Texas Insights - January 2011

Volume I, Issue 3

What’s New?

Cover of 2011 Annual Meeting ProgramThe program is now available for the 115th Annual Meeting of the Texas State Historical Association in El Paso on March 3-5, 2011. The meeting presents an opportunity for 38 sessions on Texas history, 6 events at El Paso venues, 36 exhibitors of both new & rare books, 1 Live Auction and 1 Silent Auction, and a tour of El Paso sites and sights. Up to 15 hours of staff development credit is available for K-12 teachers attending the meeting.

The meeting provides an excellent opportunity to listen along side the most respected historians in the field as the newest research on Texas history is shared. It is also an outstanding venue to network with historians and peers who all share an abiding passion for our state's heritage. Be sure to act by January 21 to take advantage of early registration rates. More information is available on TeachingTexas.org.

Texas History Conference 2011

Celebrate our great state’s heritage with the Region VI Education Service Center in historic Huntsville! The Texas History Conference combines experts from the fields of social studies and education. Breakout sessions will focus on Texas geography, government, and economics. Teachers will receive resources for immediate use in the classroom. Experience the best of the best as we combine professional development and fun! See TeachingTexas.org for more information.


McMurry's Texas Semester

It is too late to sign up for the full Spring 2011 Texas Semester offered by McMurry University, but there is still time to apply for the Grand Tour of Texas. This three-week, May term course will involve a bus tour of the state’s six geographic regions. Stops during the journey will include natural wonders, archival repositories, historic sites, museums, and restaurants. Some of the state’s most distinguished historians will meet students and conduct tours. See TeachingTexas.org for more information.

Featured Institution

Texas Historical CommissionTexas Historical Commission’s 20 Historic Sites’ Journey to New Heights

Much has been done since the 80th Texas Legislative session that directed the 18 historic sites, owned by the state of Texas, be transferred to the management of the Texas Historical Commission (THC). The Historic Sites Division was then created to combine the THC’s two existing museum sites with the newly acquired state historic sites. The THC has addressed pressing issues identified by the Legislature, in particular, preserving historic resources, improving the visitor experience, and connecting with heritage tourism efforts to ensure the state’s resources are protected and used to enhance the economic health of the state and its communities.

The THC’s accomplishments in improving the historic sites constitute operating on a six or seven day per week schedule and facilitating more than 600,000 visitors. With added maintenance and operations staff, the sites have completed more than 200 routine repairs and improvement projects including but not limited to: carpentry refurbishment, renovations, new restroom facilities, removing dead trees, underbrush, and clearing overgrown areas, and replacement of damaged fences.

A strong partnership between THC and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation and funding from the Legislature resulted in the world-class National Museum of the Pacific War. The 32,000 square-foot George H. W. Bush Gallery opened in December 2009 with state-of-the-art exhibits. The interactive displays describe the Pacific Theater of World War II from its early origins in Sino-American relations, through the exhausting island-by-island campaign to defeat Japan.

From the prehistory of the Caddo people to the tenure of Sam Rayburn as a Congressional leader, there is a vast array of real stories to be told. The interpretation and presentation of their histories requires research, planning, and creativity to communicate their importance in Texas. An energetic program to develop new exhibits and educational programs has been underway since 2008 and involves members of the local communities, scholars, and THC staff to identify specific stories and update for public education.

The communications efforts at the historic sites have transformed public outreach and made information about the properties available through a variety of mediums. A suite of 19 websites launched in 2009 for the historic sites, offering extensive visitor and educational-related information. Wayfinding signage was designed to brand the historic sites and improve guidance to guests on the property. Additionally, a quarterly e-newsletter promotes all of the sites’ events, the annual Historic Sites Day in May, and the See the Sites blog (seethesites.blogspot.com) is dedicated to telling the real stories behind these real places.

Much has been accomplished at the THC historic sites over the past three years, but a great deal remains to be done. Major restoration projects for eight properties are in design, and new visitor centers and expansion of existing facilities are planned for five sites in the next two years. We have accomplished many things in our first years of the program and plan to continue preserving and promoting Texas history through these 20 historic sites.

Historian's Corner

Dr. Alwyn BarrSeeds of Change in a Frontier Era
By Alwyn Barr
Professor Emeritus
Texas Tech University

In the second half of the nineteenth century Texas remained primarily a rural, agricultural state with an advancing frontier that forced American Indians onto reservations in what became Oklahoma and New Mexico.  The most popular images from the period come from the growth of ranching and a focus on cowboys on horseback driving herds of cattle to distant markets.  Although far less colorful, the number of farmers grew to include a majority of the state’s population, while their production of cotton and food crops increased by 1900 to five times the amount in 1860.  Rapid population growth from 600,000 people in 1860 to three million by 1900, largely as a result of migration into Texas, spurred these economic developments, despite set backs during recessions in the 1870s and the 1890s and drought in the 1880s. Yet in that same period changes occurred that began trends toward the modern Texas of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Emancipated from the limitations of slavery by the Civil War, most African Americans in Texas for the first time could legally marry and keep their families together.  Freedom also meant opportunities to earn and save money to better provide for their families, to create their own churches and social organizations, and to vote, although some opposition and discrimination existed.  The new possibility of attending schools further strengthened African American hopes for the future.

The state government created the first public school system after the Civil War, which included students from all ethnic groups, even though degrees of segregation existed.  Texas also established its first two public universities, Texas A&M and the University of Texas.  Literacy and occupations requiring a formal education increased significantly.  Women became teachers in growing numbers, with new normal colleges to prepare them.  Education led to other new opportunities for women in the early twentieth century.

Railroad companies constructed new lines that leaped from 300 miles of track in 1860 to almost 10,000 miles in 1900.  That allowed easier shipment of cattle and cotton across the United States and to other countries as well as faster transportation for travelers.  Railroads also stimulated the growth of cities that became business centers for shipping, banking, and industry.  People in the emerging cities organized new social and cultural activities including musical societies, women’s clubs, and historical associations.  Cities such as Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Galveston, and Fort Worth experienced rapid expansion as they increased from two to four times in size.

Discovery of the Corsicana oil field in the 1890s foreshadowed the development of a major new industry in the twentieth century.  Texans in a period dominated by rural and frontier life had planted the seeds of modern Texas society. 

Featured Lesson

Amon Carter Museum logoAs you plan your instruction on the late 19th century and the close of the frontier, check out this issue’s featured lesson plan from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Available on TeachingTexas.org, “Texas Transportation” will help students learn about the impact of advances in technology including barabed wire, windmills and the expansion of railroads. Though originally written for seventh graders, it can be easily modified for a fourth grade audience. 

Texas History News

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

The Gonzales Memorial Museum, in cooperation with the Gonzales County Historic Commission and Gonzales ISD, is offering its Texas: The Big Picture Symposium on January January 14-15 and still has a few remaining seats. This innovative collaboration will instruct museums and teachers in the use of museum resources as a tool for schools as they implement the revised standards for Texas history instruction.


The Texas Council for History Education is holding its fourth annual conference, A Past to Remember, A Future to Mold on Saturday March 5. The event also coincides with several FREE events, including: a Friday evening showing of the IMAX film, Alamo: The Price of Freedom; concert Saturday evening featuring Phil Collins, Ricky Skaggs, the San Antonio Symphony, the USAF; and a battle re-enactment on Sunday morning.

On February 26, 2011, Humanities Texas and the Texas State Historical Association will hold a one-day teacher workshop in Austin on Texas history from Reconstruction to the present. Particular emphasis will be placed on newly added or revised standards. The workshop will emphasize close interaction with scholars, the examination of primary sources, and the development of effective pedagogical strategies and engaging assignments. See TeachingTexas.org for more. 


As you cover the content of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, consider incorporating newspapers of the day to relay how such events were viewed at the time. The Portal to Texas History coordinates the Texas Digital Newspapers Program which houses digital copies of Texas newspapers dating back to 1829. For more information on this valuable resource, see TeachingTexas.org.

The University of Texas at Austin History Department, launches notevenpast.org; a crisp, informative, interactive history web site. The site is designed for anyone who is a history buff, an avid reader of history or is passionate about history films, and there is a special section dedicated to TEXAS history of all kinds. See TeachingTexas.org for more.


TSHA staff continue working diligently to add listings and material related to the new 4th and 7th TEKS that go into effect next fall. Over the summer we will work to correlate the current items to the new standards. When looking for the NEW figures, try TeachingTexas.org first!

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
Kim White- Associate Editor


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