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History

Tales From the Dallas History Archives: A Dive Through the Work of a Dallas Express Editor

| 3 weeks ago

The history of Dallas is incomplete without the images, stories, and original artifacts that document the lives of African Americans in Dallas. In these final days of Black History Month, take note of an important figure in African-American life in Dallas: the late Lee Marion Butts, Sr., who lived from 1924 to 2002. Butts was a commercial photographer and editor of the Dallas Express newspaper, who recorded events and community life in Dallas during a career that spanned the last half of the twentieth century.

Portrait of Marion Butts taken at Bishop College., circa 1948. PA2005-4/6.1, from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library

The Dallas Express was a weekly African-American newspaper founded by W.E. King. It was published from 1893 to 1970, and provided coverage not often found in the Dallas Times Herald or Dallas Morning News of the time.

The Marion Butts Photograph Collection is part of the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas History & Archives Division.  The collection includes a number of historic photographs, some of which are available to view in the library’s online catalog.  For those interested in reading issues of the Dallas Express, the Archives Division has the newspaper on microfilm with dates ranging from 1919 to 1928, 1934 to 1963, and 1965 to 1970.

Butts’ body of work documents not only segregation and civil rights, but also business, civic, religious, educational, and social life, as well as visits by famous leaders and celebrity entertainers.

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History

Dallas City Council Inches A Little Closer Toward Demolition of Confederate War Memorial

| 1 month ago

Two years and two task forces later, the city of Dallas has edged a little closer to removing a 65-foot Confederate War Memorial that sits next to the convention center in Founders Park downtown. At a briefing today, the Dallas City Council signaled to the city manager that they would like an item placed on their next meeting agenda that would allow them to vote to dissemble, remove, and store the monument.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen. What the council will technically be voting on is a referendum that says the Confederate War Monument is a non-contributing feature of the Founders Park historic overlay, and so it should be removed. If it passes, that will send the item to the Landmark Commission, which must vote within 65 days on whether it agrees that the 124-year-old monument is a non-contributing hunk of junk in an otherwise historic park. If the commission rejects the council’s motion, the city will automatically appeal the decision to the city plan commission. That body will have another 65 days to vote on the item. If they also reject the council’s push for removal, the city will sue, and the whole thing will end up in court.

Then again, if the Landmark Commission backs the council there will likely be suits seeking to keep the monument—just as before. In other words, this thing isn’t done yet.

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History

The Man Who Will Live Forever at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

| 1 month ago

Last summer I received an email from a woman named Harriet Gross that began: “We don’t know each other, but I’ve been freelancing in Dallas for a long, long time and in the distant past did some feature stories for D and for the late-lamented DMN Sunday magazine.”

A check of our archive brought me a story Harriet had written for D in 1992, the year I graduated from college and basically took to loitering at D’s office, hoping for work (I’d interned the previous year and knew most of the staff). And that DMN Sunday magazine? The first story of any real length that I wrote for money was published in 1993 in that magazine by the great Bill Minutaglio, who was then its editor. Harriet and I had a few connections, it seemed. I was surprised our paths had never crossed and was happy they finally had, because she had a great story idea.

Her 91-year-old friend Max Glauben, she told me, was going to subject himself to some high-tech wizardry that would make it possible for people to interact with his image and voice in perpetuity, asking him questions about how he survived the Holocaust. This 3-D holographic version of Glauben will be an installation, if you can call it that, at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, which will open later this year. Glauben’s story is fascinating. Shepherding it into print, especially with Harriet’s long connection to the magazine, was a real honor.

We posted it online today

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History

Curators Share Highlights From the First 1,000 Hours of Digitizing Old WFAA Footage

| 2 months ago

The news is said to be our first crack at writing history, but generations without the internet could hardly make use of it while working on subsequent drafts. Enter Jeremy Spracklen and Scott Martin, who, over the last year and a half, have been turning a large, cold warehouse filled with old local news reels into usable, digital footage, providing us glimpses of the goods along the way.

The archivists, who work at the G. William Jones Film & Video Collection at SMU, started with the collection’s WFAA stash. It contained a wealth of big-haired, mustache-y video footage from the 1960s and 1970s. Their days are filled with loading up the 16mm films in a machine that would’ve cost about $1 million new in the 1990s, watching hours of old news clips while tweaking coloration and condensing blank air.

The best stuff gets put on Twitter and YouTube, some of it eventually bouncing around the internet and ending up on blogs like FrontBurner. Spracklen recalls how an unbelievably 1970s interview with English rock band Uriah Heep spiked traffic in Eastern Europe.

Whereas past Jones curators have focused solely on SMU’s old movie footage, Spracklen, who has worked in theatre and film but is educated in history, took an immediate interest in the news reels. Most of it hasn’t been viewed since it aired some 40 or 50 or more years ago. “This is one of a kind,” he says. “There’s no other collection. No other copies of this stuff exists.”

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History

Record-Breaking Crowds Extend “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” Exhibit

| 2 months ago

According to Dr. Harry Robinson, president and CEO of the African American Museum in Fair Park, the exhibit “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty” will be extended due to popular demand through January 21. The exhibit has traveled west of the Mississippi for the first time, to the only African-American history museum in the Southwest.

“It’s a lot of new information,” Robinson says. “The exhibition is a story that is being told from a different perspective. Usually when you see an exhibition on slavery it is about the plantation and the slave master, whereas with this exhibition the story is told from the slave’s point of view. It centers on the lives of the lives of the slaves of Monticello, of the six Jefferson families that were there on the plantation.”

The exhibit displays more than 300 objects, including works of art, documents, and artifacts from Thomas Jefferson’s former plantation outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. There is a special feature on Sally Hemings, a young woman who was enslaved at the age of 16 and negotiated freedom for her children, at least six of whom were fathered by Jefferson.

Robinson hopes the popularity of the exhibit will help to extend the reach of the museum, which he helped to found in 1993. “We’ve got to find resources to do a better job of marketing the museum, given the number of people coming to Dallas and the 7 million in population in the Metroplex,” Robinson says. “We run into people that have never heard of the museum, and we want to eliminate that problem. It’s a treasure. It’s one of a kind in this region.”

While there, Robinson suggests exploring the decorative arts collection, one of his favorites. “We have furniture and items that go back to the 1800s,” he says. “Slave desks that were done in East Texas in 1830. A coverlet that was made by a 16-year-old slave girl and she embroidered her name on it. Five pieces of furniture by Thomas Day, a famous furniture maker from North Carolina. He practiced in Milton from 1820 to 1861. He was a free man of color. Matter of fact, he had 13 slaves working for him and 8 white apprentices. The only other museum that we know of that has more pieces from him is the North Carolina Museum of History.”

The museum also has a permanent exhibit, “Facing the Rising Sun,” about the history of Freeman’s Town in Dallas. “It is an exhibition on what used to be Short North Dallas, which is now Uptown Dallas,” Robinson says. “It captures the history of the Dallas black community up until the 1970s, when people began to move out. It is an exhibition that we planned to run for a year until 2001, but because it became so popular, we had to keep it.”

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History

Tales From the Dallas History Archives: The Holidays in Dallas Have Always Been a Show

| 2 months ago

The holiday season is often a time to reflect on the past year as we prepare to embrace the year ahead. It’s also a great time to consider holiday seasons in past decades of Dallas history. And while we’re now just over a week past Christmas, it’s still cold enough outside that we can revisit what our city looked like around this time in decades past.

Through the years, Dallas streets and businesses have been decorated many ways to celebrate the holidays. The photograph above this post, titled Main Street decorated for Christmas, is one of several images taken on January 2, 1959 that depict street view decorations in downtown Dallas. The photo is part of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce Collection.

These photographs are part of the Dallas Public Library’s Dallas History and Archives Division holdings. The various collections within the Archives Division include a number of historic photographs, some of which are available to view in the library’s online catalog. A 1951 photograph from the Interstate Theater Collection of Christmas on Elm Street looking west at the Harwood Street intersection depicts a bustling street scene during the holidays. (Usage rights prevent me from posting it here, but you can see it through that link.)

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History

Tales From the Dallas History Archives: Old Mayors, Magic, And A New Tollway

| 4 months ago

Halloween may have come and gone, but magic can always found if you know where to look. The history of Dallas is no exception.

The below photograph, titled The Magic of North Dallas, was taken on August 3, 1982 by Butch Hale Photography. It is one of several images taken as part of the cover design by Unigraphics, Incorporated for the inaugural issue of the North Dallas-focused Parkway Magazine, which was published in October of 1982.

The Magic of North Dallas, August 3, 1982. PA82-5/01, from the Parkway Magazine Collection, Dallas Public Library.

Featured in the photograph series are former Dallas mayors: from left, Bob Folsom, Jack Evans, J. Erik Jonsson, and Wes Wise. Jack Evans was serving as mayor when these photos were taken.

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History

Early Dallas Mustaches: An Analysis

| 5 months ago

November means mustaches. Thanks to the Movember Foundation, men all over the world this month grow mustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues, including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and suicide. Women, too, are invited to participate. Though it’s harder for them.

We at D Magazine are all about awareness. And mustaches. So we turned to The Encyclopedia of Texas, published in 1922, to find Dallasites who might inspire us. For each man, we offer an actual excerpt from the encyclopedia, along with a passage of our invention. See if you can distinguish the real item from the fabrication.

1. Gus Keller

A. He founded his own business, never did work for a salary, and built that business up to a place of leadership in its realm, marketing the choicest and such edible meats that his establishment acquired a city-wide reputation, and he became a city character, universally known and esteemed for his reliability and service.

B. His mustache, sitting all those years under his nose, grew sad. For just inches above it, there was a most pitiful haircut, with a severe part down the middle. And so, at its edges, the mustache drooped.

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History

A Gruesome Timeline of the Adolphus Hotel’s Potential Ghosts

| 5 months ago

While sifting through the Dallas Morning News archives to research a page on fancy hotel facelifts, I came across a macabre murder story set in the Adolphus, Dallas’ oldest grand hotel. It made me wonder about the place’s paranormal rumors. The Adolphus, opened in October of 1912, has embraced its haunted reputation in recent years. Get a cocktail at the lobby bar, and a bartender will hand you a menu in a homemade history book that includes several poems about the hotel’s supposed ghosts, the most popular revolving around a jilted bride 

But those stories—and the one about the Stoneleigh manager’s mistress taking a fatal fall in a secret passageway—seem to have evaded newspaper print. I found nothing in the News’ archives about a dead kept woman or would-be bride. Are those stories just Dallas folklore? Or did the reporters of yesteryear turn their heads when high-profile figures’ skeletons toppled out of their closets? I don’t have those answers, but what I do have is the tenacity to dig through decades of the News’ grainy newspaper clips to find the real reports on people who died on Adolphus property. (OK, it was really a pretty basic search on the library website and I’m sure I missed a few.) 

If your soul is too sensitive to get past the first few minutes of any Six Feet Under episode, now is the time to click on something else. But if you like history, and don’t mind morbidity, read on. And since I’m probably minutes away from getting an angry call from a PR rep, I’ll go ahead and add that all my experiences at the Adolphus—spa treatments, afternoons at the pool, tea at the French Room bar—have been exceptional. Still, next time I step inside the Adolphus walls, I’m definitely taking the stairs.  

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History

Tales From the Dallas History Archives: A Time When Not All In Dallas Could Vote

| 6 months ago

The November midterm elections are just around the corner and you have until October 9 to register to vote. Regardless of your political views, exercising your right to vote is an important part of the governmental process in Texas and the United States. But historically, the ability to vote was not equally available to Dallas residents. The voting rights struggle had a big impact on the evolution of Dallas as a city and left an imprint on the Dallas we know today.

The poll tax was used by many Southern states after reconstruction, as a way to disenfranchise voters, particularly black people. Introduced in Texas in 1902, the poll tax did indeed keep large numbers of Texans, including many African Americans, from voting because they often couldn’t afford to pay the tax. The tax remained even after women won the right to vote in 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment finally declared the poll tax illegal for national elections. And in 1966, the Texas State Constitution was amended to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that declared state poll taxes illegal in state elections.

The poll tax in Texas had an impact on Dallas – evident in photographs such as this 1955 image of a billboard advertising “Be an active citizen…Pay Your Poll Tax”. The ad was paid for by W.A. Morrison, Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Working to bring African Americans to voting booths, even with the poll tax in place, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) campaigned to get as many citizens as possible to pay the tax. That effort is depicted in this circa 1965 image taken by prominent African American photographer Marion Butts, titled “Pay Your Poll Tax Here” NAACP Poll Tax Campaign workers with signs from the campaign.

“Pay Your Poll Tax Here” NAACP Poll Tax Campaign workers with signs from the campaign, circa 1965. PA2005-4/23.1, from the Marion Butts Collection, Dallas Public Library.
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History

How Playboy Made Its Mark in Dallas

| 6 months ago

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away on September 27, 2017. He was 91 years old. I combed through the D Magazine archives the following day and discovered, in the January 1977 issue, on page 11, a story exploring whether Dallas would be getting a Playboy Club. The publishing brand’s first franchised nightclub had opened in downtown Chicago in 1960, and, according to the article, real estate developer Lenny Licht was awaiting approval to bring the club to Dallas. This was a big operation for Playboy. At its peak, there were clubs in 23 American cities, as well as in Canada, Japan, and Jamaica.

Licht eventually received the green light. This would be the first, and only, location in Texas.

The Dallas Playboy Club opened in 1977 on the second floor of Expressway Tower, at North Central Expressway and what is now SMU Boulevard, in the same building that housed the Dallas Cowboys headquarters. It was a celebrity-studded, members-only playground. And the cocktail waitresses—known as Playboy Bunnies—were a main draw. The women, in satin suits with fluffy white tails and rabbit ears perched atop their maintained locks, were the embodiment of Hugh Hefner’s vision of beauty and charm.

I reached out to a handful of the Bunnies the day after Hef passed away, to hear their stories of what it was like to work within his empire, and more specifically, in the Dallas club. Would their encounters be similar to those in “A Bunny’s Tale,” Gloria Steinem’s 1963 essay for Show magazine in which the journalist worked in the Manhattan club under the alias Marie Catherine Ochs, and exposed what she considered to be a dark foible of the sexual revolution? Would these women feel similarly about their experiences? Would their stories be even more salacious? Not quite.

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