Over the next few weeks, the Texas Digital Newspaper Program will present you with a time travel adventure that gives you different choices over time and space. Through this, you’ll begin by imagining yourself as a teenager from Brenham, Texas, in the autumn of 1880s. You can visit the different links we provide, but the one you choose will take you to a different option.

Your Adventure Begins

As you pull the heavy pine door closed, a page of newspaper blows under your feet.  It’s hard to read the text beneath the huge portrait of Mr. Barnum, his curly hair and dignified suit belying everything you’ve ever heard about his famous show.

“Everything advertised will lie exhibited, every hoof, horn and feather, every animal, every novel attraction, and the full programme as presented in New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, .St. Louis and all the large cities and towns of the East, will lie exhibited here, Museum Menagerie and Circus in their entirety and positively without curtailment.”

Mama’s been so busy caring for Grandmother Thomas, you know she can’t get out to see anything.  You’re to mind your brothers all week, and you wonder if she could spare some coins to get all three of you in, so long as you promise not to lose the boys. They’re old enough now, anyway, that if you talk to them, they’ll help you get your way.

To convince your brothers to help you, do you:

  1. Show them the ad you found.
  2. Tell them they might get to see a stuffed giraffe (because you know how much these boys like those kinds of gruesome things!)
  3. Besides a giraffe, mention the other mystical creatures they might get to see if they listen to you…





You Chose #1: Show Them the Ad You Found

Your brothers get really excited, for no other reason but to relieve the boredom of a windy autumn–the adults have mostly put them to work pulling seeds out of cotton. But they also know there’re plenty of opportunities for mischief, and they think all three of you can convince Mama of anything under the sun, especially while she’s too distracted by Grandmother Thomas’ illness, and Papa’s busy with getting the cotton harvested.



You Chose #2: Tell Them about the Stuffed Giraffe

You’ve always known your brothers are a lot more interested in decay and dead animals than in all the trained horses or aerial-diving ladies in the world. They also love the idea of getting out of helping Papa with the cotton-picking–the most tedious work they have to do every autumn. They immediately agree to help you talk Mama around.





You Chose #3: Tell Them about Other Mystical Creatures at Barnum’s Circus

Your Mama and Grandmother Thomas spent a lot of time reading Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales to you, and your whole family pays attention when they hear anything about his stories.  Grandpa Thomas had gotten to see a parade in New Orleans a couple of years ago, and he regaled you all with stories. There’s nothing your brothers wouldn’t do to see a little more into the fairy tales. Jed, the oldest at 12, points out that even if he doesn’t see a mermaid, it’s something different from picking seeds from cotton all day.