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.
This digital collections represents six volumes from Bebe Gow's scrapbook collection spanning the years 1927 to 1961. Bebe Lord Gow was born Barbara Jane Lord to Andrew James Lord and Evelyn Wiggins Lord in New Vernon, New Jersey, on May 21, 1927. The scrapbooks were started by Bebe as a family keepsake to her four sons -- Andrew Lord Johnston, Henry Rust Johnston, Peter Wright Johnston, and Douglas Earl Johnston Jr. -- in order to chronicle her and her family's history in both New Vernon and Houston.
Bebe and her first husband, Douglas E. Johnston, were married on October 12, 1946. They would relocate to Houston in 1948 in order for her husband to pursue his career as a stockbroker specializing in oil & gas and natural resources. Settling in Houston, Bebe and her husband would raise their four sons at #5 West Oaks Drive in west Houston, and they became active in Houston's social, civic, and Republican Party political circles during the 1960s and 70s. Bebe and her husband lived near and were longtime friends to President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. She and Barbara Bush both attended Smith College together during the 1940s. With her father's encouragement Bebe was interested in politics and was an early campaigner and fundraiser for the former President as he ran for political office, as well as for John Tower when he ran for the US Senate.
In addition to her involvement in politics, Bebe has also been an entrepreneur with her second husband, Robert Gow, whom she married in 1972. She has a lifelong belief in healthy eating and promoting healthy eating. As a result, she and her husband started a honey business, maintaining beehives in the backyard of their home and harvesting the honey to be used in food products such as honey mustard, honey chutney, and Asian food sauces. At one point during the early 70s she was approached by Procter and Gamble for her honey mustard sauce at the Fancy Food Show in New York, and they ended up taking over the honey mustard business. She was also an accomplished tennis player, winning the singles and doubles championship with George H.W. Bush and James Baker at the Houston Country Club, and teaching tennis to boys and girls in the community through her tennis camp.
Within the Houston community, Bebe has been actively involved in the Junior League of Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and the Contemporary Arts Museum. She's the author of two books, "Seeking Hakka Baka" and "A Bright Yellow Yoyo."
Before the advent of smartphones, social media, and Instagram, Bebe would snap photos of her four sons with a simple Kodak camera, capturing various moments in their lives, along with photos of family gatherings, vacations, and outings. An all-around accomplished athlete, Bebe is pictured on horseback, boating, golfing, and playing tennis. There are also many photos of the family together during the holidays. Her scrapbooks provide researchers an intimate view of family life, leisure, and activities both in New Vernon, New Jersey, and Houston during the early and mid-part of the 20th century.
The original materials were loaned by Bebe Gow to UH Special Collections for digitization.
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.
More than 30 years of Houston LGBTQ history is preserved and presented in this digital collection from the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of GLBT History (GCAM). The collection contains over 50 LGBT newspaper issues from central Texas, the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and other Texas regions, from the 1970s through the early 2000s.
The Gulf Coast Archive and Museum's mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to historical items from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Over the last 20 years, GCAM has collected a broad variety of published materials relating to LGBTQ issues, both at the local and national level. Titles in this collection include The Star (Austin/San Antonio), South Texas Community News, and Bar Talk San Antonio. Mid-1970s issues from Gay Austin and Community News (Fort Worth/Dallas) are some of the earliest publications found in the collection.
The original materials are owned by the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of GLBT History. (http://gcam.org/)
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 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 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
Several decades’ worth of Cougar Pride is in evidence in this comprehensive digital collection. Spanning the history of the University of Houston, the collection includes every cover and every page of every Houstonian yearbook beginning in 1934, arranged in chronological order.
Each year’s digital installment is divided into sections according to that yearbook’s actual table of contents, with titles such as Sports, Organizations, People, and Campus Life. Viewers can find individual photos of students and faculty from years gone by, as well as photographs and information highlighting sports teams, student groups, fraternities and sororities, campus events, classroom activities, musical performances, university growth, and memorable moments in school history.
The collection also provides a rich portrait of changes in fashion and graphic design through the decades, from the apparent formality of the 1930s to mid-century Mod to the more relaxed styles of the 1970s, up through current times.
The Houstonian was first published in 1934 and continued to be published by the University of Houston student yearbook staff until 2011.
The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections and the general collection.
This digital collection features fascinating photographs of early 20th century India under British rule. The 217 black and white photographs come from a rare book called India Illustrated: Being a Collection of Pictures of the Cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, Together with a Selection of the Most Interesting Buildings and Scenes throughout India. The book was published by Bennett, Coleman, & Co., publishers of the English language newspaper Times of India, around the year 1905.
Complete with captions and descriptions taken directly from the book, the images capture the full scope of India’s scenery: from cities to farmland; from rivers and beaches to jungles and mountains; from crowded streets to idyllic countryside; from Western-style cathedrals to elaborate Indian temples. Of particular interest are photographs of the majestic Taj Mahal and the historic Chepauk Palace, which was constructed in the mid-1700s. A handful of the photographs are set in the cities of Lahore and Karachi, in what is now Pakistan.
Hallmarks of British colonialism are evident in images of the Madras Cricket Club, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, the Adyar Club for golf and tennis, the Gymkhana Club, which hosted polo matches, and a top-coated huntsman leading a pack of hounds on a fox hunt.
The collection also shows villagers engaged in a variety of daily activities, such as fishing, basket-weaving, harvesting the fields, and washing clothes on riverbanks.
The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in India Illustrated: Being a Collection of Pictures of the Cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, Together with a Selection of the Most Interesting Buildings and Scenes throughout India.
This collection includes over 200 digital images donated to UH Special Collections by Janice Rubin. Rubin is a Houston-based photographer specializing in corporate, editorial, and fine art photography. Her images have appeared in noteworthy publications such as GQ, Smithsonian, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Texas Monthly, and more. This selection focuses on historically and culturally significant images from the 1970s and 80s, including a range of different topics, from celebrities and political figures to Texas life and culture.
People of note included in the collection are Houston and Texas public figures such as Bill Archer, Bill Hobby, Michael DeBakey, Fred Hofheinz, Louie Welch, Lynn Wyatt, Kathy Whitmire, Terry Hershey, George W. Bush, and Dan Patrick. Rubin also created a series of photographs of Houston artists including Dick Wray, Earl Staley, James Surls, Gael Stack, Mel Chin, Lynn Randolph, and Patricia and Lucas Johnson.
This online collection also contains photographs of the Urban Cowboy movie premiere at Gilley's in the Houston area in 1980, featuring photographs of Andy Warhol, Diane von Furstenberg, Jerry Hall, John Travolta, and Mickey Leland. The digital collection represents only a small percentage of the prints, negatives, and slides available to researchers and the public in UH Special Collections.
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.
Mary Smith McCrory Jones was the wife of Anson Jones, who served as the last president of the Republic of Texas from 1844 to 1846 before it joined the Union as a state. This digital collection contains mostly letters written by Mary Jones during the decades following the death of her husband. Many of the 191 items in the collection include multiple pages.
After Anson Jones died in 1858, Mrs. Jones moved the family to Galveston, then to a farm in Harris County. Spanning the latter half of the 19th century, the bulk of the letters are from Mary Jones to her son, Cromwell Anson Jones, who became a lawyer and served as a judge in Harris County. The correspondence provide a glimpse into post-Civil War life in Texas, especially legal and financial issues related to land ownership; Mrs. Jones had inherited land throughout East Texas from her husband, and frequently consulted her children in such matters.
In addition to family letters, the collection also contains legal documents, including official deeds of land from the State of Texas; a Confederate tax receipt from 1864; City of Houston and Harris County tax statements; and a court summons from the City of Houston (as plaintiff) against Mrs. Jones for taxes due in 1898.
Transcriptions of the letters are provided under the descriptions of most items.
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.
This collection is comprised of digital versions of 105 photographic prints created by documentary photographer Peter Beste as part of the nine year project that became the book Houston Rap. Hip hop artists depicted include Scarface and Willie D of Geto Boys, Choice, Bun B and Pimp C of UGK, Devin the Dude, Paul Wall, Lil’ Flip, Z-Ro, HAWK, Trae, K-Rino, and many others.
Published in 2013 by Sinecure Press, Houston Rap was the joint creation of Beste and writer Lance Scott Walker. It documented Houston’s hip hop community, particularly rappers, DJs, and others from the Third Ward, Fifth Ward, and South Park neighborhoods. Its subjects are often shown in unguarded moments unlike those typically staged for hip hop videos or publicity photos. It also captures the landscape of Houston’s changing neighborhoods at a particular point in time.
Originally from Houston, Beste is most well-known for photographing subcultures. In 2008, he published the book True Norwegian Black Metal for Vice Books, which focused on Norwegian black metal bands. As he says on his web site, "My work as a documentary photographer covers a range of subcultures which are sometimes viewed as controversial. I have no political axe to grind or agenda to push but rather am interested in photographically documenting unique and visually interesting groups of people… As one who highly values freedom of speech and expression, I seek to portray the various groups documented as they express themselves, without reference to outside opinions or ideologies."
The original materials are available in UH Libraries' Special Collections in the Peter Beste and Lance Scott Walker Houston Rap Collection.
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 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
This binder’s collection of sheet music contains twenty-seven duets bound in two separate volumes, the first for flute and the second for violin. The first thirteen compositions were written for flute and violin, and although undated, they were most likely published in the first two decades of the 19th century. The remaining fourteen pieces consist of operatic transcriptions arranged by Charles de Bériot (1802-1870).
Composers of the first thirteen compositions include Friedrich Ludwig Dulon (1769-1826), François Devienne (1759-1803), Jérôme Duval (fl. 1810-1830), J. Martin (no dates found), Franz Alexander Pössinger (1767-1827), Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841), F. de Salin (no dates found), Heinrich Simrock (1754-1839), Louis Vogel (fl. 1781-1798), and Eugène Walckiers (1793-1866). Among these composers (excepting Duval and de Salin, for whom no biographical information has been found), four were flautists: Louis Vogel, Friedrich Ludwig Dulon, Eugène Walckiers, and François Devienne, who is perhaps the best known.
The Bériot arrangements feature six selections from the operas of Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), two from the operas of Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), one from Don Juan by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), three from the operas of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), and two from the operas of Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), as well as one composition by Charles de Bériot himself. A violinist by training, Bériot enjoyed a successful solo career and later, in his 40s, accepted an appointment as head of the violin faculty at the Brussels Conservatory. Failing eyesight forced his retirement by age 55, though he continued to be active as a composer for the remainder of his life.
Binder’s collections of sheet music were common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, providing the means to social entertainment in homes and other informal settings beyond concert venues. While often unorganized, some collections are ordered according to genre, instrumentation, composer or chronology.
The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections.
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.
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.