Two soldiers bow to a Greek goddess of harvest, with"Thanksgiving Day" written above their heads.

Posted by & filed under Featured, General, Texas Digital Newspaper Program, TexTreasures.

Part of the fun of working with so many newspapers is reading about how people have celebrated different holidays over time. The Texas Borderlands Collection, in particular, shows how Texans near the border have celebrated Thanksgiving each year, and different newspapers give us a window into people’s desires, needs, or fears across different eras.

The Ranchero, from November 17, 1860, declares that “Gov. Sam Houston has appointed Thursday, the 20th of November as a day of thanksgiving and prayer.” Before 1863, Thanksgiving in the U.S. was observed on different dates, varying from state to state.  The first proclamation of an official national holiday occurred in October 1863, by President Lincoln, who proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.  Prior to this proclamation, states chose their own dates to celebrate, as evinced by Sam Houston in 1860.

At the height of World War I, the Pastime Theatre in San Beinto, Texas, hosted a free matinee showing of “The Girl from Frisco” for soldiers’ Thanksgiving, from 2:15 pm to 5:15 pm, as reported in the November 29, 1916, Oklasodak.

In Pecos, Texas, the November 30, 1923, issue of the Pecos Enterprise and Pecos Times  reports on the Senior Class’s Thanksgiving dinner for the surrounding cities around Pecos.  Meat and potatoes were the main courses, accompanied by “salad, coffee, pie, and other goodies.” The senior students also located housing for guests staying overnight.

By 1939, the Great Depression was in full swing, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the need to encourage spending to support U.S. merchants. Roosevelt declared that the fourth Thursday–rather than the last Thursday–in November would serve as Thanksgiving Day, with the goal of giving retail employers one more week between Thanksgiving and Christmas to pay holiday employees.  The Benavides Facts from September 1, 1939, explains this situation: “The newspapers have been discussing both seriously and facetiously, President Roosevelt’s changing of the date of Thanksgiving Day. An editorial in a New England paper closes with this sentence: “It would be historically amusing if Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally lost favor with the American populace, because of his unorthodox political and economic policies, but because, ‘by gad, he changed the date of Thanksgiving Day!” The problem, however, is much deeper than appears on the surface. This may be the President’s opening gun to help retailers. For some time his Brain Trust has known that one of the most vital steps in creating employment is to encourage buyers. Merely raising wages does not accomplish this. Increased wages means higher prices for goods without a material change in the number of Workers. The answer lies in making it easier for people to buy goods by encouraging retailers in various ways. Hence, a discussion of the date of Thanksgiving Day may open up a very important line of approach to the unemployment problem.”

Later, from Thanksgiving 1942, The Benavides Facts displays an elaborate THANKSGIVING masthead, with U.S. soldiers peeking out from behind the letters. Just below the masthead, a large political cartoon dominates the pages, explaining that your scrap will support victory in the war.

In 1944, the Eagle Pass Army Air Field published that “50,000,000 pounds of turkey were set aside for Uncle Sam’s Armed Forces for Thanksgiving Day dinners.”

Long-term success of the 1939 Thanksgiving date change appears in the June 17, 1976, issue of The Pharr Press which showcases a new, nearly $500,000 retail center in South Pharr, for one supermarket and two other retail stores,whose opening date was tentatively set “on or before Thanksgiving” of 1976.

In 1991, the Holy Cross Mission, La Rosita, hosted a Thanksgiving raffle for the Building Fund Committee, and in the December 4, 1991 Duval County Picture, the Mission published thanks to the community for its tremendous support.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, remember you are celebrating a long tradition. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Access to this collection was made possible through the support of a TexTreasures grant. TexTreasures is an annual competitive grant program designed to help member libraries make their special collections more accessible to researchers across Texas and beyond. TexTreasures awards have been made possible by the Library Services and Technology Act through the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.



portrait of a young woman wearing a dark fur dress and standing in front of a painted backdrop

Posted by & filed under Featured, Grants, Rescuing Texas History.

The Portal to Texas History has left its mark on a new mural in downtown Dallas.

Wells Fargo & Company unveiled the latest addition to their Community Mural program on October 28 with a mural at their branch on the 2000 block of Greenville Avenue. The mural features images of the Hockaday School, the Arcadia Theater, Fair Park and the Dallas train depot. Pictures of local residents also overlay the mural’s background — a reconstruction of what that early Greenville block looked like.

One of those local residents is the subject of a Rescuing Texas History photo from The Portal To Texas History: a portrait of a young woman wearing a dark fur dress and standing in front of a painted backdrop. Wells Fargo obtained the image with permission from The Private Collection of TB Willis, one of The Portal to Texas History’s partners. TB Willis purchased the photo and a collection of photographs of African Americans from an estate in Dallas, Texas.

In addition to the collection of African-American photographs, The Private Collection of TB Willis consists of historical photographs of World War I military training base Camp MacArthur, church photos, buildings across Texas and family photo albums that include Willis family members and extended relatives who settled in Waco, Texas in the 19th century.

Wells Fargo contacted the Portal to Texas History for permission to use the photo in their mural on Lower Greenville. Because The Portal does not own any of the images it provides, Mr. Willis himself granted permission for the photo to be used.

The image of the young woman is the only mural image obtained from The Portal to Texas History for this particular mural, the 26th that Wells Fargo has created in Dallas alone. Other photographs from The Portal To Texas History adorn some of these local murals. Wells Fargo’s mural program has installed 361 unique murals across Texas.

The latest mural on Lower Greenville can be seen at Wells Fargo Bank at 1931 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX 75206.

three images on textured background with text

Posted by & filed under Featured, Research Fellowships.

The University of North Texas Libraries invite applications for the 2019 Research Fellowships in UNT Special Collections and The Portal to Texas History.

Research in our collections is relevant to studies in a variety of disciplines including history, journalism, political science, geography, fine art, art history, filmmaking, photography, and American studies. We encourage applicants to think creatively about new uses for special collections and digital collections.

The Special Collections Fellows will be required to conduct research in residence at UNT for a minimum of four days and a maximum of three months to receive the award. A total of four $1,000 awards will be made each year.

The Portal Fellows will receive a stipend to do research with The Portal. Up to $1,000 in funding will be awarded to two or more fellowship applicants.

Preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate the greatest potential for publication and the best use of our UNT Special Collections or The Portal to Texas History.

Applications are due by February 15, 2019. Recipients will be notified by April 1, 2019. For more information on the fellowships and application process, please visit the University of North Texas Libraries Research Fellowships – Special Collections and University of North Texas Libraries Research Fellowships – The Portal to Texas History.

Posted by & filed under Grants, Texas Digital Newspaper Program, TexTreasures.

The Texas Digital Newspaper Program is proud to present three new video demos to help you with initial searching and browsing within newspapers. The words in each of these videos is captioned with text for easier access.

The first demo, particularly useful to genealogists, shows how to use the filters to narrow down searches that produce many results. We started this video with a basic search for “Pancho Villa” and then used the filters to narrow the results down to the date when he was killed.



Another demo, linked here, is called “Working with a Single Newspaper Issue,” and it demonstrates how you can go from a wider basic search into a single newspaper issue, straight to the page where your search term appears.  We used the same “Pancho Villa” search term, and demonstrated a few different things you can do within the individual newspaper issue, including zooming into the area where your term occurs, printing a single section of a newspaper page, and sharing that same area of the page on social media or email.

A third video, linked here, is called “Exploring Collections on The Portal to Texas History,” and it is intended for teachers interested in working with the Texas Digital Newspaper Program in their classrooms.  This video showcases newspaper collections that teachers would find helpful, and it shows how you can browse for collections on the Portal.

We will continue creating more demos to help people work with newspaper collections and other items on The Portal to Texas History.  These demonstrations were made possible through the support of an IMLS Library Services & Technology Act award, given to UNT by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.



photo of a group of people posing for camera on stage

Posted by & filed under Events, Featured.

UNT Libraries and UNT associate history professor Andrew Torget kicked off the fall semester with a record-setting marathon to raise funds for The Portal to Texas History.

A marathon of a different sort, however: beginning on Friday, August 24, Dr. Torget ran through more than 10,000 years of Texas history during an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the longest history lesson. Over the course of 26 hours and 33 minutes, Dr. Torget and a team of library employees, videographers, and impartial official witnesses managed to set and surpass the 24-hour world record.

It was a multi-department effort over a year in the making.

Dr. Torget, a member of the Advocacy Board, approached Assistant Dean for External Relations Dreanna Belden in 2017 with a unique idea: to raise money for The Portal to Texas History, he would lecture for over 24 hours and break a Guinness World Record.

“I thought it would be big,” Belden said.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Big and original, as it turned out. When Belden and Assistant Director of Departmental Marketing Joshua Sylve got in touch with Guinness, they learned nothing quite like this had been attempted before. To set the record, Dr. Torget would need to prepare and execute a lesson for 24 hours with a laundry list of guidelines.

“It was [intimidating],” Sylve said. “It was a lot of reading and combing through [the Guinness guidelines] to see if there were any red flags that would impede us from even doing this. We realized we had enough individuals interested to at least get the ten witnesses to complete it. We were encouraged by that.”

The UNT Libraries team decided they needed three main groups of people for such an event. The class, titled “pioneers” by the organizers, would need to be a large group of volunteers staying up with Dr. Torget as he taught. UNT Libraries External Relations scheduled 37 witnesses and had over 100 volunteers, including the class. Guinness required at least two witnesses to verify the attempt was completed and rules were met, and the witnesses had to remain on stage in shifts of four hours. Library staff volunteered to be captains that oversaw the critical duties of the witnesses.

“The witnesses not only had to be at the lecture for a certain amount of time, but they also had to have their eyes on the students to make sure the students were awake and engaged,” Sylve said. “The witnesses had to be unbiased, basically saying ‘We’re not going to fib just to guarantee UNT makes the record.’ That was probably the most challenging group to secure.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The effort to host the event would span multiple UNT departments and facilities. The Union’s audio and visual team ensured the microphones, and Youtube live stream worked. Parking and Transportation helped volunteers and staff get in and out of lots safely in the middle of the night. URCM played a crucial role in getting the word out to media outlets.

“Once the lesson finally started there was a weird peace,” Sylve said. “As long as [Dr. Torget] doesn’t stop talking we can handle this. It was really just a trust in him and him trusting in us that we’re prepared for everything.”

By the time of the event, word of mouth had spread and drawn in passionate volunteers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Even before we were starting, students were super into it,” UNT Libraries Administrative Specialist Sarah Allsup said. “So the students going into it were just excited about history and weren’t worried about setting a record.”

Keeping everyone awake, engaged and well-nourished was a concern for the planning team. Allsup helped coordinate catering for the event. The pioneers were served lunch and dinner on Friday and breakfast on Saturday, with a scheduled snack and bathroom break every few hours during Dr. Torget’s lecture. Guinness made it clear the lesson could not be interrupted for very long at all to be considered legitimate. Dr. Torget had to hold court consistently, but he came prepared.

“At no point did they want the lesson to be run by the students for cumulative five minutes,” Sylve said. “You’ll notice even as students were asking questions, [Dr. Torget] had a way of answering maybe just part of the question or repeating the question so he could take more control of the response.”

The lead-up to the event wasn’t without some problem-solving. The official clock had to be replaced with minutes to spare, and graphic designer Samantha Lawrence spent mid-day on Friday re-evaluating the break schedule.

“I spent two hours on an excel spreadsheet re-checking our two hour and fifty-minute carryovers,” Lawrence said. “So you saw me [on the live stream] frantically bringing sheets of paper to people after doing all of this math.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dr. Torget’s lecture, which covered Texas history from the prehistoric era to the present day, was a fundraiser for The Portal to Texas History archive project run by UNT Libraries. As part of a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Portal is trying to raise $1.5 million by 2020. Half of that goal had been met, but as a member of the UNT Advocacy Board, Dr. Torget decided such an event could help push The Portal even further.

“All of the money raised through this event goes to that,” Belden said. “The Portal is important because it’s literally transforming the way historians, educators and students explore and learn about Texas history. We’ve seen that demonstrated in the way college instructors use it across Texas, and teachers use it with elementary school children and all these methods that weren’t possible before.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dr. Torget unofficially set the record at 9 am on Saturday, but pushed past the 24-hour requirement. When Guinness confirms the record in two months, Dr. Torget’s 26 hours, 33-minute runtime will go down in history. The outreach arm of the event was a success, as the attempt was broadcast live to over five thousand viewers on Youtube around the globe and began to spread on social media through word-of-mouth.

“For the public relations value alone it was worth it,” Belden said. “It didn’t make national news, I think, but it did get picked up in lots of local markets. We heard people in Iowa and Boston saw it. One of the Dr. Torget family friends told them they sat down in Ireland at a pub and started watching [the live stream] and got the whole pub to watch.”

The entire lesson and event will be posted on The Portal to Texas History by the end of September.

For such a long, complicated event to go off without hiccups wasn’t surprising to the UNT Libraries team. Sylve says over a year of planning ensured every conceivable problem was thought of and prepared for, and the success of the event sets an excellent example for the entire UNT community.

“It’s among the top ten things I’ve put myself through that I’m proud of,” Sylve said. “I think it really did forge belief in not just our team but teams across campus to see what we can do when we collaborate.”