Texas Insights - March 2015

Volume V, Issue 4
 

What’s New?

Do you know who coined the notorious battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” or when Texans first dared Santa Anna’s Mexican army to “Come and take it”? If so, then you just might have what it takes to win the TSHA’s first ever Virtual Race across Texas.
 
Created by the Texas State Historical Association to celebrate Texas History Month, this first-of-its-kind online social game will foster your love of Texas history as you virtually travel across Texas testing your knowledge of the Lone Star state along the way.
 
The Virtual Race Across Texas is free to play and a great way to challenge your friends to see if they can outwit you in their knowledge of all things Texan. Every day you’ll visit a new Texas destination (without leaving your living room) and answer questions to prove your Texas history aptitude. If you get stuck, don’t worry—we’ll have plenty of resources available to help you out. The more questions you answer correctly, the more points you earn, and the better chance you have to win one of our great prizes.  You can rack up points even faster if you recruit your friends to play. You’ll even have a chance to win the Grand Prize at the end of the month!
 
Do your students want to get into the game as well? The Texas State Historical Association is happy to announce that the Texas Quiz Show is back and better than ever! After the program’s digital makeover, the changes are dramatic. Now the program has moved online with a series of digital quizzes available for students in 4th -8th grade, where students compete as individuals in a series of progressively more difficult online quizzes. Posted now, these quizzes align with Texas History Month, and the 36 students with the highest scores will be invited to Austin to compete to see who knows Texas best, competing in the Texas Quiz Show State Championship. 
 

Stagecoach Days at Fanthorp Inn

Join Fanthorp Inn and Texas Parks and Wildlife on the second Saturday of every month for Stagecoach Days. Traveling Texas, a Ticket to Adventure will focus on travel in Texas during the days when horses, mules and oxen were the preferred means of transportation. The horses stamp their hooves and shake their heads, rustling leather harnesses as they wait with anticipation of the first of several journeys pulling the stagecoach full of cheerful passengers to the historic Grimes County courthouse and back. The program will last approximately thirty-five to forty minutes. This program is open to all ages, but children must be accompanied by an adult. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 
 

Twentieth Century Workshop

On April 17, 2015, Humanities Texas will hold a workshop at the Witte Museum in San Antonio for Texas history teachers covering Texas history in the twentieth century. Change in Twentieth-Century Texas will address Texas politics in the 1940s and 1950s, the civil rights movement in Texas, Latinos and Latinas in modern Texas, boom and bust in Texas industry, and the emergence of two-party Texas. Workshop faculty includes Nancy Beck Young and Joseph A. Pratt, Michael L. Gillette, Gabriela Gonzalez and Chase Untermeyer. Teachers will receive books and other instructional materials and be trained in the examination and interpretation of primary sources. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 

 

Featured Institution

UTSA's Institute of Texan Cultures
By Christian Clark
Senior Program Coordinator, Department of Education and Interpretation

The Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) is a Smithsonian Affiliate that conducts research, publishes educational materials, and produces exhibits, programs and special events that promote understanding and appreciation of Texan culture and history. Originally the State of Texas exhibit for the 1968 world’s fair held in San Antonio and a research and production center under the University of Texas in Austin, the ITC has served as the University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) third campus since 1986.
 
The Institute houses an artifact collection and the UTSA Library Special Collections, with thousands of historic photographs, documents and oral histories relevant to Texas history, many of which have been digitized and made available through their website. Texans One and All, an assortment of exhibit areas and interpretive environments representing various people groups and cultures in Texas, and a number of gallery spaces designated for rotating thematic exhibits, all make up the museum’s roughly 45,000 square foot exhibition space. Additionally, the Back 40, an outdoor living history area consisting of five historic buildings, occupies the property behind the museum. The Institute is excited to introduce, as part of a master renovation plan, the new Tejano exhibit area, opening May 15, 2015.
 
Well known as an educational field-trip destination, the ITC provides K-12 educational tours and programs designed to supplement the social studies classroom through unique hands-on experiences. These tours and programs utilize the various exhibit spaces, six interpretive areas and environments, and an extensive demonstration artifact collection. TEKS based tour options include respective general guided tours of the exhibit floor and the Back 40, a thematic tour on migration and the push and pull factors involved, and Back 40 Experiences which provide an in-depth look into a particular time, place, and aspect of culture and way of life. The primary tenants of all ITC’s educational programs are interacting with spaces, objects and historic storytelling, and using analytical and interpretive questioning strategies to inspire critical thinking and skill application. To that end, the ITC allows students to handle designated artifacts and encourages them to apply the process of interpretation modeled for them by the docents. Occasionally students are given the opportunity for advanced experiences through special programs such as youth summits and student exhibits. For schools unable to visit the museum, interactive distance learning programs, virtual tours and artifact demonstrations will be offered to classrooms across Texas, free of charge and with minimal technology requirements, beginning in September 2015.
 
In addition to student programs, the Institute has a professional development program for educators. The educational staff at ITC have developed a successful model for professional development that transfers the skills and methods of museum professionals and content specialists into effective teaching methodology and crucial skill building classroom projects. Teacher trainings include a pre-service program, workshops, custom professional development, and a Summer Institute. All ITC professional development programs are free and participants are award CPE credits. The pre-service program shows future teachers how to access and utilize collections and resources, incorporate the museum into their teaching, teach primary and secondary source analysis, and facilitate interpretation in the classroom. The Institute also offers monthly two hour workshops to area educators on Tuesday evenings from August through February. Teacher Tuesday workshop topics vary and relate to a wide range of subjects and grade levels. The ITC Summer Institute for Educators, a three-day intensive professional development program is held annually.
 
Educators may also access the ITC’s rich collection of classroom resources, educational research, and primary source documents through the Education webpage, all downloadable at no charge. Digitized resources from UTSA Special Collections are also searchable and downloadable online and ongoing research of artifacts from ITC Collections is published through the ITC Collections Blog. Additionally, the ITC engages in relevant educational discussions through social media platforms, where teachers may also find resources, professional development opportunities, stimulating discourse, and professional networking and exchange.
 
By providing resources and training to teachers, inquiry based programming for students, and a platform for understanding and appreciating Texas history and culture, we are ensuring that the upcoming generations will value education, heritage and culture and will make more responsible and mindful contributions to society. For more information on the educational resources and opportunities at the Institute of Texan Cultures, please visit TexanCultures.com.
 

Historian's Corner

A Texas Tenant Weathers the 1930s Cotton Collapse
By Eric Gruver
Assistant Dean and Honors History Faculty
Texas A&M University-Commerce

Born in 1886 into a landowning, cotton-producing family, Ed Robinson—Big Ed to his friends”—recognized the instability of the cotton market and decided as a young man to rent a farm rather than purchase land. New lands and a good climate drove down production costs for Texas cotton producers, and Ellis County, Texas growers—including Big Ed—produced over 100,000 bales annually and led the nation in production in 1925, 1927, and 1928. Cotton prices collapsed due to overproduction and the percentage of Texas farms operated by tenants rose from 52.6 percent in 1910 to nearly 70 percent in 1935. In Ellis County alone, renters operated 77.5 percent of the county's farms by 1930. Many Texas farmers lost their land and became tenants, while some who had already become tenants found themselves without credit and were forced off the land. Big Ed Robinson’s daily journals illustrate how he maintained a "fiscal soundness" during a time when agriculture was at best unpredictable. Despite the rise and fall of his farm income during the 1920s and 1930s, Robinson stayed on the land due to a large family, suitable geography, and an honest landlord.
 
The Robinsons raised cotton and corn on their 60-80 acres and paid their landlord one-fourth of the proceeds of cotton sales and one-third of the proceeds from corn sales, or the traditional "thirds and fourths" agreement. Big Ed handled the family finances and delegated the farm work to his four sons. In addition to conducting farm business, and despite the stereotypes that tenants did not help their communities, Robinson worked as the community barber, a school board trustee, a school census administrator, an elections supervisor and reporter, and perhaps unknowingly, an historian. Unlike the traditional stereotypes of tenants and sharecroppers, Ed obtained a sixth-grade education, becoming literate in both language and mathematics, and he made it a point that his children received better educations than he. To stay abreast of state and national news, Robinson subscribed to the Fort Worth Star Telegram; he also used the newspaper to teach his children to read and to make them aware of goings-on in the world around them. To further illustrate his commitment to education, Robinson served several two-year terms as a school trustee for the Lone Cedar School. In that capacity, he hired teachers, worked on the school facilities, and made purchases for the school. On January 16, 1928, as a trustee, he "bought $63.60 worth, 10 books, from a library book man selling books."
 
Big Ed kept precise records of his farm business; he knew how much money he spent to raise a crop and how much money he made selling it. He even made ledgers for each year’s crop that indicated the weight of each cotton bale; the price per pound he received for each bale; the total proceeds of each bale; the rent due from each bale; and, his part from each bale. In 1928 the Robinson cotton crop yielded forty-seven bales that grossed $4498.52, and he paid $1124.69 in rent. The three thousand dollars Robinson earned, of course, represented his gross revenue; he repaid his bank loans and re-stocked goods that had been exhausted, including cotton seed, livestock feed, fencing materials, and plowing implements. But not all of a year's profits were necessarily spent. In 1917 at a boom time for cotton Ed had "over $700 in cash in the bank," and in 1934 during the cotton bust he had over $305 in the bank.
 
Ed’s wife, Ozello, raised "100 little red chicks, cost her [Ozello] $14.00 per 100" that provided the family with edible meat, eggs for both family consumption and sale, and cash for the fatter chickens. Ed once recorded that "Ozello sold 12 hens. They weighed 70 lbs., $.17 per pound. They all brought $11.90." Unlike many tenants and most sharecroppers, the Robinsons planted a garden every year. "Mustard, turnips, tomatoes, cabbage, radishes, English peas, beans, beets, onions, and lettice [sic]" all found their way to the family dinner table in late summer and winter. Additionally, Ed's sons helped a neighbor or their grandfather slaughter an animal in return for fresh beef or pork from the kill. On one such occurrence in 1931, "I [Ed] and Doyl, Cleave, Loyd went and helped Papa kill his two hogs. We got sausage and the lard all growned [sic] up. "This near-self-sufficiently in food production kept the Robinsons beyond the grasp of manipulative merchants.
 
A traditional dichotomy of spheres existed on the Robinson farm. Ozello and daughters, Gracie and Joyce, cooked, kept house, sewed, and washed, while the sons worked in the fields. But, even Ed cooked for the family and washed clothes and dishes when Ozello fell ill. The Robinson boys, however, received little training in the art of housekeeping. Whatever the division of labor concerning "who did what" in the Robinson family, everyone understood the importance of contributing to the efforts of the family. Besides manual labor jobs, Big Ed and Ray, the fourth child and youngest son, earned money as entertainers played their guitars at Saturday night dances: "Ray and myself played a while. We made $.50." The following month Robinson noted that "we have made $6.70 in the last two weeks." These few examples illustrate the combined effort of the Robinson family to stay out of debt. In 1928, for example, Ed purchased a radio, a phonograph, two new mattresses for $17.50 and a coal heater for $20.00. On October 17, 1929, twelve days before the stock market crash, the Robinsons went "to Italy so we could get us a new Ford car. [We] give $572.00 and made it fine." Ironically, Ed made no mention in his journal anywhere about the stock market crash or its possible effects on his business. Even in 1932, with nickel cotton ensuring a low income, Robinson bought three new "casings" [tires] for the car at a cost of $12.75 plus the old tires as trade-in. Only one-sixth of the population in Ellis County in 1932 owned automobiles, and those who did often could not drive their cars much of the year due to flooded, frozen, or otherwise impassable, unpaved roads. Yet, the car became a status symbol of the Robinson’s financial condition.
 
Finally, between 1928 and 1932, cotton prices dropped from $.18 per pound to an abysmal $.06 per pound. Whereas a 500-pound cotton bale brought ninety dollars in 1928, that same bale yielded only thirty dollars in 1932. Few farmers—owners and tenants—were prepared to handle such a problem, and few had recovered from the 1931 season when Ellis County prices averaged $.05 per pound. On January 4, 1932, Ed Robinson wrote, "A lot of people are moving. Most have no place to go.  People [are] in bad shape." Words that could have been written by John Steinbeck, Big Ed blamed the "rich man's" party—the Republicans—for its inaction in mitigating the agricultural crisis. Thus, he proudly cast his 1932 vote for Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt and his "New Deal." Though FDR’s crop-reduction programs drove hundreds of thousands of farm families off the land, Big Ed argued to his dying day that Roosevelt’s policies helping the Robinsons remain on the land.
 

Featured Lesson

As you plan instruction on the cotton industry in Texas, make sure to include the lesson plan, Living on a Cotton Farm from Texas Beyond History. In this lesson, students will analyze primary sources such as data and statistics records, and images. Students will also create their own maps and use higher order thinking to draw conclusions. Expanded lesson plans and additional activities are also included.
 
 

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

Join a Texas Parks and Wildlife park ranger at the McKinney Falls State Park, on March 27, 2015, for Native American Tales told around a campfire. Hear tales of the trickster Coyote, learn how Bat came to be, and discover why we have winter instead of eternal summer. Chairs, marshmallows, and roasting sticks are recommended. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 
 
 
Join the George W. Bush Institute and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum for the launch of Freedom Matters! This program is a supplemental curriculum that aims to help students deepen their understanding of the nature and experience of freedom worldwide. The professional development day, March 25, 2015, is designed for social studies educators. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 
 
The Fort McKavett State Historic Site invites you to celebrate history at the annual West Texas Heritage Day, March 28, 2015. Activities throughout the day will include: cavalry, artillery and infantry action drills, Native American living history performances, Buffalo Soldiers, Buffalo Hunters, and other frontier skills demonstrations. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 
 
On March 28, 2015, the Crossroads of Texas Living History Association and Presidio La Bahia will stage a reenactment of the occupation of the fort by Col. Fannin and the Goliad Massacre of Co. Fannin and his men at Presidio La Bahia in Goliad. During the day, battles will take place around the fort. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.
 
Join the George Ranch Historical Park as they recreate the Runaway Scrape. This event recreates the fleeing of the Texians from Santa Anna’s army marching east towards San Jacinto. The event will take place on April 11, 2015 in Houston. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information.
 

 

The annual San Jacinto Symposium is the premier academic event for the Friends of the San Jacinto Battleground. This event will take place on April 18, 2015 and will feature speakers: Juliana Barr, F. Todd Smith, Sheri Shuck-Hall, Thomas Britten, Brian DeLay, and Paul Carlson. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 
Join Texas Parks and Wildlife and Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site on April 10-11, 2015 for their Living History Days. Enjoy and learn about a day in the life of settlers in Texas. There will be a doctor, nurse, hospital steward, artillery demo, Dutch oven cooking, a blacksmith, soldiers drilling the troops, quilters, telegraph operators, and many more. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information. 
 
 
Celebrate the anniversary of Texas independence with the Friends of the San Jacinto Battleground as they present their annual San Jacinto Day Festival and Battle Reenactment, at the San Jacinto Monument, April 18, 2015. The battle reenactment is one of the largest in Texas. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information.
 
The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life would like to invite student to Speak Up! Speak Out! In this student program participant’s work together as teams to identify community problems, craft innovative solutions that address them, and present their findings to community leaders at the end-of-semester Civics Fair. Winning teams receive funds to use toward the implementation of their solutions. For additional information visit TeachingTexas.org.
 

 

Introducing a new book by Debra L. Winegarten titled, Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist. This young adult biography introduces middle school readers to a remarkable woman who founded the Women’s Army Corps, served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and ran a media empire that included the Houston Post newspaper and radio and TV stations. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information. 
 
The Texas Archive of the Moving Image would like to invite you to view their newest lesson plan, When Texas Saw Red. Through the analysis of primary source archive footage, students will demonstrate an understanding of the Cold War period that spanned nearly half a century. Students will explore the politics of the atomic bomb and the policy of containment, propagated paranoia related to the spread of communism, the nuclear arms race and détente, as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the decline of the USSR. Lesson plans are available for both 4th and 7th grade classrooms. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 
 
 
The Audie Murphy American Cotton Museum would like to invite you to attend their annual Cotton and Rural History Conference hosted by Collin College. The event will take place on April 18, 2015 and will feature presentations by Dr. Andres Tijerina of Austin College, Dr. Deborah Liles of the University of North Texas, and Dr. Nick Nelson of Texas A&M University-Commerce. Registration is required for each participant and lunch is included. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with the University of North Texas.

Texas State Historical Association
1155 Union Circle #311580
Denton, TX 76203-5017

Stephen Cure - Editor
JoNeita Kelly - Associate Editor

 

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