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Collections ( U.S. History )

1850s and 1860s Hotel and Restaurant Menus

Number of Items: 80 items

These mid nineteenth century menus located in the Hospitality Industry Archives, at the Hilton College of the University of Houston reveal a treasure trove of historical information. The menus relate not only the regional cuisine of the particular restaurant but also show some of the cultural and social norms of society. The menus are from hotel restaurants, stand-alone restaurants and steamships.

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.

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.

Jagdish Mehra Audio Collection

Number of Items: 12 items

Dr. Mehra's research in the history of 20th century physics has produced taped interviews with many famous scientists. The tapes compile discussions on physics, astrophysics, cosmology, quantum mechanics and quantum physics. Those interviewed include P.A.M. Dirac, W. Heisenberg, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Willis E. Lamb Jr., Murray Gell-Mann and numerous other Nobel Laureates and distinguished scientists. Other tapes record speeches by many Nobel Prize winners in physics and the humanities. The information included in these oral histories are not only vast but varied and unique.

Some of Dr. Jagdish Mehra's literary works include; The beat of a different drum: the life and science of Richard Feynman, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory, and Einstein, physics and reality.

This first digital collection to go online consists of remastered audio tapes, transcripts and speaker biographies from a small portion of this unique oral history collection. It features speakers from the annual humanities series presented at the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (now the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth). 

Speakers include:

Margaret Mead (anthropologist)

William Slone Coffin (clergyman and activist)

Archibald MacLeish (Poet)

Gerald Holton (engineer and physicist)

Jerome Wiesner (engineer and mathematician)

Oscar Handlin (historian)

Philip Morrison (physicist)

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

Kenneth Franzheim Collection

Number of Items: 3 items

Significant to the architectural history of Houston was the work of architect Kenneth Franzheim (1890–1959). The Kenneth Franzheim Collection is comprised of photographs and architectural drawings and models of Franzheim’s work. In addition to Houston landmarks such as the Foley’s Building and the Gulf Building, the collection surveys a broad range of works; included are corporate offices, high-rise apartments, theaters, private residences, airport facilities and others. Beyond Houston, the works contained herein were built and/or proposed for a variety of locales within and outside Texas. Represented are Franzheim’s contributions to the architectural landscapes of New York, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere. The collection’s images comprise the collected works of Franzheim as they appear in three self-published volumes: Kenneth Franzheim, Architect, New York City (1940), Drawings and Models of Some of the Recent Work of Kenneth Franzheim, Architect, Together with Sketches of a Few Proposed Buildings (1952ca) and Drawings and Models of Some of the Recent Work of Kenneth Franzheim, Architect, Together with Sketches of a Few Proposed Buildings (1960).

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 

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.

USS Houston Blue Bonnet Newsletters

Number of Items: 248 items

The Blue Bonnet was the shipboard newsletter of the USS Houston (CA-30), a World War II-era heavy cruiser named for the city of Houston. The newsletters chronicle events both on and off the ship, providing an insider’s view of the lives and thoughts of the sailors on board. Although not all issues are available, the collection includes nearly 250 multi-page newsletters from 1933-1941, arranged chronologically.

Contents include ship news and general military news, sports updates for the ship’s teams, editorials, notes about the ship’s journeys and whereabouts, humor bits, sea chanteys, poems, and photos of the ship and some of its distinguished passengers, such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Published by the ship’s company, each edition specifically names its reporters and editors, customarily on page two. Interestingly, each edition also states the ship’s location at the time of publication – for example, “Asiatic Station,” “Mare Island Navy Yard, California,” and “At Sea, Hawaiian Area.”

The Houston was sunk in 1942 during the Battle of Sunda Strait, and her surviving crew members were taken as prisoners-of-war. The Blue Bonnet was revived after the war by the USS Houston Survivors Association and Next Generations, and issues from the 2000s may be viewed online at their web site.

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

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.