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Collections ( Houston History )

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.

Building Houston

Number of Items: 8 items

This collection is the result of a partnership between the William R. Jenkins Architecture and Art Library and the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It includes the oral histories of people who strongly impacted the built environment in the Houston Area. Architects, developers, scholars and philanthropists discuss their work, projects, and the influences that shaped Houston. Each subject is interviewed by an architect or architectural scholar who frames the discussion and provides context. The collection of oral histories is ongoing, so Building Houston's content will regularly expand to accommodate new subjects. Photographs of the Zemanek House on Bomar Street courtesy of Catherine Essinger.

DJ Screw Photographs and Memorabilia

Number of Items: 25 items

This collection includes photographs, handwritten rap lyrics and song lists for “screw tapes,” and flyers related to the late DJ Screw and his rap collective the Screwed Up Click. These materials document how DJ Screw developed the production technique known as “chopped and screwed,” which is closely associated with Houston hip hop. The collection also includes obituaries (memorial service programs) for DJ Screw.

DJ Screw was born Robert Earl Davis, Jr. in 1971. As a teenager on the South side of Houston, he began DJ-ing and making mixtapes of his favorite rap songs for friends. By the early nineties, he had begun slowing down the music on his tapes to a hypnotic crawl and emphasizing certain words and phrases by repeating them manually. Screw sold these “chopped and screwed” mixtapes directly to eager fans.

Friends and local rappers began ordering personal tapes from Screw, and he invited the rappers to freestyle, or improvise, over beats at the beginning and end of the tapes. Over time, the rappers themselves developed followings and many released successful independent solo albums. Prominent members of the Screwed Up Click included the Botany Boys, Fat Pat, HAWK, Lil’ Keke, E.S.G., Big Pokey, Big Moe, Lil’ O, Al-D, Yungstar, and Lil’ Flip.

It is estimated that DJ Screw sold hundreds of thousands of mixtapes throughout Houston and the South. He also released four studio albums on Bigtyme Recordz: All Screwed Up, 3 'N The Mornin' (Part One), 3 'N The Mornin' (Part Two), and I Wanna Get High with Da Blanksta. As a member of Dead End Alliance (D.E.A.) with Fat Pat, HAWK and Kay-K, he appeared on the album “Screwed for Life.” In 1998, he opened Screwed Up Records and Tapes, a shop that sold only his mixtapes.

On November 16, 2000, DJ Screw was found dead in his recording studio at the age of 29, his death ruled an overdose of codeine and other drugs. His legacy continues to be honored by Houston rappers and fans from around the world.

These materials were part of a larger exhibition, DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop, on view at the M.D. Anderson Library from March 19 through September 21, 2012.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the DJ Screw Papers.

Donald Barthelme Sr., Architectural Drawings and Photographs

Number of Items: 24 items

This collection highlights the career of Donald Barthelme (1907–1996), the first Houston architect to gain national prominence in the years after World War II.  These 57 items illustrate his work through pencil sketches, photographs, and the detailed working drawings used to construct his buildings.

Barthelme first gained attention in 1936 as the lead designer for the Hall of State, the principal building of the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. In 1948 he won an award from the American Institute of Architects for Houston’s St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, applauded for its simple Scandinavian modern forms. Yet he made his reputation with the West Columbia Elementary School of 1951, which won many awards and was published internationally. Its innovative design departed from the traditional practice of placing classrooms along both sides of a long corridor. Instead, Barthelme arranged the building around two large courtyards; classrooms opened to the courts through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. This flooded the rooms with light while providing a sheltered environment for the students. At the main entrance a flamboyant scalloped canopy greeted visitors.

In addition to the St. Rose and West Columbia buildings, the collection includes Barthelme’s own residence. He built this small modernist house for his family about 1939. The original drawings are lost, but he enlarged it slightly a decade later, and the collection preserves his 1949 drawings for this remodeling.

Of particular interest, and rarely seen, are a few of his studies for the Adams Petroleum Center (1954–58), his largest and most ambitious project. The Ada Oil Company, owned by K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr., wanted to develop its large site as an office park. Barthelme planned to build the complex in four phases, beginning with the client’s own building. He spent hundreds of hours studying different designs for the APC tower and preparing a dramatic aerial view. The company later abandoned the scheme and constructed only a modest building without the tower.

Barthelme helped shaped the look of Houston during its postwar boom. Today only the church buildings still stand, but the West Columbia school district has preserved his entrance canopy at the original site of the elementary school.

Several of Barthelme’s children became prominent writers, and the works of his eldest son, Donald Barthelme, Jr., are preserved in the Donald Barthelme Literary Papers.

The original materials are available in the UH Libraries Special Collections in the Donald Barthelme, Sr. Architectural Papers.

Duke-Peacock Records Publicity Photos and ACA Master Books

Number of Items: 94 items

This digital collection provides insight into Houston’s music history, particularly into the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, and soul. Publicity photographs from the Duke and Peacock record labels depict artists, musical groups, and performances, while master books from Houston’s Audio Company of America document recordings that took place at ACA Studios. In all, the collection contains 90 photographs and 4 master books.

Most of the publicity photographs feature artists on the Duke and/or Peacock labels, both of which were owned by Don Robey, a Houston nightclub owner and businessman. These photographs date from the 1950s and 1960s, and feature artists including Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and many others. Most are headshots or posed group photos, but several capture artists as they perform. A small number of photographs contain handwritten inscriptions by the artist.

The master books contain handwritten logs of recordings cut at the Audio Company of America Studios, with entries that often include songs titles, artists, record labels, and dates. Many Duke and Peacock artists recorded at ACA Studios, and this is reflected in the master books. Three of the books contain entries from the 1950s only, while the fourth begins in the 1950s and continues all the way up through the 1990s.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the Texas Music Collection.

HAWK Photographs and Memorabilia

Number of Items: 67 items

This collection provides a window into the life of the late Houston rapper HAWK, a member of DJ Screw’s rap collective the Screwed Up Click (S.U.C.). Publicity photographs depict the style of HAWK and fellow rappers Fat Pat (his brother) and Big Moe, while snapshots capture HAWK, Lil’ Keke, Trae and other S.U.C. members performing or hanging out. Of special note is a handwritten notebook of HAWK’s lyrics in gold on black paper.

HAWK, also known as H.A.W.K. or Big Hawk, was born John Edward Hawkins in Houston on November 15, 1969. In the early nineties he began working with DJ Screw, an underground mixtape DJ who was developing a new style called “chopped and screwed.” Like many others, including his brother before him, HAWK ordered personal mixtapes on which he would rap. Through the popularity of these mixtapes, HAWK became locally famous. In 1998, HAWK, Fat Pat, DJ Screw, and Kay-K formed a group called Dead End Alliance (D.E.A.) and released the album Screwed for Life on Dead End Records.

HAWK released his first solo album, Under H.A.W.K.’s Wings, on Dead End Records in 2000. In 2002, he released his second album, HAWK, on Game Face Entertainment.

On April 9, 2006, HAWK married his longtime girlfriend, Meshah (Henderson) Hawkins. Shortly thereafter, in May 2006, HAWK was shot and killed. His murder remains unsolved. Another album, Endangered Species, was released posthumously on Ghetto Dreams Entertainment in 2007.

HAWK was especially respected as a writer of lyrics. In the pages of his notebook, he worked out the sixteen bars that make up a typical rap verse. Some pages of the notebook show sets of rhyming words that he was considering for a verse. Others capture the activities of HAWK’s everyday life, from phone numbers to scores for dominoes games.

The collection also includes obituaries (memorial service programs) for HAWK and his brother Fat Pat, and photographs of Fat Pat’s burial.

Some of these materials were part of the exhibition, DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop, on view at the M.D. Anderson Library from March 19 through September 21, 2012.

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

Historic Maps

Number of Items: 28 items

The 30 historic maps in this digital collection provide a window into geo- and socio-political developments and changes within Texas, the cities of Houston (including selected sub-divisions) and Galveston, and regions beyond the state’s borders.  Map dates range approximately from the first third of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century.

Along with the maps of the City of Houston are specific detail maps of sub-division plats, including Camp Logan (1917), Central Park, Magnolia Park, Houston Heights, Rice Court, Shadow Lawn, Shadyside, and Southampton Place.  Beyond the State of Texas itself, there are examples of Texas at the time of the 1836 revolution, a map including Indian Territory to the north (comprising present-day Oklahoma), a Map of the South West, which, besides Texas shows Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Indian Territory, the states of northeastern Mexico, and the railroads traversing this large land mass.  And depicting all the free and slave states and territories of the Union is Reynolds’s Political Map of the United States (1856) at the time of the second Missouri Compromise.

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


Historic Texas Postcards

Number of Items: 243 items

The 243 postcards in this collection present colorful views of historic Texas, from Houston in the east to El Paso out west, from Laredo down south to Amarillo up north. The painted, sketched, and photographed images depict historic buildings, street scenes, and landscapes to reveal Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and other locales as they were in the early 1900s.

Drawn from the larger George Fuermann Texas and Houston Collection, this group represents the subset of postcards that date from before 1925. Especially noteworthy are the postcards from the Alamo, the State Capitol, turn-of-the-century Galveston, and many of downtown Houston’s earliest commercial buildings. Also pictured are rivers, lakes, city parks, railroad bridges, hotels, churches, and court houses from all over the state. Both the front and back of each postcard are included in the digital collection, so viewers can read the personal greetings handwritten by the original senders.

Legendary Houston newspaperman and historian George M. Fuermann gathered these postcards over the course of two decades for his book research. From 1946 to 1995, Fuermann was a reporter, editor, and columnist for the Houston Post, where his work included a long-running column called “Post Card,” based on snippets of local history. Fuermann also published numerous books, mostly on the history and people of the city of Houston.

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


Houston Fire Department

Number of Items: 189 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.

Houston Negro Hospital

Number of Items: 951 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.

Houston Saengerbund Records

Number of Items: 5 items

The Houston Saengerbund Records contain five bound volumes covering the activities of the organization and related associations from 1874 to 1937. Three of the ledgers contain minutes of various Houston Saengerbund meetings, financial statements, and the occasional printed program. A fourth volume contains similar materials for the Houston German Day Association, and the final volume contains the records, programs, clippings and correspondence of the German Texas Saengerbunds.

The Houston Saengerbund (Singing Society) was founded on Oct. 6, 1883, as an organization through which German immigrants in Houston could join with their countrymen to sing songs in the German language. The Saengerbund was one of a number of all-male singing organizations that formed in the German communities of Texas during the last half of the 19th century. These local groups were united under Der Deutsch-Texanische Saengerbund (the German-Texan Singers' League, or DTSB), a regional organization that held biennial meetings and Saengerfeste (Singing Festivals) in various Texas cities.

The Houston Saengerbund swelled to over 1,000 members before World War One, and in 1913 Houston played host to a particularly elaborate DTSB Saengerfest which featured a full orchestra and world-class opera singers. But during the war years membership fell as Germans became reluctant to draw attention to their nationality.

After the war, membership increased and the group flourished. The Saengerbund bought their first in a series of clubhouses, and introduced new activities such as dancing, children's plays, and beach excursions. The club officially began admitting women as members in 1937 with the formation of the Ladies Auxiliary and the Damenchor (Women's Chorus) a year later.

With the onset of World War II, the Saengerbund members changed the name of the group to "The Houston Singing Society,” stopped their primary activity of singing German songs, and began keeping minutes in English because of their concern about arousing anti-German sentiment. After the war, the club members restored both their German-language singing and their name, but membership declined, partly owing to a drop in German immigration.

The Houston Saengerbund is still in existence more than 100 years after its founding, and the Saengerbund and Damenchor continue to perform at the Saengerfeste of the DTSB, the International Festival, Lights in the Heights, and other public events.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the Houston Saengerbund Records.

Source: The History of the Houston Saengerbund (1990), Theodore G. Gish

Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters

Number of Items: 566 items

The Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters collection contains issues of newsletters and similar periodicals from thirteen feminist and lesbian organizations and community groups from Houston, Austin, and other areas of Texas. These publications highlight the political, social, and cultural interests of the various organizations and groups, primarily during the 1970s and 1980s. These groups were concerned with such topics as women’s equality, gay and lesbian rights, and sexual and domestic violence.

Among the specific topics addressed in these publications are the Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX, and a number of local and national elections. Relevant issues and events, such as appearances by popular and sometimes controversial activists and celebrities, equal rights negotiations with businesses, offensive fraternity hijinks, and the portrayal of women in popular culture, are also documented. Some periodicals provide information about networking and social opportunities.

The individual publications contained in this collection include the newsletters of various chapters of the National Organization for Women, the Texas Women’s Political Caucus, and the Houston organization Womynspace. Other Houston-area publications include Pointblank Times and Breakthrough.

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

Houston the Magnolia City

Number of Items: 20 items

The Houston Chamber of Commerce and other business entities presented the city of Houston as a center of growth, industry, opportunity, and scenic beauty in the early 20th century, and this digital collection includes several publications detailing these efforts. Complete with the covers and every page of each item, the collection comprises eight individual books and one that spans 12 volumes.

The collection’s titular item, Houston: The Magnolia City, is a 13-page pamphlet published in 1912 that features illustrations of prominent downtown buildings. The 12-volume set titled Art Work of Houston, Texas was intended to provide a pictorial, artistic perspective of the city. Published in 1904, the set contains photographs, illustrations, and textual descriptions of the neighborhoods, residences, and buildings that made up the city of Houston at the time.

Dating from 1891, Souvenir Album of Houston Texas is the oldest book in the collection, and it features more than two dozen black and white illustrations of pre-1900 buildings, including City Hall, the Opera House, the Cotton Exchange, hotels, churches, and private residences. Houston: Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea, published in 1923, was one of the earliest books to contain color photographs of the area.

The longest book in the collection at 101 pages, The City of Houston aims to attract new residents and capital investors by stating a vigorous case for Houston as a bustling center of commerce; the author describes Houston as not only “the Chicago of the Southwest,” but also as “the foremost city of the grandest state of the greatest country on the face of the globe.”

Other titles in the collection include Greater Houston, Texas and the Southwest, Industrial Advantages of Houston, Niels Esperson Building, and The Gulf Building: Thirty-five Floors, One Thousand Offices.

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

KUHT Highlights

Number of Items: 366 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.

Lucian T. Hood Architectural Drawings

Number of Items: 13 items

Through his early drawings, this digital collection captures architect Lucian Hood’s eye for detail and exemplifies his artistry and graphic skills. These drawings, done before architects were aided by AutoCAD and other drafting software, embody the craftsmanship and sense of detail from a bygone era. In all, the collection contains 116 drawings done by hand in pencil. The drawings include floor plans, interior and exterior elevations, foundations, and plots.

Many of the drawings are from Hood’s early work on residential homes, which are representative of the architectural trends and influences of the early 1960s. These homes, located throughout the Houston neighborhoods of River Oaks, Tanglewood, and Memorial, are highly sought after in the marketplace, and owners are often interested in the original drawings in order to restore the homes to their original specifications.

Hood was a 1952 graduate of the University of Houston who studied under Donald Barthelme. He was one of Houston’s early modernist architects and his work was in great demand for more than 40 years, from the 1950s through the 1990s.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the Lucian T. Hood Architectural Collection.

Mary Ellen Ewing vs the Houston School Board

Number of Items: 163 items

This digital collection contains the pages of several scrapbooks that document the social and political activities of Mary Ellen Ewing during the early 20th century. Newspaper clippings and correspondence detail Mrs. Ewing’s many endeavors on behalf of education reform, the women’s suffrage movement, child welfare programs, and improving labor conditions. The collection’s 163 items span the years 1900-1917, with the bulk of the material coming from the year 1913.

Married to Judge Presley Kittredge Ewing, who served as Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Mrs. Ewing was a successful philanthropist and activist in her own right. She served as an officer for the Harris County Equal Suffrage Association; the Child Welfare League; the State Congress of Mothers (forerunner of the Parent-Teachers Association, or PTA); and the Harris County Humane Society. She was also an inventor who was granted patents for a street sweeper to improve sanitation in the city.

Highlights of the collection include dozens of newspaper articles from the Houston Chronicle and Houston Daily Post about the push for better conditions in public schools and the addition of women to the school board. Letters to and from Mrs. Ewing further illustrate her involvement and importance in these and other social causes, both on the local and state levels. Personal mementos from the scrapbooks include postcards, birthday greeting cards, and photos of the Ewing house.

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

Oral Histories from the Houston History Project

Number of Items: 442 items

The Oral Histories from the Houston History Project digital collection contains more than 400 oral histories from the oral history collection at the University of Houston, a repository supported by the UH Center for Public History and the University Libraries’ Houston History Archives. These oral histories, collected from 1996 – 2011, discuss topics including the Houston Ship Channel, Hurricane Katrina, and energy development. Most of the interviews also include transcripts.

When the Houston History Archives was created, its mission called for an oral history repository to preserve audio files and transcripts of stories describing the growth and development of the Gulf Coast region. Graduate students and faculty document memories of cultural, political, civil rights, and women’s history, building an assemblage of recollections of the city’s past from multiple viewpoints. To support that effort, the UH Oral History Project in the Center for Public History trains history graduate students to research and interview native and relocated Houstonians.

The Offshore Energy History, a collaborative project among several UH professors and other universities, makes up a large segment of the oral history collection. It was conceived to document the growth of oil production and refining along the Gulf Coast before and after World War II.  Other intriguing oral histories include interviews with Katrina emergency responders in Houston, a series of discussions with African American generals from the Vietnam era, profiles of members of Houston's Indo-Asian population, and interviews from the Afro-American Physicians project.

Because the UH oral history project is ongoing, additional oral histories will be added to this digital collection in the future.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in Oral Histories - Houston History Project.

Pen & Pixel

Number of Items: 91 items

Stylishly dressed rappers, diamond encrusted jewelry, piles of cash, and champagne bottles epitomized the bling aesthetic associated with many 1990s hip hop artists. During this time, Houston-based firm Pen & Pixel Graphics, Inc. began using these visual elements to create album covers that portrayed the high life. This collection comprises 91 images related to the firm, including digital files of album cover artwork, a catalog, and photographs of offices and staff.

Pen & Pixel was innovative in its use of early Adobe Photoshop; their designers used as  many as 200 layers to build up a single images. The company typically photographed a client in the studio, then used Photoshop to surround the portrait with a collage of cars, models, and luxury items. Pen & Pixel also developed highly stylized title lettering that suggested diamonds or precious metals.

Pen & Pixel Graphics, Inc. was founded in September 1992 by brothers Shawn and Aaron Brauch. The Brauch brothers got their start by working for Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records before recognizing that demand for their graphic design work was high enough to enable them to start their own company. Shawn became the firm’s creative director and vice president, and Aaron served as its general manager. They worked primarily with rap musicians, including renowned artists such as Lil Wayne and Master P and record labels Cash Money Records and No Limit Records.

In addition to album covers, Pen & Pixel produced artwork for posters, logos, and videos. The firm closed in the early 2000s.


The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the Pen & Pixel Graphics, Inc. Records.

Selections from the Ewing Family Papers

Number of Items: 1 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.

Shamrock Hotel Collection

Number of Items: 86 items

The Shamrock Collection consists of menus from the many restaurants, bars and lounges in the hotel, staff newsletters, and promotional pamphlets. It chronicles the transition of ownership and highlights of the hotel’s golden years.

The Shamrock Hotel was the grandest hotel in the city of Houston from 1949 until its decline and demolition in 1987. Built by Glenn McCarthy (wildcatter and oil tycoon) between 1946 and 1949, it opened with great fanfare. Three thousand dignitaries, celebrities and the socially prominent were present for its grand opening on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1949, attended by no less than Errol Flynn, Ginger Rogers and Robert Preston. The partygoers were brought in on a customized Boeing 307 Stratoliner and by a Santa Fe Super Chief train specially chartered by McCarthy. Approximately 50,000 people gathered outside of the hotel.

While the hotel was immense, expensive and lavish, it was also considered by many to be garish and more than a little over the top.

The hotel became a destination for Houstonians and played host to numerous social events such as debutante balls, receptions, business meetings, presidential visits and visits from other heads of state.  The Shamrock hosted cattle auctions and also was a gathering spot for the Houston Rodeo.

The hotel had 1,100 rooms and many restaurants, bars and lounges. Those who swam in the hotel’s huge swimming pool, which measured 165 by 142 feet, remember it fondly. The swimming pool even hosted water skiing exhibitions, complete with motorboats.

The Hilton Hotels Corporation acquired the Shamrock Hotel in 1954. Burdened with a poor location, burgeoning competition and stagnant occupancy rates, its popularity declined. The hotel described in Edna Ferber’s novel Giant as the “Conquistador,” which saw performers such as Dorothy Lamour and Frank Sinatra grace its clubs, never fulfilled McCarthy’s vision of a destination resort, conference and shopping center.

“Let us consecrate THE SHAMROCK to friendship – the motto of the State of Texas….May that motto be alive here as long as THE SHAMROCK is privileged to serve the great city of Houston as its ambassador of good will to the world.” – Glenn McCarthy

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.

The Park People Annual Awards Dinner Invitations

Number of Items: 15 items

The Park People hosted Annual Awards Dinners to honor the efforts of organizations and individuals who shared a mission. This collection includes invitations for events held from 1992 to 2005 that reflect the mission championed by The Park People: to preserve and expand green space in Houston. Because the awards event began as a simple affair in 1981 without formal invitations, a summary is included that lists awardees through 1990.

The Park People emerged in 1978 as an organization devoted to advocacy for parks and green space in the Houston area.  Following the environmental protest organizations of the 1960s, The Park People became a model for collaboration and cooperation by inviting government, business interests, non-profit organizations, and private citizens to join the effort to preserve and expand Houston’s green spaces.

The Park People relied on multiple avenues of community outreach to carry their message and expand support, and the awards ceremony became an anticipated avenue of outreach.  An innovation in 1981, the awards event grew into a gala affair welcomed by those who spearheaded community-wide efforts to promote parks and green space.

From the 1992 event that heralded publication of Sarah Emmott’s Memorial Park: A Priceless Legacy to introduction of the Green Tie Affair concept in 1996, these creative invitations reflect not only The Park People’s success but also the spirit of woodsy and easy elegance that characterized the organization.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in The Park People Records.

University of Houston Integration Records

Number of Items: 109 items

Through correspondence, applications, pamphlets, and other materials, this collection documents the integration of black students into the University of Houston. The bulk of the 214 items are from the late 1950s and early 1960s, with some dated as early as 1945 and as late as 1969. The collection includes selections from the UH President’s Office Records and highlights correspondence from Presidents Clanton C. Williams, A.D. Bruce, and Phillip G. Hoffman.

UH did not admit its first black student until the early 1960s. A private college during the 1950s and ‘60s, UH was not held to the standards of Sweatt v. Painter, which forced the University of Texas to admit a black student to its law school in 1950.  Documents in the collection show black students applying to UH but being referred to nearby Texas Southern University. Phillip G. Hoffman, UH President from 1961-1977, realized that transforming UH from a private to a public school would have great financial benefits for the university and would also hold them to the legal standards of state schools. A memo in the collection from the Registrar Ramon A. Vitulli to Hoffman dated January 15, 1962, states that in 1961 the office of admissions received 175 inquiries by “negroes” in person or by phone and 33 rejection letters were sent through the mail. The registrar adds, “Based on the assumption that as a fully State supported institution the University will be required to admit qualified Negroes in the fall of 1963 and thereafter, I recommend that we admit qualified Negroes in the fall of 1962 or before.” By March 1963, the University had twenty African American students and was fully desegregated.

To avoid the unrest occurring around desegregation at other schools, Hoffman drew together community businessmen and the media to integrate the university relatively quietly. UH became a state funded university in 1963, and in 1964, it became the first major university in the South to desegregate its intercollegiate sports program. Guy Lewis recruited the school's first black athletes, including Don Chaney and future Hall-of-Famer Elvin Hayes, transforming both the basketball program and the entire campus.

The items do not present themselves in the digital collection in the same order that they do in the physical collection. Newspaper clippings were not scanned because of copyright issues.  Whenever possible, materials that were originally attached were scanned together. To see the collection in its entirety and in its original order, we encourage you to visit UH Special Collections.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the UH President’s Office Records.