Sunday, March 22, 2015

THE Texas Centennial Collection: rare glassware and souvenirs reclaimed from everywhere!

By Carla Nix's daughter...

Texas Centennial lapel pin
Most everyone accepts that most everything is 'big' in Texas – and that's especially true when it comes to throwing a party! The Texas Centennial Exposition may be the biggest birthday party ever. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Texas' independence from Mexico in 1836, it was the first world's fair below the Mason-Dixon Line. The Texas legislature and United States Congress each appropriated $3,000,000 for the project. The main event was held at Fair Park, Dallas. A $25 million project that transformed the existing fairgrounds into a masterpiece of art and imagination attracted more than six million people during its six-month run in 1936.

A. Harris & Co. order form
But the parties-before-the-party were well underway in 1935, the year my mother was born a 3rd-generation Dallasite. Because I come from a long line of sentimental collectors, it's really not surprising that my grandparents partly filled their Centennial baby's hope chest with the very 'smart' commemorative glassware. According to an A. Harris & Co. newspaper ad, "... original ideas in gift items especially designed for the Texas Centennial... Texas Centennial glass is in use at the White House at Washington and the Governor's Mansion in Austin. It is something you will cherish and hand down to later generations." And that’s exactly what happened!

J. Bywaters design
My brothers and I shared most of our at-home meals (not on that most special glassware) in the breakfast room of our 1919 Texas prairie house with the collection on display in a stately pine cabinet. Various souvenirs placed in and around the key pieces could have been a 1935 window dressing for Harris' First Floor Centennial Shop downtown… except that the magnificent flag in the corner wouldn't yet have flown over the Exposition. Our uncle Joe joined the staff of the State Fair of Texas in 1951, ultimately becoming General Manager of both the annual fair and the year-round operation of Fair Park. He acquired the flag that also waved over our annual Texas Independence Day parties that brought the glassware – and a whole lot more – out of the cabinet. Several items continued to travel to local classrooms as Mom very much enjoyed teaching Texas history through these one-of-a-kind artifacts.

Texas Centennial Exposition flag
I'd never thought about the significance of her collection until Wally Chariton explained what 'souvenirs' are from an historical point of view… souvenir: a usually small and relatively inexpensive article given, kept, or purchased as a reminder of a place visited, an occasion, etc.; memento. The idea was to get those millions of visitors to take something back to their friends and families, so the Texas Centennial celebration is now spread around the world, literally! Many of the paper items have succumbed to the tests of time, and I'd bet that you've experienced the effects of gravity on glass/pottery items first-hand! So, that Carla's collection not only grew, but remained intact over the years, is phenomenal.

As executrix of our parents' estates, I was quite proud that both of my brothers agreed that we should officially donate the few items Mom had loaned to the Old Red Museum. A ceramic cookie jar, brass/aluminum ash tray, blue glass tumblers, and a clear glass oval platter designed by family friend Jerry Bywaters are part of the permanent 'Big D' exhibit to mark "the highly successful Texas Centennial Exposition (which) brought national headlines to the city", making Dallas County nationally significant. Other collections reside at the Hall of State at Fair Park (Dallas) and the 2nd Floor of the Bullock Texas State History Museum (Austin), which "concludes with Centennial Celebration artifacts and vintage media that tell the stories of the moment when Texas saddled up and rode into the nation's collective imagination – boots, spurs and all."

But wait, there's more! Seriously! Sarah Reveley has put together a terrific Texas Centennial index that will inspire you to explore the entire Great State of Texas with a multi-disciplinary perspective. In addition to the Expositions in Dallas and Fort Worth, "statewide celebrations including construction of 9 memorial museums, 5 community centers, 16 restorations of historical structures, 2 park improvements, 20 statues of important Texans, and over 1,000 historical markers, grave markers, and highway markers." There's plenty to learn about this interesting time and associated people, places, events – and, of course, things!

Having delighted in the collection that surely caused me to appreciate the importance of 7th grade Texas History class.

P.S. It's not too soon to start planning your own Texas-size celebration for our upcoming bicentennial! The state legislature passed H.B. No. 2036: A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT relating to the creation of a commission to prepare for the celebration of the state's bicentennial.

UPDATE: Much of the collection has been donated to a group in Dallas so I hope to continue to work with it in the future. In response to the question about Frankoma pitchers, here is my description of the 3 different pitchers that we had...


4 comments:

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  2. I admire both you & Sarah, with your wealth of knowledge of the Centennial!

    Karen D in Plano

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  3. Have you ever seen a 1936 Texas Frankhkoma pottery centennial

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    1. My mother's collection included 3 different pottery pitchers, each Frankoma-ish. One is greenish and the other two have decals on cream with red lines. Since I cannot post pictures in this comment area I've added them to the post. I see that there is indeed a Frankoma pitcher now available at http://www.globalantiquesonline.com/cgi-bin/mnlist.cgi?coker/1190

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