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Collections ( Photographs )

Blanche Espy Chenoweth, Her Life, Her Times

Number of Items: 68 items

This collection contains photographs documenting the life and times of Blanche Espy Chenoweth, a lecturer, writer, and voice on the radio who covered topics related to women’s social customs, homemaking, and general well-being. The photographs of Chenoweth, her family and friends, and her travels give a glimpse of American life during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The digital collection includes 67 photographs and a 48-page scrapbook.

The photographs, including those found in the scrapbook, include formal portraits and snapshots. Many of the portraits provide examples of formal dress and photographic customs from the time period, including dresses worn for graduations and weddings. In contrast, the snapshots show life unscripted. These snapshots include groups of friends and colleagues, travels across the American Southwest, and picnics, sports, and other social outings. Much of the information about the photographs comes from notes included in the archival collection that houses the materials, the Blanche Espy Chenoweth Papers.

Chenoweth was born in Iowa in 1875 and spent the last 25 years of her life in Houston, prior to her death in 1960. Throughout her adult life she lived and travelled in various cities giving lectures on women’s dress and grooming and their importance in a happy life. In the 1920s, she lectured and wrote on the problems of women at the Chautauqua Institute in New York, and in the 1930s she had a radio program in Chicago which gave advice on women’s personal problems. During this time she also wrote an advice column for a newspaper.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Blanche Espy Chenoweth Papers.

Galveston 1915 Hurricane Photographs

Number of Items: 124 items

These 124 photographs capture the devastation wrought by the hurricane that hit Galveston Island on August 17, 1915. The collection features black-and-white and sepia-toned images of destroyed buildings, streets, railroads, causeway, and beachfront, taken by Rex Dunbar Frazier in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Frazier, a representative of Stone & Webster Engineering, was called in to collect storm damage data and document the scene. Most of the photographs date from August 18, 1915, although many are undated. Some later photographs show repairs underway a month or two later. The photos were removed from a scrapbook for preservation purposes, but the text from the original captions has been retained.

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is well known for having killed over 10,000 people on the island, but less well known is the fact that in 1915, Galveston was again hit by a devastating hurricane. This one caused $50 million worth of property damage, yet resulted in only 275 deaths. The low loss of life has been attributed to the protection offered by the seawall, which was constructed following the 1900 hurricane.

Some information for this description was drawn from the Handbook of Texas Online.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Galveston 1915 Hurricane Photographs.

Harry Walker Photographs

Number of Items: 753 items

The extensive digital collection contains 753 images taken from the Harry Walker photographic negatives, covering the early 1900s to the 1940s. The pictures include snapshots of domestic life and leisure activities in Beaumont and Houston during that time, views of notable Houston landmarks, and historic images of pioneering aviatrix Katherine Stinson flying a Wright Brothers biplane.

The Harry Walker photographic negatives come from the architectural papers of Burdette Keeland. Through his wife Keeland acquired a collection of negatives owned by Harry Walker (the presumed photographer), who was married to Mrs. Keeland’s aunt. The negatives record Walker’s life growing up in Beaumont, Texas and his adult life after his move to Houston in the late 1910s.

Of particular interest are photographs of Walker’s home at 1914 Bissonnet in Houston, with views of the area that includes Poe Elementary School when the neighborhood was new in 1929. Historical shots of Houston show Rice University, Hermann Hospital, the Houston Ship Channel, the San Jacinto Monument, the San Jacinto Trust Company, and downtown Houston in the snow in 1925.

Viewers of the collection can also get a thorough immersion in the daily life of the era through scores of photographs of babies, children, families, laborers, and sailors in uniform. The images highlight the time period’s dress and furniture, interiors and exteriors of homes, and modes of transportation such as horse-drawn wagons, cars, ships, tractors, and trains. Examples of leisure activities captured on film include horseback riding, baseball, poker, swimming, fishing, bingo, hunting, picnics, and many other outdoor gatherings.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Burdette Keeland Architectural Papers.

Historic Houston Photographs

Number of Items: 236 items

The digital collection contains 236 photographs of Houston dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s, including images of downtown, monumental buildings and landmarks, and daily activities in the lives of citizens. Legendary Houston newspaperman and historian George M. Fuermann gathered these photographs over the course of two decades for his book research; most are copy prints of earlier photographs, but some are originals.

The George Fuermann Texas and Houston Collection is an extensive group of materials amassed by Fuermann between 1950 and 1971. Among the collection’s highlights are over 800 photographic prints that document Houston’s history and enterprise. A small set of images depicts other cities such as Huntsville and San Antonio. The images available in this digital collection represent only a subset of the photographs in the Fuermann Collection - those that are no longer under copyright and are in the public domain.

George Fuermann’s career with Houston daily newspaper the Houston Post spanned 49 years, beginning in 1946 as a general assignment reporter. From 1950 to 1971 he wrote a popular daily column, based on snippets of local history, called “Post Card.” Fuermann continued as Editorial Page editor from 1971 to 1983 and as “Wine Talk” columnist from 1984 to 1995, when the Houston Post closed its doors.

Fuermann also published approximately ten books, mostly on the history and people of the city of Houston. Among his best known books are Houston: Land of the Big Rich, 1951; Reluctant Empire, 1957; The Face of Houston, 1963; and Houston: The Once and Future City, 1971.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the George Fuermann "Texas and Houston" Collection.

Houston Fire Department

Number of Items: 193 items

Providing a panoramic history of the Houston Fire Department from the late 1800s through the 1980s, the digital collection features images of fire trucks, fire stations, firefighters in action battling blazes, and some of the department’s Fire Chiefs through the decades. The collection contains more than 190 color and black and white photographs.

Among the highlights of the collection is the 96-page Souvenir of Houston, published for the benefit of the Firemen's Relief Fund in 1897. The booklet is an early-day guidebook to the city, complete with photos of downtown streets, buildings, and fire stations in the 1890s; advertisements for local retail, manufacturing, and railroad businesses; and pages of text expounding on the many benefits of life in Houston at that time.

The collection also includes many pictures of groups of firefighters posing with their trucks, helping trace the evolution of firefighting technology over time. The department had about 50 horses to pull its wagons in 1910, but by 1921 all of the horse-drawn fire carriages had been replaced by motorcars and trucks. Action shots, meanwhile, capture firefighters combating infernos at lumber yards, restaurants, apartments, and other buildings.

As Houston grew in size through land annexations, such as that of the Houston Heights in 1918, the fire department incorporated more and more outlying stations. Anchoring the portrait of the city’s fire stations through the years is a pictorial series of 67 fire stations photographed in 1976 – illustrating how big the department had grown from its early days of only a handful of stations in the early 1900s.

The majority of the photos come from the collection of Scott Mellott, a Houston Fire Department retiree who has done extensive research on the department’s history.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Scott Mellott Houston Fire Department Collection.

KUHT Highlights

Number of Items: 346 items

Through images and video, this digital collection sheds light on the groundbreaking creation and dedicated running of the first public television station in the country. Hundreds of black and white photographs illustrate the work that went on both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes at KUHT-TV, while approximately 35 films provide a rich sample of the station’s diverse offerings. In all, the collection contains 336 items.

Most of the photographs date from the station’s early days in the 1950s, but later decades are also represented. The snapshots capture production staff, cameramen, set designers, and engineers, as well as on-air personalities and sets from Channel 8 News and other shows. Items of note include photos of the figures who were instrumental in getting KUHT up and running, such as University President Dr. Walter W. Kemmerer, faculty member and choral director Dr. John Schwarzwalder, and producer/director George Arms. The collection also includes images of celebrities appearing on PBS programs through the years: Mister Rogers, Julia Child, Phyllis Diller, Dustin Hoffman – and even Sesame Street’s Big Bird.

The films in this collection explore a wide array of topics of both local and national interest, including the evolution of African-American music; the blowout of an offshore oil well in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979; the controversy surrounding the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in 1977; integration in two area school districts in the 1960s; and documentaries on boxer Jack Johnson and Tejano music legend Lydia Mendoza. Of particular note is a series of programs from the 1960s called “Education for Survival – Civil Defense,” which covers Cold War-era subjects such as “Weapons in the Nuclear Age,” “Propaganda and You,” and “Radiation and Effects.” Another highlight is a press conference held by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House in 1960. Available for viewing in their entirety, the broadcasts generally run about 30-60 minutes each.

Located on the University of Houston campus, KUHT-TV was America's first public television station when it debuted in 1953, and became one of the founding stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 1969. Today, KUHT-TV/HoustonPBS continues to produce innovative programming while serving not only the students and faculty at UH, but the greater Houston community as a whole.

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

Luis Marquez Photographs

Number of Items: 27 items

This digital collection features historic, hand-tinted color photographs depicting the people and culture of Mexico in the 1930s. Subjects include musicians and dancers in traditional dress, vendors displaying their wares, and people posing in colorful settings. Photographer Luis Marquez signed each of the 27 prints in the collection.

Of particular interest is the elaborate clothing worn by performers, including three men demonstrating a native dance, a man in a headpiece displaying maracas, and a woman playing guitar. The richly colorful nature of the collection is further illustrated in photographs of people with painted vases, embroidered dresses, strings of flowers, decorated bowls, and woven blankets.

Titles of the digital pictures are taken directly from inscriptions on the photos themselves. The photographs reside in a 20-1/2 inch by 12-1/2 inch detailed leather album, embossed with the date 8-10-1937 and the name Mrs. S.U. Allred. The album and its contents were given as a gift to Mrs. Allred after she and Texas Governor James V. Allred visited Mexico in 1937.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Governor James V. Allred Papers.

Marine Bombing Squadron (VMB-613) Photographs

Number of Items: 141 items

This digital collection documents the daily life of members of Marine Bombing Squadron 613 (VMB-613) in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Subjects include not only crews with their planes, but also leisure activities, departments posing for photos together, and several views of the home base. In all, the collection contains 141 black and white photographs.

Marine Corps photographer and former Houstonian Clell Thorpe took the squadron’s pictures on a Pacific atoll in the Marshall Islands; the exact location was not identified due to wartime security measures, but it was probably Kwajalein Island. Thorpe served as a Marine Corps photographer documenting the activities of Marines in the South Pacific during World War II.

While a handful of aerial shots capture VMB-613 planes patrolling the skies over a convoy of warships, most of the photos provide a glimpse into the Marines’ everyday lives away from combat. Basketball, ping pong, volleyball, and baseball are just a few of the recreational activities displayed. In addition to finding images of the barracks, the officers’ club, and the mess hall, viewers might be surprised to see that the base was like its own mini-town, complete with a dentist, bakery, barber shop, carpenter shop, library, post office, and even a police shed that doubled as a laundry service. Two photos show classic horror movie star Boris Karloff, on hand to perform with one of the many USO tours.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Clell Thorpe World War II Photographs.

Selections from the Alonso S. Perales Papers

Number of Items: 60 items

A civil rights lawyer, diplomat, political leader and soldier, Alonso S. Perales (1898-1960) was one of the most influential Mexican Americans of his time. These photographs and documents, highlighting aspects of his life and career, were part of a larger exhibition, In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals , on view at the M.D. Anderson Library from December 8, 2011 through February 29, 2012.

Perales saw himself as a defender of la raza, or race, especially battling charges that Mexicans and Latin Americans were inferior and a social problem. Perales was one of the founders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in 1929 and helped write LULAC’s constitution. He served as the organization’s second president.

An intellectual who firmly believed in the law, Perales wrote about civil rights, religion and racial discrimination, which he argued “had the approval of the majority.” His work included the pamphlet Are We Good Neighbors? and the two-volume set En defense de mi raza. A member of the American Legion and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Perales was also a columnist for La Prensa and other Spanish-language newspapers.

Highlighting the 2010 acquisition of the Alonso S. Perales Papers by the University of Houston Libraries’ Special Collections Department, courtesy of the Perales Family and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project,scholars presented their research on this trailblazing public intellectual at a day-long conference (January 13, 2012) bearing the same name as the exhibition. These presentations shed light on Perales’ activism and defense of Latinos, including the chronology and history of Mexican American and Latino civil rights movements, the impact of religion on Latinos, the concept of “race,” and individual versus community action to bring about social and political change.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Alonso S. Perales Papers.

Ship Channel Collection

Number of Items: 147 items

A modern-day marvel of industry, the Port of Houston is an integral part of the region’s landscape and history. Through almost 150 photographs and documents, this digital collection traces the planning, construction, and ultimate success of the Ship Channel from its opening in 1914 through the 1960s. The collection also contains a handful of items that pre-date the Ship Channel itself.

Dating mostly from the 1950s, the photographs in the collection feature aerial views of the Port of Houston, cranes loading freight onto ships, interiors and exteriors of warehouses, groups of businessmen, and dockworkers in action. The photographs also include nearly 60 ships in port, complete with names (such as SS Java, SS Pygmalion, and SS Jean Lafitte) and descriptions about each ship’s cargo, destination, and/or point of origin.

In addition to the photographs, the collection also includes documents such as magazine articles, letters, pamphlets, and drawings. Among the highlights are maps from as early as 1925, bond certificates for the Houston Ship Channel Navigation District from 1911, and two illustrations of paddle steamers at port from 1859. A laudatory 20-page booklet from 1908 draws on photos and text to tout the city of Houston as a good place for business, and a nine-page pamphlet from 1915 furthers this claim by utilizing charts to compare freight costs with other ports.

Most of the items were donated by the daughter of James H. Branard, Jr. Mr. Branard served on the Board of Governors at the Port of Houston and was instrumental in its mid-century success. Several pieces were donated by the Harris County Archives to enrich the collection.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the James H. Branard Jr. Port of Houston Collection.

Texas City 1947 Disaster Photographs

Number of Items: 21 items

These 21 black and white photographs document the aftermath of the “Texas City Disaster,” an industrial catastrophe that killed well over 500 people on April 16, 1947. Images include aerial views, oil tanks on fire, blown-out freight cars, damaged houses and other buildings, destroyed barges, boat slips strewn with debris, and burned, wrecked cars covered with ashes.

The photographs were taken by an unknown individual between April 16 and April 21, 1947. Each digital image includes a description transcribed directly from the original photo album, complete with any misspellings. The album itself has been disbound and the photographs removed for preservation purposes. 

The Texas City Disaster has been called the worst industrial disaster in American history. The SS Grandcamp, carrying ammonium nitrate, caught fire early in the morning and exploded, wiping out the entire dock area, a nearby chemical plant, small businesses, grain warehouses, and many oil and chemical storage tanks. Flying debris ignited several smaller fires and explosions, and a fifteen-foot tidal wave caused by the blast swept the dock area. The docked SS High Flyer, which was also carrying ammonium nitrate, subsequently caught fire, was towed 100 feet out, and exploded that night.

Damage from the Texas City Disaster was devastating. Although the exact number of people killed may never be known, the ship's anchor monument records 576 persons known dead. Property damage was immense, with over 1,000 residences and buildings throughout Texas City damaged or destroyed by the concussion from the explosion.

Information for this description was drawn from the Handbook of Texas Online and the book The Texas City Disaster, 1947 by Hugh Stephens, published by the University of Texas Press.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Texas City Disaster Photographs.

University of Houston Buildings

Number of Items: 272 items

This digital collection documents the built environment of the University of Houston campus from the ground up, featuring maps, aerial views, architectural drawings and models, and photographs of buildings both under construction and upon completion. In all, the collection contains 272 photographs and drawings in both color and black and white, dating from the 1930s to the 1990s.

A comparison of campus maps from 1948-1950 and 1965-1969 highlights the rapid, mid-century growth of the university, while several aerial photographs taken from 1937-1980 provide a dramatic overview of the development of the campus and the surrounding city – from acres of untouched fields to miles of urban sprawl.

Dozens of architectural drawings and models illustrate the finely detailed planning process involved in creating the university’s physical appearance. These architectural works comprise both interiors and exteriors of individual buildings, as well as the campus as a whole.

Most of the university’s signature buildings are represented with photographs showing their progress from construction to completion, including Moody Towers, the Ezekiel Cullen and Roy G. Cullen Buildings, the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, the M.D. Anderson Library, and many others. Of particular interest are photographs of Veterans Village, which is no longer standing, and the University of Houston at San Jacinto High School, which predated the university’s own campus in the 1930s.

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

University of Houston Campus Life

Number of Items: 112 items

This collection of photographs from the larger UH Photographs Collection highlights campus scenes from throughout the history of the university. The photos of people, events, organizations and campus departments show a diverse range of activities and events, including athletic competitions, classroom gatherings, distinguished guests, and special events and exhibits.

The UH Photographs Collection in the University Archives contains photographs all aspects of the university’s history. Other digital collections from the UH Photographs include University of Houston Buildings and University of Houston People.

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

University of Houston Frontier Fiesta

Number of Items: 67 items

Featuring images from the heyday of the University of Houston’s annual Frontier Fiesta event, the digital collection captures all the Western-themed revelry surrounding “Fiesta City” in the 1950s. The collection contains more than 50 black and white photographs, 13 programs (1941, 1947, 1949-1959), the contents of a 35-page scrapbook, and one short silent film.

The photographs highlight all aspects of the festivities, from stage performances and students posing in Western costume to parade floats and the wooden structures making up the Wild West town of Fiesta City each year. Programs from the 50s and 60s present the calendar of events and maps of the grounds as well as name event organizers and friends, board of directors, and contest winners. Especially noteworthy are two items: the scrapbook and the silent film. The beautifully crafted cowhide scrapbook was compiled in 1954 and includes 35 pages of colorful illustrations, descriptive narrative, and dozens of photographs of the event. Titled The Great Bank Heist, the black and white silent film depicts an Old West-style bank robbery perpetrated by gunslingers who ride into town on horseback. Complete with title cards in place of dialogue, the two-minute film was recently produced from 1953 Frontier Fiesta footage.

A combination of musical and theatrical performances, cook-offs, carnival booths, and concessions set in a Western frontier-style town, Frontier Fiesta began in 1940 but was almost immediately interrupted by World War II and suspended from 1942-1945. Frontier Fiesta’s second run (from 1946-1959) saw the event grow to its greatest popularity and achieve national acclaim; Life Magazine proclaimed it the “Greatest College Show on Earth.”

The student-run, community-minded festival was revived in 1992. Every year the Frontier Fiesta Association awards 10 scholarships to deserving incoming freshman and current UH students; these scholarships reward both academic achievement and outstanding efforts in community service.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the UH Frontier Fiesta Collection.

University of Houston People

Number of Items: 253 items

This historical photograph collection features past UH Presidents and Chancellors, members of the Board of Regents, faculty and department chairs, accomplished athletes, famous campus visitors, and distinguished alumni. Most of the photographs date from the 1980s or earlier. Alphabetized by the subjects’ first names, the collection comprises more than 250 people, many represented by more than one image.

Each person’s photograph is accompanied by her or his UH title or a descriptive paragraph. In addition to notable University figures, the collection contains several photographs of Shasta, the live cougar mascot, in different incarnations through the years (Shasta, Shasta III, and Shasta V).

Visiting dignitaries over the decades include U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and George H.W. Bush; U.S. Representatives and Senators Barbara Jordan, Sheila Jackson Lee, George McGovern, and Phil Gramm; and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. State and regional politicians include Texas Governors Price Daniel, Preston Smith, and Ann Richards; Houston Mayors Oscar Holcombe, Louie Welch, Kathy Whitmire, Bob Lanier, and Lee Brown; and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros.

Some of the people representing UH’s rich athletic tradition include football coaches Bill Yeoman and Jack Pardee; Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware; track stars Jolanda Jones and Carl Lewis; and Hall of Fame basketball players Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler, and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Other famous campus visitors highlighted in this collection include actors Olympia Dukakis, Hal Holbrook, and Lynn Redgrave; local philanthropists Carolyn Farb and Dominique de Menil; playwrights Edward Albee, Ntozake Shange, and Tennessee Williams; author John Irving; hotel magnate Conrad N. Hilton; country singer Kenny Rogers; television reporters and personalities Geraldo Rivera and Marvin Zindler; groundbreaking heart surgeon Michael DeBakey; consumer advocate Ralph Nader; and longtime president of the Motion Picture Association of America (and UH alum) Jack Valenti.

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