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!

January 8, 2015

Houston Saengerbund Records Now Available in UHDL

We are pleased to announce the Houston Saengerbund Records are now available in the UH Digital Library!

The Houston Saengerbund Records contain five bound volumes covering the activities of the organization and related associations from 1874 to 1937. Three of the ledgers contain minutes of various Houston Saengerbund meetings, financial statements, and the occasional printed program. A fourth volume contains similar materials for the Houston German Day Association, and the final volume contains the records, programs, clippings and correspondence of the German Texas Saengerbunds.

The Houston Saengerbund (Singing Society) was founded on Oct. 6, 1883, as an organization through which German immigrants in Houston could join with their countrymen to sing songs in the German language. The Saengerbund was one of a number of all-male singing organizations that formed in the German communities of Texas during the last half of the 19th century. These local groups were united under Der Deutsch-Texanische Saengerbund (the German-Texan Singers' League, or DTSB), a regional organization that held biennial meetings and Saengerfeste (Singing Festivals) in various Texas cities.

The Houston Saengerbund swelled to over 1,000 members before World War One, and in 1913 Houston played host to a particularly elaborate DTSB Saengerfest which featured a full orchestra and world-class opera singers. But during the war years membership fell as Germans became reluctant to draw attention to their nationality.

After the war, membership increased and the group flourished. The Saengerbund bought their first in a series of clubhouses, and introduced new activities such as dancing, children's plays, and beach excursions. The club officially began admitting women as members in 1937 with the formation of the Ladies Auxiliary and the Damenchor (Women's Chorus) a year later.

With the onset of World War II, the Saengerbund members changed the name of the group to "The Houston Singing Society,” stopped their primary activity of singing German songs, and began keeping minutes in English because of their concern about arousing anti-German sentiment. After the war, the club members restored both their German-language singing and their name, but membership declined, partly owing to a drop in German immigration.

The Houston Saengerbund is still in existence more than 100 years after its founding, and the Saengerbund and Damenchor continue to perform at the Saengerfeste of the DTSB, the International Festival, Lights in the Heights, and other public events.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Houston Saengerbund Records.

Many thanks to all those who helped make this digital collection possible.

December 11, 2014

Donald Barthelme Sr., Architectural Drawings and Photographs Now Available in UHDL

We are pleased to announce the Donald Barthelme Sr., Architectural Drawings and Photographs collection is now available in the UH Digital Library!

This collection highlights the career of Donald Barthelme (1907–1996), the first Houston architect to gain national prominence in the years after World War II. These 57 items illustrate his work through pencil sketches, photographs, and the detailed working drawings used to construct his buildings.

Barthelme first gained attention in 1936 as the lead designer for the Hall of State, the principal building of the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. In 1948 he won an award from the American Institute of Architects for Houston’s St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, applauded for its simple Scandinavian modern forms. Yet he made his reputation with the West Columbia Elementary School of 1951, which won many awards and was published internationally. Its innovative design departed from the traditional practice of placing classrooms along both sides of a long corridor. Instead, Barthelme arranged the building around two large courtyards; classrooms opened to the courts through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. This flooded the rooms with light while providing a sheltered environment for the students. At the main entrance a flamboyant scalloped canopy greeted visitors.

In addition to the St. Rose and West Columbia buildings, the collection includes Barthelme’s own residence. He built this small modernist house for his family about 1939. The original drawings are lost, but he enlarged it slightly a decade later, and the collection preserves his 1949 drawings for this remodeling.

Of particular interest, and rarely seen, are a few of his studies for the Adams Petroleum Center (1954–58), his largest and most ambitious project. The Adams Petroleum Company wanted to develop its large site as an office park. Barthelme planned to build the complex in four phases, beginning with the client’s own building. He spent hundreds of hours studying different designs for the APC tower and preparing a dramatic aerial view. The company later abandoned the scheme and constructed only a modest building without the tower.

Barthelme helped shaped the look of Houston during its postwar boom. Today only the church buildings still stand, but the West Columbia school district has preserved his entrance canopy at the original site of the elementary school.

 Several of Barthelme’s children became prominent writers, and the works of his eldest son, Donald Barthelme, Jr., are preserved in the Donald Barthelme Literary Papers.

 The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Donald Barthelme, Sr. Architectural Papers. Many thanks to all those who helped make this digital collection possible. Make sure to check out our other collections here at the UH Digital Library.

November 18, 2014

Selections from the Franzheim Rare Books Room Now Available in UHDL

We are pleased to announce the ongoing project Selections from the Franzheim Rare Books Room is now available in the UH Digital Library!

This digital collection presents examples of notable works housed in the University of Houston’s Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room.

The room contains approximately 1000 rare or unique books, journals, and pamphlets on fine art and design. Highlights of the collection include portfolios of building types, architectural product catalogs, and first editions of some of the 20th century’s greatest books on art and architecture.

The books in the collection date from the mid-16th century to artists’ books published in the 21st century. The Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room is located within the William R. Jenkins Architecture and Art Library on the first floor of the College of Architecture.

This collection is expected to grow over the coming months and years, so please check back occasionally to discover newly added volumes! Many thanks to all those who helped make this digital collection possible. Make sure to check out our other exciting collections here at the UH Digital Library.