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

South Texas has been famous as a center of citrus production since the early 20th-century. From TexSun orange juice in Weslaco to Rio Grande Valley grapefruits, Texans and other Americans have enjoyed the products of the South Texas citrus industry.  The Texas Borderlands Newspaper Collection clearly documents the rise and growth of the citrus industry over the course of the twentieth-century, to such an extent that even the date filters on a search for “citrus” reflect the increasing popularity of Rio Grande Valley produce, with an increasing number of word occurrences from 1900 to 1990.

In the early 1900s, the orange was so popular a fruit across the U.S. that the December 5, 1908, issue of the Sonora Sun discusses research from the USDA that might result in an orange tree that “will withstand cold weather and thrive in the latitude of the northern states. If the experiment proves to be successful orange groves may be grown in parts of Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia.” By June 26, 1909, the “citrus fruit growers have arranged to meet at the courthouse this week to organize the Victoria County Citrus Fruit Growers’ association,” according to the Marfa New Era.

In his May 21, 1926, case, “Citrus Possibilities of Southwest Texas,” Elwood Trask’s column in the Falfurrias Facts examines conditions in California citrus regions and compares them to Southwest Texas. His prophetic conclusion has since proven accurate: “The Artesian Belt of Southwest Texas is nearer the markets of the middle west than is either California or Florida. Its citrus fruit has a shorter freight haul, and with the high quality of fruit grown, Southwest Texas is bound to become one of the leading citrus producing sections of the nation and the main supply for all the Mississippi Valley States.”  By 1931, South Texas was known as a citrus-growing land, with Faulfurrias the “Coming Citrus Center.” The Hebbronville News article about Falfurrias’ rising prominence as a citrus center celebrates its history and commercial success in bold photos, including the picture above, captioned, “Twenty-Four-Year-Old Citrus Grove Near Falfurrias, Oldest Commercial Grove in Texas.” In 1980, according to the Pharr Press, Texas’ Rio Grande Valley “produce[s] around 10 percent of all U.S. citrus, the rest being supplied by Florida, California, and Arizona. In dollars, the 1978-1978 season produced almost $27 million from oranges and $17,640,000 from grapefruit.”


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.


Texas State Library and Archives Commission Logo Institute of Museum and Library Services Logo Texas Digital Newspaper Program Collection Logo

Posted by & filed under Featured, General, Research Fellowships.

The University of North Texas Libraries is proud to announce the six awardees of The Portal to Texas History Research Fellowship for 2018: Kimberly Jackson, Scot McFarlane, Shay O’Brien, Richard B. McCaslin, Kenna Lang Archer and Jessica Webb. 

Research using the Portal is relevant to studies in a variety of disciplines including history, journalism, political science, geography, and American studies. These awardees all thought of creative opportunities that research with the large digital library collection can enable.

The following are the short project descriptions from each awardee. The biographical information for our 2018 awardees can be found at the UNT Libraries’ Research Fellowships page.


Kimberly Jackson

Project Title: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Big Bend National Park

“My project is a case study of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Big Bend National Park. If it were not for the work of the CCC in Big Bend, the national park would not exist as we know it today. There does not currently exist a study on the CCC in Big Bend, and as such my research will help us to better understand the overall history and development of Big Bend.”


Richard B. McCaslin

Project Title: Pompeo Coppini: Defining the Historical Landscape in Texas

Pompeo Coppini, a classically trained sculptor from Italy, arrived in Texas at the onset of the Progressive Era, with its emphasis on such initiatives as the City Beautiful movement and historical tourism. Beginning in 1902, Coppini during more than five decades created dozens of iconic works in Texas focusing first on the Lost Cause, then the heritage of the Republic of Texas and the contributions of many local leaders. While his historical works also stand in many other states and several foreign countries, his greatest impact was in defining the historical landscape of Texas, or the imagery that shapes public perceptions of the past in the Lone Star State.”


Scot McFarlane

Project Title: The City and the Countryside on Texas’ Trinity River

“This project uses the history of the Trinity River to explore Texas’s ongoing transition from a rural to an urban state.  While the pollution from North Texas always flowed down the Trinity into East Texas, politics and patronage meant both regions depended on each other.  Furthermore, the power of the flooding Trinity River helped people resist the elite’s attempts to control their lives from within and beyond East Texas.”


Kenna Lang Archer

Project Title: Keeping Cool in Texas: A History

“The State of Texas is known for its highly variable weather and for the extraordinary heat that periodically roasts crops, accosts livestock, and challenges public morale. Keeping cool in this state has become both science and art, but efforts to beat the heat are nothing new. This project studies the long history of keeping cool in Texas from a social, environmental, and cultural perspective, paying special attention to the shifting relationship between technological dependence and climatological adaptation.”


Jessica Webb

Project Title: Prostitution and Power in Progressive-Era Texas: Entrepreneurship and the Influence of Madams in Fort Worth and San Antonio, 1877-1920

“‘Prostitution and Power’ examines the lives and careers of the women who owned and managed houses of prostitution, known as madams, in the red-light districts of Fort Worth and San Antonio. Moving from the latter decades of the nineteenth century up to the First World War, this project charts the expansion of prostitution, and the ability of these madams to obtain a substantial amount of social, political, and economic power, and the decline—of both the sex trade and its madams.”


Shay O’Brien

Project Title: Mapping Elite Social Networks in Dallas, 1896-1956

“Using social registers supplemented by the Portal to Texas History and other archival sources, I am building a comprehensive longitudinal dataset of members of Dallas high society from 1896-1956. I am compiling information on each person’s basic biographical data, family relationships, close friendships, home addresses, and organizational memberships, such as churches and synagogues, workplaces, schools, and social clubs. When the dataset is complete, I will use it as the basis of numerous studies, beginning with one on the impact of the 1930 oil boom on the centers of Dallas sociopolitical power.”

Posted by & filed under Featured.

The Portal to Texas History has recently announced the call for submissions for its most recent round of the Rescuing Texas History program. Rescuing Texas History 2018 is the eleventh year of the program, which has brought to light over 45,000 items from 225 partnerships. Since the beginning of the program there have been over 6 million uses of materials hosted on the Portal to Texas History that were received in response to past call for submissions.

Now it is your turn.

Each project selected will be provided with up to $1,000 of digitization services to libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and other groups (including individuals) that house historical materials. All materials accepted will be scanned at UNT Libraries and hosted on The Portal to Texas History. Deadline for receipt of applications is August 6, 2018.

For more information and to download the application: Rescuing Texas History Mini-Grant

Posted by & filed under Featured.

We get a lot of great feedback in the Portal, many containing anecdotes about the subjects of photos, postcards, and other images.  Oftentimes users recognize the location of an image on the Portal—be it a favorite childhood park, a mile marker passed on the daily commute, a shop downtown, or a farm belonging to some long distant relation. Sometimes places stand the test of time unchanged, become a bit weathered, or slowly fade into the background of a growing metropolis. More often than not, the subject of an image hasn’t existed for decades and the location lives on only in memory.

By the numbers

Of the 1 million + items in The Portal to Texas History, about 300,000 are historic photographs, maps, postcards, and videos and though we try, we aren’t always sure what exactly the subject is, or where it’s located. Through the hard work of our partners and staffers, we’ve been able to associate about 95% of our images with generalized geographic location names like counties and cities.  But, when it comes to knowing exact locations, we fall short, having precise locations for only about 40% of these items.

We’ve got plans for some exciting new mapping interfaces including ways to search and view items based on location, but in order to do so, and to make it as effective as possible, we need to improve our data, and we think you can help us bring that 40%, way, way up.  How? Because you know your community’s history and geography best of all and we’ve built a tool that will easily let you share that knowledge with us.

All about places – or why we need help

Location data in the Portal takes a few forms: place names, place points, and place boxes. For any location information we have about an item, we map it on a Google Map towards the bottom of an object’s ‘about’ page.  A big blue “Mapped” button towards the top of an item’s overview page tells you if we have some kind of geographic information on that item.

Place names are the most generalized type of geographic information we have, and look like: “United States – Texas – Tarrant County – Fort Worth” or “United States – Texas – Brewster County.” These locations are drawn from a large controlled list maintained in our system, and while many people could hazard a guess at where Fort Worth is, not everyone can locate a county, let alone towns like Marathon, Cushing, or so many other rural communities represented in the Portal.

Map of Texas, City of Terlingua is marked. Figure 1. Map of Texas. Terlingua is marked.


Place names, we’ve found, can be pretty helpful, but their lack of specificity put real limitations on locating items sometimes. If the best we’ve been able to ascertain about an old ruined building is that it is/was in Presidio County, well, that’s like hunting for a needle in a 3800 square mile haystack. And that’s where place points and boxes come in

The really important part

Place Points are markers on our maps that have been specifically pinpointed to a latitude/longitude by a staff person or volunteer and is the data we hope that you can help us with most because we are pretty sure a lot of you know where these things are, at least much better than we do.

When we add place point markers to the Portal, we use an embedded Google Map in our editor to record data to six decimal points (ex 29.317652, -98.450081), which gives us a specificity for the object of less than a foot. In practice we don’t actually expect our data here to be that perfect, but place points obviously have their advantages, allowing us to update maps so that they reflect the real location of a place or structure.

Similarly, place boxes are another way of indicating location data, but here in cases where the subject of the image is much broader. Typically we only use these on maps and aerial photos, and again, on the back end we have a tool that simply draws a square/rectangle onto a Google Map and we generate the coordinates from there.

And now you can help us by adding them with simple drawing tools on the map we present on most all overview pages! Doing so is fun and pretty much a breeze if you know where something is, taking less than a minute if you know a location really well.

So, how do I get started?

Whenever you visit the Portal from now on, you might see the ‘Recognize a Place?’ prompt on the ‘Mapped’ button near the top of item overview pages.  This appears when we don’t have coordinates on record, and need help identifying them. (Note: free-standing “images” only – photos, maps, postcards, etc. Not images in newspapers, books, etc.)

Screenshot of Portal. Popover visible in lower-right corner. Figure 2. Screenshot of Portal. Popover visible in lower-right corner.


Similarly, if you are looking through search results or browsing a collection, you might notice some items have a small globe icon and others don’t.  The globe indicates we know where the image is/was, its absence means we don’t.

 Search Results. One item has coordinates. Figure 3. Search Results. One item has coordinates.


Clicking “improve our maps” or scrolling through to the “where” section of a record will take you to the embedded google map at the bottom of the page.  From there you can zoom in, pan around, switch to satellite view, or even street view in some cases to find the item on a map.


View of new mapping tool with place point marker set. Figure 4. View of new mapping tool with place point marker set.


Once located, you can use the provided drawing tools (a marker and a rectangle in the lower left corner) and simply drop a pin or drag a box onto the map. The map will figure out the latitude and longitude for you and display helpful information in an info bubble.  After dragging around a bit, if you are satisfied, you can submit your coordinates along with any additional context (how you know this info is helpful!) through our contact form. The Coordinates will be neatly copied and formatted for you in the form we need.  After submission, we may take a bit of time to verify your coordinates, so don’t expect them to go up immediately, but we promise, your help is so greatly appreciated.

Curious if this is really helpful?

Here are a couple of examples that show what others like you have accomplished in less than a week, using this feature:

  • Here’s a building someone found photographed in the Portal and provided coordinates for. Here it is today. The building remains the same, but the city grew up around it.
  • This structure was pointed out to be the same as this one, which today can be mapped to about here (the structure would have been where the ‘PowerHouse Spring’ building now stands).
  • This “Bird’s eye view of Austin” is a wonderful historical view of the state’s capital city; a user pointed out that it was probably taken from atop the Capitol building facing southwest, with The Governor’s Mansion and St. Mary’s Cathedral visible in the distance. Our original record included none of those details and will be updated significantly as a result of the submission.


three images on textured background with text

Posted by & filed under Featured, Research Fellowships.

The University of North Texas Libraries invite applications for the 2018 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, film making, 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 $4,000 in funding will be awarded to two or more fellowship applicants.

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 March 9, 2018. Recipients will be notified by April 1, 2018. 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.