ward, opened to patients on May 14, 1927, and provided a place for African American physicians, who were not allowed to admit patients to the African American wards in Houston’s other hospitals, to practice medicine and train students and nurses. It initially operated on an “insurance” system in which individuals and families paid a yearly subscription which entitled them to treatment. The hospital’s early years were difficult, with problems that included a lack of patients and dissension among and between the hospital’s two boards, one African American and one white.

Throughout the 20th century the hospital underwent many changes, including the elimination of the insurance system. In 1961 the hospital was renamed Riverside General Hospital, and in 1984 the building underwent historical renovations. The original hospital building and the School of Nursing building are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and Riverside General Hospital still operates today, primarily as a substance abuse center.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Joseph S. Cullinan Papers.

Israel Shreve Revolutionary War Letters, 1768-1894

Number of Items: 76 items

The 76-item digital collection consists primarily of letters written to and from Colonel Israel Shreve from 1776 to 1793, with the bulk of the correspondence taking place from 1777 to 1780. Written while Shreve was Colonel of the Second Regiment of New Jersey during the Revolutionary War, the letters are between Shreve and other officers in George Washington's Continental Army – including General George Washington himself.

The collection also includes correspondence between Shreve and his family members, as well as hand-drawn maps, meeting minutes, extracts from General Orders, and handwritten legal documents.

Israel Shreve served as both Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel of the Second New Jersey Regiment in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The 2nd N.J. Regiment fought at the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777, and at the Battle of Germantown on Oct. 4, 1777. The troop also spent the cold winter of 1777, short of clothing and food supplies, with Washington's troops at Valley Forge.

In 1779, Shreve and his regiment joined Major General John Sullivan in his campaign against the Tory-allied Iroquois Indians; Shreve was appointed commander of the expedition's base at Fort Sullivan at Tioga. Colonel Shreve retired from the army in January, 1781.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Israel Shreve Collection.

Lt. Robert B. Fulton USS Houston Letters

Number of Items: 47 items

From August 17, 1941 to February 17, 1942, Lt. Robert B. Fulton corresponded regularly with his parents from aboard the heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA-30), which was sunk on February 28, 1942. After the sinking, the USS Houston’s surviving crew members were made prisoners of war. Fulton’s letters home written prior to the sinking make up the heart of this digital collection. It also includes homefront letters and documents, and cards made in a Japanese POW camp during Fulton’s captivity from 1942-1945.

Fulton’s letters home provide insight into the experience of a naval officer on the USS Houston during the build up to war in the Pacific, and during the conflict’s early months. Fulton describes daily activities on the ship, excursions and picnics, and the mounting tension in the area. Censorship prevents him from relaying the whereabouts or engagements of the ship. Equally interesting are the colorful greeting cards he received in POW camp.

Robert B. Fulton was born in Burlington, Vermont. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy from  1928 to 1932. Following his graduation, he served on various cruisers and destroyers. Fulton attended the Naval Postgraduate School and MIT, earning an M.S. in Marine Engineering in 1941. On August 28, 1941 he became Assistant Engineer of the Houston, flagship of the Asiatic Fleet.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the declaration of war on Japan by the United States, the USS Houston became part of the combined American-British-Dutch-Australian force (ABDA). On February 27, 1942, the ABDA fleet caught up with a large Japanese force. During the Battle of the Java Sea, the Japanese sunk the Dutch cruisers H.M. de Ruyter and H.M. Java and three destroyers.

On February 28, 1942, as the Houston and the HMAS Perth, an Australian light cruiser, attempted to leave the Java Sea, they encountered a Japanese force in what became known as the Battle of Sunda Strait. The Perth was sunk by four Japanese torpedoes, and the Houston was sunk shortly after. Of her 1068 crew members, 700 perished. The survivors were taken prisoner by the Japanese, most sent to prison camps in Burma to become slave labor for the Burma-Thai Railway.

Along with other officers, Fulton was sent to a POW Camp in Japan in June 1942 for interrogation. Fulton spent most of the duration of the war in Zentsuji POW Camp in Japan, where conditions were less harsh than those in Burma. He was liberated from Rokuroshi POW Camp in Japan on September 7, 1945.

Following the war, Fulton continued to serve in the U.S. Navy, reaching the rank of Rear Admiral. He has been an active participant in the USS Houston Survivors Association/Next Generations for over 60 years.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Cruiser Houston Collection.

 

Source: Robert B. Fulton Collection, Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, The Library of Congress 

Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers

Number of Items: 518 items

This extensive digital collection documents the activities of Minnie Fisher Cunningham and other leading suffragists who pushed for equal voting rights for women, culminating in the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Dated mostly from 1917-1919, the materials include correspondence, pamphlets, flyers, speeches, newspaper articles, photographs, and legislative measures. Many of the 518 items in the collection contain multiple pages.

Minnie Fisher Cunningham was elected president of the Galveston Equal Suffrage Association in 1910 and toured Texas to speak for the cause. She subsequently served as president of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association, opened state suffrage headquarters near the Capitol in Austin, and successfully campaigned for the 1918 legislative approval of woman suffrage in state primary elections. In 1919, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association persuaded Minnie Cunningham to lobby the United States Congress for the 19th Amendment.

While Minnie Cunningham was based in Texas, the scope of the materials is relevant on both state and national levels. Correspondence among the suffragists details the struggles and strategies to advance the movement; highlights include letters to and from President Woodrow Wilson, acknowledging his support. Flyers, press releases, and other printed materials illustrate the activities of groups and conferences such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the Texas Woman Suffrage Association, and the League of Women Voters.

Copies of the Texas Constitution, a Texas House bill, and a resolution by the Texas Legislature demonstrate the movement’s progress in the state. Newspaper articles, magazine essays, and printed speeches further present the many voices and opinions surrounding the issue of equal voting rights around the country.

Of particular interest are three published, one-act plays: the 32-page Back of the Ballot: A Woman Suffrage Farce in One Act by George Middleton; the 31-page Jonathan's Night Shirt: A Farce in One Act by Ferdinanda Wesselhoeft Reed; and the 17-page Uncle Sam's Daughters and What They Have Done: A Pictorial Fantasy in One Act and One Scene by Augusta Raymond Kidder.

The collection also includes wartime pamphlets regarding resource conservation as it pertains to food, complete with recipes using wheat substitutes and sugar substitutes.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Minnie Fisher Cunningham Papers.

Mrs. Anson Jones Letters

Number of Items: 191 items

Mary Smith McCrory Jones was the wife of Anson Jones, who served as the last president of the Republic of Texas from 1844 to 1846 before it joined the Union as a state. This digital collection contains mostly letters written by Mary Jones during the decades following the death of her husband. Many of the 191 items in the collection include multiple pages.

After Anson Jones died in 1858, Mrs. Jones moved the family to Galveston, then to a farm in Harris County. Spanning the latter half of the 19th century, the bulk of the letters are from Mary Jones to her son, Cromwell Anson Jones, who became a lawyer and served as a judge in Harris County. The correspondence provide a glimpse into post-Civil War life in Texas, especially legal and financial issues related to land ownership; Mrs. Jones had inherited land throughout East Texas from her husband, and frequently consulted her children in such matters.

In addition to family letters, the collection also contains legal documents, including official deeds of land from the State of Texas; a Confederate tax receipt from 1864; City of Houston and Harris County tax statements; and a court summons from the City of Houston (as plaintiff) against Mrs. Jones for taxes due in 1898.

Transcriptions of the letters are provided under the descriptions of most items.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Mary (Mrs. Anson) Jones Letters.

William Slough USS Houston Letters

Number of Items: 30 items

The William Slough USS Houston Letters contain letters sent from William Slough, S1C, to his family from 1934-1936 while he served on the USS Houston (CA-30). The collection also includes copies of Slough’s “Crossing the Line” document and subpoena, a photograph of Slough in his Navy uniform, and one letter from a shipmate to Slough’s family. These letters provide a glimpse into both the day-to-day life and the larger concerns of a sailor in the years before World War II.

William Slough was born on May 19, 1914, in Missouri but later moved to Texas, where he lived before joining the Navy. He started his service on May 15, 1934, just a few days shy of his twentieth birthday. His first letter in this collection, sent to his mother, is dated May 27, 1934. In the letters, Slough talks about spending time in the sick bay, his supplies and equipment, training, and leisure activities. He worries about his family, money, romances from home, promotion, and trouble with officers. He also talks about learning to love travel and his plans for the future, which include a career in the Navy and putting off marriage. Slough married in 1939 and had two children. He died in Victoria, Texas, on Dec. 9, 1991.

During the course of these letters, Slough is a Seaman First Class. In addition to serving on the Houston, a heavy cruiser, he also served on the USS Cowpens (CVL-25), an aircraft carrier. He served in World War II and reached the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, and after the war he continued in the Navy Reserves for 20 years. Slough was proud to say that with his service, every generation of his family had served in the United States military, beginning with Matthias Slough in the Revolutionary War.

The USS Houston was commissioned on June 17, 1930, and became the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet in 1931. In 1933 the Houston left the Asiatic and became part of the Scouting Force, based in Long Beach, California, and most of Slough’s letters originate from California. During the 1930s the Houston also hosted President Franklin D. Roosevelt, an avid fisherman, for four leisure cruises.

The Houston returned to the Asiatic in March 1941, and following the attack on Pearl Harbor served in the Pacific theater as part of a multi-national force. On February 28, 1942, as the Houston and the HMAS Perth, an Australian ship, attempted to leave the Java Sea, they encountered a Japanese force in what became known as the Battle of Sunda Strait. The Houston was struck by torpedoes and began to sink, prompting an order to abandon ship. Seven hundred of the 1068 crew members perished. The surviving crew members were taken prisoner by the Japanese and were held until they learned of the war’s end on August 16, 1945.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Cruiser Houston Collection.