April 7, 2015

Mexico Documents Collection Now Available in UHDL

We are pleased to announce the Mexico Documents Collection is now available in the UH Digital Library!

The Mexico Documents Collection contains 162 documents (personal and official correspondence, government orders, decrees, pamphlets, and government announcements), varying from a parchment document with elaborate signature to official typed decrees from the Office of the President. Chronicling Mexico from 1570-1913, the collection spans four distinct periods of Mexican history: the Colonial Period, Mexican Independence, the Mexican-American War, and the Mexican Revolution.

A large portion of the collection is from the years between Mexican Independence (1821) and the end of the Mexican-American War (1849). Nearly all of the items are in Spanish but many have accompanying English translations. Notable individuals found in the collection include Mexican Presidents, Santa Anna de Lopez and Porfirio Diaz, and Jose Joaquin de Hererra. Additionally, some materials document American military actions in Mexico during the Mexican-American War. Lastly, there are an assortment of documents chronicling religion in Mexico as well as business and land transactions.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Mexico Documents Collection. Many thanks to all those who helped make this digital collection possible. You can find this and our many other collections here at the UH Digital Library!

February 19, 2015

Letters from the War

Through letters of correspondence, one can get a glimpse of the daily life of an age gone by. Within the UH Digital Library we are honored to house two collections of letters and one collection of photographs from crew members of the USS Houston.

The first set is from then-S1C William Slough, who joined the US Navy just before his twentieth birthday. In these letters, Slough talks about spending time in the sick bay, his supplies and equipment training, and leisure activities. He also talks about learning to love travel and his plans for the future, which included a career in the Navy and putting off marriage. In addition to the USS Houston, Slough also served on the aircraft carrier the USS Cowpens. He served throughout World War II and reached the rank of Chief Warrant Officer, continuing afterwards to serve in the Navy Reserves for 20 years. Slough married in 1939 and had two children . He died in Victoria, Texas, on Dec. 9, 1991.

Letter from S1C Slough describing the working and living conditions
in Guantanamo Bay.

The period between the sinking of the USS Houston in February of 1942 and the eventual rescuing of the prisoners in 1945 was a harrowing time for Lt. Robert Fulton. His last letter to his parents gave light to the fact that the USS Houston was hit and lost its 8-inch gun as well as 48 crew members. A few days afterwards on February 28, 1942, the ship was sunk and Lt. Fulton was soon brought to the Zentsuji POW camp. It would be three years before any of his loved ones would hear from him again or know his whereabouts. Some were worried that he was taken to Hiroshima where the atomic bomb was just dropped. Luckily, intelligence suggested that no POW camps were located at Hiroshima.

Letter from Mary Guinn to W. L. Fulton mentioning that Hiroshima
did not seem to be one of the sites of the prisoner camps.
The Navy found the locations of the POW camps through intercepted Japanese radio programming as well as the programs' contents. Somehow the prisoners were also able to send mail at some point during their captivity. Unlike some of the other POW camps, prisoners at Zentsuji were treated fairly humanely and even had some sort of education while they were locked up. Some spent their time reading books, and others even had time to learn the Japanese language. Other activities included collecting grass for the rabbits that were at the camp, and doing miscellaneous chores.

Published letters from POWs of the Zentsuji camp that talk about their
activities during captivity..

News about POWs was not always credible. During that time, despite the grief that many families were feeling there were still people that took advantage of the worried families. A warning at the bottom this letter hints that some scammers would give false information to people for a fee.

Situations were not as nice for other POWs; many were literally worked to death or close to it. while working on various projects for their Japanese captors. Unlike in the Zentsuji POW camp, prisoners of war in other camps endured heavy labor and poor living conditions. Despite all of this, soldiers kindled a sense of camaraderie with prisoners from other countries. They relied on stealing food and supplies in order to stay alive and find out how the war was going outside of the camp.

Though a lot of the prisons were out in the middle of nowhere, some were located among urban areas as well. In the story "American POWs in Saigon," by fellow U.S.S. Houston shipmate Otto Schwartz, he reveals what life was like working on the Burma/Thailand 'Death Railway'. One camp was located in French Indochina, which is now current-day Vietnam. POWs were bused regularly through the towns wearing little to no clothing while French residents were going about their normal business.

Multiple accounts tell of what happened the night when the U.S.S. Houston went down. There were also hour-by-hour accounts of the last battle of the Houston and how much of the crew went down fighting. They also account for the other eight ships that were a part of the striking force:

De Ruyter - Dutch light cruiser
Exeter - British heavy cruiser
Perth - Australian heavy cruiser
Java - Dutch light cruiser
Electra - British light cruiser
Jupiter - British destroyer
Encounter - British destroyer
Witte de Witte - Dutch destroyer
Kortenaer - Dutch destroyer
Paul Jones - American destroyer
Edsel - American destroyer
Edwards - American destroyer
Ford - American destroyer

The accounts also tell in detail what was happening with the other ships down to every attack they made and every hit they took.

Make sure you check out our USS Houston (CA-30) Photographs, Lt. Robert B. Fulton USS Houston Letters, and William Slough USS Houston Letters collection, and also check out our other wonderful collections here at the UH Digital Library.

February 11, 2015

1930 México as Photographed by Luis Márquez

Cantadores del Valle de México 
"Singers of the Mexican Valley"

The 1930 México Photographs by Luis Márquez collection is a portrayal of 1930 México and its citizens, from the local street vendors to the dancers and musicians. Using hand-tinted techniques, Márquez transforms the black and white photographs into colorful pieces of artistic photography. The images where taken in various locations of 1930 México.

Luis Márquez was born on September 25, 1899 in México. His first work was published in the magazine Nuestro México in 1932 however it wasn't until his photography was included in the May 1937 issue of National Geographic which helped Márquez gain international recognition. His photographs where reproduced as postcards and published alongside Eugenio Fischgruns work in a series of 96 postcards. One observation of the photographs is the primary use of hand-tinted earth tones by Marquez. Below are a few of the photographs by Márquez available via UHDL.

Danzantes de La Pluma 
"Dancers of The Feather"

Dazante is a popular religious dance in which the locals would give thanks to the gods for their bountiful crops and a successful harvest. The dancers adorned themselves with: a large feathered headdress or a penacho that has large mirrors placed in the middle or sides of the headdress, a multicolored vest and a heart made of fabric over the vest to signify the heart of the warrior. In the right hand they carry a sonaja de hojalata or a tin rattle and on their left they carry a Macana or a wooden shaft with a heavy metal or stone object at the end that is adorned with the colors of the Mexican flag. The photography captured by Márquez depicts the Danzantes not only as they look but the significance of the colors they wear.

Tehuana de Fiesta 
"Festive Zapotecan Dress"

The photograph shows a Mexican woman in a Tehuana which is a Zapotecan traditional dress. The dark earth tones are a contrast to the lighter tones of the flowers that she is holding and the ones adorning her Tehuana.

Vendedor de Ollas 
"Pottery Vendor"

Vendedor de Ollas is a great example of Márquez capturing in photographic form the lives of everyday citizens of 1930 Mexico.

The collection is composed of 27 hand-tinted and signed photographs by Luis Márquez. The photographs from this post came from the Luis Márquez Photographs collection. The original materials are available in the UH Libraries' Special Collections in the Governor James V. Allred Papers Visit the UH Digital Library for more collections and don't forget to share this post.

January 21, 2015

Katherine Stinson and Early Female Fliers

"When you are flying toward a cloud, it does not seem as if you yourself are moving. The cloud seems to be rushing at you. And when you enter it, you are in the thickest fog you ever imagined. . . . I have been in clouds so dense I couldn’t see my own hands operating the controls."—Katherine Stinson 

Amelia Earhart is well-known as the first woman to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean by herself, capturing America’s undying fascination when she mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the Pacific while attempting to fly around the world. While people have been entranced by Amelia Earhart for decades, there were plenty of other noteworthy women also taking to the air during the early days of flight.Other less known but no less impressive female fliers include Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, the first woman ever to receive a pilot’s license, Bessica Raiche, the first woman to make a solo flight in an aircraft, and Jacqueline Cochran, the first female pilot to break the sound barrier. Another famous flier is Katherine Stinson, an integral part of American and Texan history.

Born on Valentine's Day, 1891 in Fort Payne, Alabama, Katherine Stinson grew up wanting be a piano teacher, but her parents could not afford to send her to Europe for music lessons. When Stinson heard you could make up to $1000 a day as a stunt pilot, she sought out aviation to make the money for Europe, but loved the the thrill of flying so much that she decided to stick with it, becoming one of the earliest female fliers in the world.

Katherine Stinson was only the fourth woman in the United States to earn a pilot’s license and was also the first woman to perform an aerial loop, a stunt she performed as many as 500 times without a single accident. She was the first pilot of either sex to produce night skywriting with fireworks, spelling out "Cal" over California. In the states, she was known as the "Flying Schoolgirl" (newspapers commonly mistook Stinson as 16-years-old, when she was actually 21), and she also performed as far away as China and Japan, where crowds heralded her as the “Air Queen.” In 1917 she set a world long-distance record by flying alone 610 miles from San Diego to San Francisco.

In 1911, the Stinson family relocated to San Antonio and established the Stinson School of Flying, and later, Stinson Field, San Antonio’s first municipal airport and the 2nd oldest general aviation airport in the United States. During World War I, Katherine volunteered as a pilot but was turned down because she was a woman. Seeking other ways to help, she raised $2 million for the Red Cross through air shows and piloted airmail deliveries, one of the first women authorized to carry airmail in the U.S. 

Fear, as I understand it, is simply due to lack of confidence or lack of knowledge—which is the same thing. You are afraid of what you don’t understand, of things you cannot account for.—Katherine Stinson.

Images from today's post came from our Harry Walker Photographs and University of Houston Campus Life collections. Make sure to check out the rest of our collections at the UH Digital Library!