Texas Insights - March 2017

Volume VII, Issue 4

What’s New?

The Museum of the American G.I. in College Station is proud to present its upcoming exhibit, Over There: America in WWI, a centennial commemoration of America’s role in the Great War opening on April 7, 2017. The exhibit will explore American life before the war, its build up as the US recruited and equipped its soldiers, the efforts to fund the war effort through bonds, frugality on the home front, and life for the men and women who served “over there.” The exhibit will feature original posters, uniforms, restored trucks, and the only operational FT-17 Renault tank in North America. The museum will host special events to highlight the machines of World War I and the men who operated them. Learn more about this exhibit at TeachingTexas.org

On April 8, 2017, there will be a Mexican American History Symposium and Tejano Celebration. The Mexican American History Symposium begins at 9:30am at the Texas General Land Office Auditorium, Stephen F. Austin State Office Building, Room #170, 1700 North Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78701, RSVP is required. Following the symposium, there will be a Tejano Monument Anniversary Ceremony at 2pm at the Tejano Monument on the State Capitol Grounds. At 3pm, there will be a Tejano Monument Anniversary Reception in the Capitol Extension, Legislative Conference Center, Room #E2.002. There will also be a concert, The Evolution of Tejano Music at 12-2pm and 3-8pm in the TxDot parking lot at 11th and Congress Ave. To learn more about this event, visit TeachingTexas.org


     The Texas State Historical Association is proud to support the work of the Texas Historical Commission and Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration Association in their efforts to commemorate the role of Texans in the Great War. This year marks one hundred years since the United States entered World War I (WWI). To keep track of the new resources and events produced this year, TeachingTexas.org has a new page, TeachingTexas.org/WWI to make finding WWI resources even easier during this historic year.

Featured Institution

Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration
by Jim Hodgson
Executive Director, Fort Worth Aviation Museum

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission was created by an Act of Congress in 2013. Members of the 12-member Commission were appointed by the President, leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the National World War I Museum. The Commission’s mission is to plan, develop, and execute programs, projects and activities to commemorate the Centennial of World War I (WWI). It serves as the lead organizer for the nation’s commemorative events, and coordinates the activities of thousands of individuals and institutions as they tell the story of the Great War. The Commission also raises awareness of, and gives meaning to the events of a hundred years ago, using educational experiences and programming for all ages.

In 2015, Mike Visconage of San Antonio and Jim Hodgson of Grapevine separately became aware of the national World War I Centennial Commission and its goals.  They learned about the national website and discovered that up to this point, very little was happening in Texas, so they decide to do something about it.

Mike and Jim soon learned about their mutual interest in raising awareness about the WWI Centennial and together formed what is today the Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration Association, an unincorporated nonprofit association with the goal of communicating, coordinating and commemorating the Great War in Texas.  Over the last two years, the group grew from two founders to over 600 people from hundreds of organizations and groups, including County Historical Commissions, museums, veterans groups, schools, universities, and others.  They have also established a state website, a Facebook page, and an electronic Newsletter.  Through several regional and state planning meetings, they formed a partnership with the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas State Historical Association, as well as, many other groups.

Even though WWI profoundly shaped the rest of “the American century,” and more Americans gave their lives during WWI than during Korea and Vietnam combined, WWI remains “America’s Forgotten War.” There is no place in the United States that the effects of WWI are more evident than in Texas.  Much of our daily life today is built upon a foundation that began with the First World War. Texas is unique in that it was fully invested in the war from the very beginning in 1914. Texas entered the war long before the U.S. declaration of war on April 6th, 1917.  How was that possible?  For one thing, as we learned from the Zimmerman Telegram, Germany had been soliciting the help of Mexico to destabilize, or at least distract, the U.S. while it was focusing on the Allies in Europe.  This threat was met with the Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916, which brought thousands of National Guard troops from all over the country into Texas, energizing unprecedented growth and mobilization across the state.  At the same time, livestock from around the state shipped from Texas to Europe for the war efforts beginning in 1914 and increased over the course of the war. By 1917, Fort Worth was the world’s largest livestock market in the world.

Meanwhile, wood from East Texas, cotton from all over the state, and oil from Spindletop and other Texas locations shipped from the Houston Ship Channel and the Galveston ports.  The railroads expanded to the point that Texas had, and still has, the most railroad track mileage in the United States.  There were changes to the highway system, and roads were paved to accommodate for military vehicles with a 56” wheelbase.  In 1915, military aviation developed in Texas, a technology that would eventually establish Texas as one of the premier aviation technology centers of the world. Approximately 200,000 Texans served in uniform during WWI. In addition to uniformed soldiers from Texas who served, many Texans (mostly women) served as nurses, Red Cross volunteers, and switchboard operators in France. The war also saw the first national effort to enlist civilian communities to conserve resources, buy war bonds, and otherwise contribute to the war effort. 


While the Commemoration Association continues to communicate and field questions, it is also assisting in coordinating commemoration efforts around the state. From exhibits to lectures, symposiums, festivals, video projects, and more, the commemoration events are announced on almost a daily basis and the groups is listing as many as possible on the calendar on its website. One of the current efforts this year is commemorating 100 years since the U.S. entered The Great War on April 6th.  Using tools and guidelines developed by the national commission, the Association encourages organizations and communities to hold activities around that April 6th date to remember those who took up arms for the U.S. and for the home front effort.  As it moves forward, the Association hopes to expand events across Texas and bring greater awareness and enhanced appreciation for Texas and Texans involvement in the war and how it changed Texas.

These active and vibrant commemoration activities are not limited to organizations.  There are three easy-to-do activities for individuals and families referred to as, “The Three P’s,” Poppies, People, and Places. First, learn about the poppy as the remembrance flower and plant them and wear them to show support for the WWI Centennial. Then, learn about the people of Texas who took part in the war, whether they were soldiers, sailors, or marines here or abroad, and how Texans were affected on the home front.  You can find the soldiers who served from your area using the resources of the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin or other resources listed by TSHA.  Learn about personal stories, find graves of soldiers, and help to mark those graves on November 11, 2018. Lastly, learn about the places associated with the war here in Texas.  Whether it be sculptures, monuments, the location of a military camp, or other places, you can host or help with a commemoration event. 

World War I introduced Texans to the world and the world to Texas.  Help us commemorate the people and places that changed Texas like no other event in history. To learn more about the Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration, visit TeachingTexas.org.


Historian's Corner

World War I and Texas
by Dr. Gregory W. Ball
USAF History and Museums Program
While everyone agrees that World War I was a pivotal event in world history, some may not be aware of the Great War’s influence on Texas history. While many students of Texas history have focused on the Texas Revolution, Civil War and Reconstruction, and Texans in World War II and beyond as pivotal events in the state’s history, the influence of World War I on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Texans from 1914 to 1919 is a key part of the state’s history. One can glean insights into the story of Texas during the war through a variety of perspectives, including the military, political and diplomatic, and social perspectives to name just a few.
During the war, which began for the United States on April 6, 1917, after Congress declared war on Germany, Texas played host to a significant military buildup during the war. While the U.S. Army had long maintained a presence along the Texas frontier and the border with Mexico, the rapid growth of the military presence in the state set in motion a trend that has continued to this day. Not only did the U.S. Army utilize quite a few existing forts and posts but it established many new ones, including training camps and airfields. In fact, the U.S. Army established more airfields and depots in Texas than in any other state as the fledging Air Service took to the air. One need only think of Kelly, Ellington, and Love Fields which were established during the war and are still active airports today. Perhaps even more importantly, the Army placed four of the 32 training camps it created to train National Guardsmen and draftees in Texas, located in Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, and Waco. And while the story of how those facilities were built and how they shaped their local communities is important to the state’s history, the people themselves are even more so, whether they were soldiers or civilians, men or women. Every one of the nearly 200,000 Texans who served in the military during the war and the more than 5,000 who lost their lives had a unique experience, whether they fought in the trenches of the Western Front, flew over the battlefields in an airplane, or sailed the Atlantic on board a Navy destroyer. Those stories are worth knowing, for they give us a glimpse into the individual lives of Texans who went “over there.”
Many Texans who later became famous, served in the military during World War I, and some of whom went on to have distinguished military careers. One only need review the lives of Generals Ira Eaker, Claire Chennault, and of course, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, to name just a few of the many Texans who served during the war. Likewise, many Texans who served also went on to active political careers, including Corsicana native Beauford H. Jester, who served as the state’s governor from 1947 to 1949. In addition to the stories of those more famous veterans, there are the stories of thousands of unsung “Soldier boys” who joined the Texas National Guard and served with the 36th Division in the Champagne region, or the thousands of Texas doughboys who were drafted and served with the 90th Division at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. Furthermore, there are the stories of the countless thousands of civilians who supported the war effort through Victory Gardens and parades, and who conserved food and volunteered their time and money for organizations like the Red Cross and numerous other service organizations, or who, in 1918 fell victim to the mass Influenza pandemic.
From the political and social perspective, the state’s two wartime governors, James Ferguson and William Hobby, played significant roles alongside the state’s Congressional Delegation, which included Morris Sheppard, Sam Rayburn, and John Nance Garner, among others. Even more importantly, the political struggles within the state shed light on important national progressive topics such as Woman’s Suffrage and Prohibition. Texas was a battleground for both of those issues and the lives of pioneers such as Minnie Fisher Cunningham and Annie Web Blanton provide insight into those struggles in early twentieth century Texas. In addition, the study of Texas during World War I yields insights into the relationship between the United States and Mexico along the border region, which are relevant to us today. The war also brought race relations to the forefront, and what minorities could expect in terms of rights in return for their service and sacrifice on the Western Front. One need only read of the tragedy of the Houston Riots in the summer of 1917 to realize that the state had a long way to go ensure equality to all its citizens. Those questions of equal rights may not have been adequately answered at the time, but they helped pave the way for later advances.
Those stories and many more await those who take the time to look into this period of Texas history. While the war proved to be a pivotal point of the twentieth-century, its role in shaping Texas and Texans should not be minimized or forgotten, for this era served as the transition from the older, rural and agricultural state to the modern industrial producer it would become later in the century. And while there are many ways to gain entrance into this amazing period of Texas history through books, articles, and the myriad celebrations of the centennial of U.S. involvement in the war, one thing is certain: those who learn more about the state during this critical period in U.S. history will come away with a richer understanding of the significance of the war and its significance in shaping the course of Texas history.

Featured Lesson

Chronicling America: Uncovering a World at War brings digitized primary sources to the classroom. Digital copies of newspapers from the era of World War I provide a closer look on American opinions and attitudes about the Great War. Activities include, identifying points of view, comparing and contrasting opinions, delineating the speaker's argument, using critical thinking skills, verifying the supporting arguments, and developing communication skills. The source material reflects a variety of perspectives on issues and events prevalent to American history. Links to Texas newspapers bring the lesson close to home. This lesson was made possible through the Library of Congress with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and developed by a National History Day Coordinator. To view the lesson, visit TeachingTexas.org

Texas History News

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

The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission (THGC) offers a one-day live workshop on April 4th at the Region 14 Education Service Center from 9am -4pm to public and private school educators in social studies and/or language arts for grades 5-12. The workshop will introduce relevant TEKS; provide an overview of relevant vocabularies and histories; explore contemporary issues in historiography, literary/artistic representation, and pedagogical approaches; and showcase resources with Texas connections. Educators in attendance will be the first to gain access to the THGC’s free, password-protected digital library of film and textual material. Learn more at TeachingTexas.org

On March 22, 2017, Humanities Texas is hosting a workshop in Galveston open for all Texas history teachers covering Texas history in the twentieth century from 7:30am-4:00pm at the Bryan Museum. The workshop's content will be TEKS-aligned and feature lectures addressing Texas politics from 1900 to 1950, boom and bust in Texas industry, Latinos in Texas, the civil rights movement, and the emergence of a two-party Texas. The workshop will feature close interaction with scholars, the examination of primary sources, and the development of effective pedagogical strategies and engaging assignments and activities. Teachers will receive books and other instructional materials.  Visit TeachingTexas.org to learn more about registering for this workshop.

As the regional Texas History Day contest season winds down, the Education staff is preparing for the State Contest on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at The University of Texas at Austin and The Bullock Texas State History Museum. With almost 1,200 middle and high school students attending the contest, more than 200 judges are needed to support the event. Students in grades 6-12 submit projects to compete in one of the project categories including exhibits, performances, papers, websites, and documentaries for a chance to qualify for National History Day at the University of Maryland at College Park. The theme for 2017 is Taking a Stand in History. To register as a judge,please visit TeachingTexas.org for details about registration.


Sponsored by Washington on The Brazos State Historic Site, this event celebrates the 181st anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence! TIDC is an annual two-day free celebration featuring live music, food, traditional crafts, living history presentations, firing demonstrations, historical encampments and commemorative programs. Special guests and entertainment will include Texas A&M University Singing Cadets; a historical play titled “The Birth of a Republic” about the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, family reunions of the descendants of the 58 men who signed the Declaration, a wreath laying ceremony at the Children’s Monument, music, crafts and additional historical reenactments. For more about this event, go to TeachingTexas.org


No Man’s Land: East Texas African Americans in WWI is a traveling exhibit throughout Texas over the next two-year WWI centennial period. The exhibit features eleven thousand veterans and their stories. These stories represent men who died in combat, served as officers, unloaded ships, buried the dead, kept the sawmills going, trained for war on Texas college campuses, and in some cases, deserted. The project focuses on wartime accounts, as well as, challenges facing African Americans at home in East Texas. Learn more at TeachingTexas.org


The 2017 Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference is an essential annual destination for library and information professional communities — ranging from academic, public, school, to special library markets, information professionals, experts in technology and research, authors, illustrators, and publishing industry representatives. The conference will be held in San Antonio April 19-22, 2017. All events will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center (900 East Market) or at the Grand Hyatt Hotel (600 East Market) in San Antonio, unless otherwise noted in the program. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.

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 Col. Fannin and his men at Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, Texas. This annual event has taken place for 26 years, and is scheduled for March 25 - March 26, 2017 at La Bahia in Goliad, Texas. During the day on Saturday, battles will take place around the fort. There will be muskets and cannons discharging. Visitors will have the opportunity to interact with living history actors, as well as attend lectures in the 235 year old Our Lady of Loreto Chapel. In the evening, candlelight tours will be conducted through the barracks and the Mexican officer's quarters. There will be a hospital scene in the chapel where the Texian prisoners are being held. Sunday, the death march will begin inside the presidio and conclude at one of the locations where the massacre actually took place. The program will conclude with a Memorial Service that begins in the chapel followed by a procession to the Fannin Memorial. Daily admission is $4.00 for ages 12 thru 59, $3.50 for 60 and older, and $1.00 for ages 6 thru 11 years old. Five and younger are free. There is an additional $2.00 per person fee for admission to the candlelight tour. Visit TeachingTexas.org to learn more.


 The annual Battle of San Jacinto Symposium is the premier academic event for The San Jacinto Battleground Conservancy and will take place on April 8, from 9:00am – 4:00pm at the Monument Inn La Porte, TX.  The objective of the Symposium is to provide a forum for promoting public awareness and scholarship relating to the Mexican colonial era in Texas through the Republic Era (1821-1845).  These pivotal years mark the transition from Spanish and Mexican sovereignty to independent Texas and annexation to the United States. Speakers this year include J.P. Bryan, Gregg Dimmick, Stephen Hardin, and Laura McLemore. Learn more at TeachingTexas.orgThis San Jacinto Museum of History Association is hosting the San Jacinto Day Festival Saturday, April 22, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the grounds surrounding the San Jacinto Monument. The San Jacinto Day Festival battle re-enactment recreates the events leading up to Texas winning its independence from Mexico 181 years ago at the decisive Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The day is filled with entertainment, vendors, food, family activities, cultural exhibitors, games and fun set amidst living history. Visitors can wander freely among the Mexican and Texian camps to learn what the soldiers and their families were doing prior to the battle in 1836. At 3 p.m., the reenactment of the Battle of San Jacinto begins— complete with cannons, horses, and pyrotechnics—it is the largest in the southwestern United States. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.

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

Texas State Historical Association
3001 Lake Austin Blvd., Suite 3.116
Austin, TX 78703

Stephen Cure - Editor
Esther Rivera - Associate Editor



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