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César E. Chávez in San Antonio

March 19, 2020

Beginning in 2014 on March 31, César E. Chávez Day has been designated a federal commemorative holiday in honor of the civil rights activist and labor leader.  Cities across the country celebrate his legacy through community service and educational programs. Since 1997, the City of San Antonio has memorialized Chávez’s work with the annual César E. Chávez March for Justice.

While Chávez began working in California in the 1950s to improve the conditions and pay of agricultural workers, it was not until 1968 that he received national attention.  It was then that Chávez, as leader of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), called for a national boycott of California table grape growers.  The following year, Chávez made his first public appearance in San Antonio to enlist local support.  From then until a year before his death in 1993, Chávez made return visits to speak, lead marches, and participate in strikes to bring attention to the plight of workers.  These are photographs of some of those visits in our San Antonio Express-News and the San Antonio Light Collections.


César E. Chávez announces to a crowd in the Kennedy High School gymnasium that Centeno Supermarkets will take part in the California grape boycott, November 29, 1969. (San Antonio Express-News Collection: E-0018-197)



















Chávez is applauded before a talk sponsored by the San Antonio Friends of the Farm Workers. Among those in attendance, standing to the right of him, are Judge Albert Peña, Jr., and Bishop Raymundo Peña, July 26, 1979. (San Antonio Express-News Collection: E-0056-027-08)


Chávez pickets beside West Commerce Street, a short distance from City Hall, December 10, 1979.  (San Antonio Express-News Collection: E-0059-031-36)

Chávez pickets beside West Commerce Street, a short distance from City Hall, December 10, 1979.  (San Antonio Express-News Collection: E-0059-031-36)

Marchers of all ages move along city streets to a NFWA rally, July 30, 1990. (San Antonio Light Collection: L-7183-23-10)


Crowd waits for Chávez to speak at a rally outside H-E-B Headquarters on South Main Avenue, July 30, 1990.  (San Antonio Light Collection:  L-7183-23-03)


Chávez speaks to a crowd gathered a block from the boulevard that now bears his name, July 30, 1990.  (San Antonio Light Collection:  L-7183-23-07)


Processing the Diana Kennedy Papers, Part 2

March 9, 2020

Welcome to another update on processing the Diana Kennedy Papers! If you missed the first blog post on this topic, you can read it here.

I spent the majority of November-January processing the print photographs in the collection. The photos were unfortunately in a disarray, but thankfully many of these were labeled by Diana, which helped me greatly. I sorted through nearly 1,000 prints many times over, discerning relationships between images, learning the faces of persons named in one photo but not another, and identifying logical groupings to which the photos might belong. Once these groupings were largely determined, I was able to place the photos in chronological order and sleeve them in archival photo sheets to protect against dust and fingerprints. The sheets have been placed in archival binders, which will help researchers look through the photographs easily.

Just a few of the photographs (and negatives) in the collection prior to being processed. The photos depict Diana and her life from the 1940s to the present, including her WWII service, life with husband Paul Kennedy, her travels, activities with friends, cooking classes, and publicity photos.

While processing nearly 1,000 prints was quite a task, I would be really swamped if I didn’t have the help of my student worker, China Whitby. I mentioned in the last post that there were many 35mm slide images in the collection – 3,800 of them! China has spent long hours meticulously placing these sleeves into protective sheets (emulsion-side down and image oriented right-side-up, no less), carefully hand-labeling each sheet, placing these sheets into archival binders, and typing an inventory of the slides. Did I mention she did it all with a smile on her face? Three cheers for China!

Student worker China Whitby uses a light box to easily see slides.
A close-up of the slides from the light box. Note the labeling at the top – this stuff really takes time to do!

The next task that China will be helping out with is preservation work. Since the previous post, I’ve completed the vast majority of the organization and re-foldering of the papers in the collection, and the materials are now housed in their forever home: archival document boxes. Now that this step is complete, China will be working through the collection to make preservation photocopies of acidic paper (like newsprint) and fading thermal fax paper, removing paper clips and staples (many of which are rusty), and placing some of the more fragile papers into protective mylar sleeves.

One of the most satisfying sights for an Archivist: tidy, clean boxes with neatly printed labels, with contents all in order inside. Boxes like these may look simple, but they represent the culmination of many months (sometimes years) of meticulous hard work!

While China makes her way through the preservation work, I’ll be tying up loose ends, filing miscellaneous items that don’t have a designated folder yet, and working on the finding aid for the collection. Once this work is complete we’ll be able to open the collection for research, hooray!

Access to the collection is currently closed while processing is ongoing, but Special Collections will make an announcement as soon as the collection is open for research. If you would like to be notified directly when the collection becomes available, please let us know:

Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) Curator of Exhibit Records now open to researchers

February 24, 2020

The ITC Curator of Exhibits records span the years of 1970-2010 and are comprised of materials related to the planning and creation of exhibits, events, educational materials, programs, projects, and publications.

The collection is organized into the following series: Administration, Education, Events, Exhibits, Programs, Projects, Publications, Research Files, Susan Harwell Files, and Tejano Task Force. Highlights of the records include the Exhibits files and Tejano Task Force materials.

The Exhibits files constitute the bulk of the collection and encompass permanent exhibits, proposed exhibits, scheduled exhibits, and traveling exhibits. Examples of exhibits include Texas Women: A Celebration of History, HemisFair ’68 40th anniversary, and Reach for the Sky: Aviation in Texas as well as permanent exhibits representing the many ethnic groups that settled in Texas.

Janis Joplin image from Texas Women exhibit
HemisFair ’68 40th anniversary exhibit planning materials

Records of the Tejano Task Force contain memoranda, correspondence, research files, committee reports, videotapes and minutes of community meetings, drafts, and photographic materials pertaining to the planning, function and preparation of the Tejano Exhibit Area between 1990-2000. Videotapes and audio cassettes are of interviews conducted between 1991-1998 with Tejanos in Texas. Additional records date from 1991-2002.

The ITC Curator records provide a wealth of information for those researching the rich cultural heritage of Texas. The collection is housed at UTSA’s Hemisfair Campus and must be accessed via the Institute of Texan Cultures Special Collections Reading Room. To request access, please use our Collections Request Form.

New Digital Collection: Killis Almond architectural drawings

February 12, 2020

I’m happy to announce a new addition to our ever-growing digital library: newly digitized architectural drawings from archival collection MS 348, Killis Almond and Associates records. Killis Almond Architects, PC is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm specializing in architectural design for new construction, historic preservation, rehabilitation and research that was established in 1977 by Killis P. Almond in San Antonio. Many of the firm’s projects, including theater restoration projects here in San Antonio, across Texas, and beyond, are now represented in our digital library through digitized architectural drawings.

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This new digital addition was made possible by several years of hard work by our dedicated volunteer (who also happens to be a retired architect, lucky us!), Milton Babbitt. Milton inventoried, re-boxed, and described the Plans and Drawings series of the collection. We are ever grateful for his patience, expertise, and most of all – his time. To learn more about Milton and his vital contribution to this new digital collection, see this blog post.

Once Milton laid the ground work of organizing the physical collection materials, we were able to have them digitized. The torch was then passed on to me, where I spent time reconciling the digital files we received from our vendor with Milton’s metadata. Once all the files for a particular project were accounted for, I grouped them together and uploaded each project to our digital library. This new landing page serves as the digital collection’s home base: where visitors can learn about the collection, access the more detailed collection guide (which contains information about the collection in its entirety), and of course – view our digitized content.


Detail: Dullnig Building Facade, 1978, Architectural Drawing, Box OM 15, Folder 0005-0

The culmination of several years of hard work is that the Non-Residential Projects subseries of the Plans and Drawings series is now available online. San Antonians will recognize several notable buildings, including: the Alameda Theater, the Alamo and Alamo Plaza, the AT&T Building, La Villita, Palo Alto College, San Pedro Playhouse, the Tower Life Building, and many more San Antonio landmarks.

Remembering Martha Prentiss, the Mayor of Lesbian San Antonio

January 13, 2020
An exuberant Martha Prentiss at the 1991 March on Austin

On January 4, 2020, family and friends of Martha Prentiss said their final farewells to this beloved activist, artist, and actor. Prentiss passed away on December 1, 2019 after battling Lewy Body Dementia for several years.

For decades, Prentiss served as an advocate for the rights of lesbians. In 1981, she opened Las Mujeres, a book store dedicated to women. Prentiss, along with other local women, created WomanSpace, the longest running women’s publication in San Antonio (1986-2007). Prentiss also created the Lesbian Information San Antonio (LISA) telephone helpline as an additional way to connect lesbians in the community.

Perhaps her most well-known undertaking was the Cancer Party, an annual fundraiser that attracted hundreds and supported women’s causes and organizations in San Antonio. Prentiss’ close friends Jan Olsen and Frances Timmins rounded out the trio of Cancers responsible for the planning and execution of the yearly party held in Prentiss’ back yard. Prentiss’ memorial service was named “The Last Cancer Party” signaling the end of an era.

Frances Timmins, Martha Prentiss, and Jane Olsen

For each Cancer party, Prentiss-a talented jewelry designer and artist-created medals and medallions (Cancers only) for guests attending the party.

I had the privilege of attending the Last Cancer Party on January 4th. I brought items that Martha had donated to the UTSA Special Collections over several years. The centerpiece of the display was a large trifold covered with invitations to all the Cancer parties and photographs of many who attended the annual event. Attendees of the memorial service recounted many fond memories of the iconic parties.

Although Martha Prentiss is no longer with us physically, her legacy and memory live on through the many materials she donated to UTSA Special Collections over the years. WomanSpace, the Texas Lesbian Conference Records, and the Martha Prentiss Papers document her remarkable accomplishments and the history of San Antonio’s lesbian community. WomanSpace and the Texas Lesbian Conference records have been digitized and are available online.

Christmas Tamal Ideas From The Mexican Cookbook Collection

December 16, 2019

For many Chicanx and Latinx families, Christmas dinner is synonymous with tamales. The preparation of tamales is labor-intensive, so when making tamales for a large family, it makes sense for most of the family to get involved. Over the next week, many families will be hosting tamaladas (tamal-making parties), where young ones learn how to make the family’s recipe and all participants partake in plenty of chisme (gossip).

Ellen Riojas-Clark and Carmen Tafolla, Tamales, Comadres, and the Meaning of Civilization: Secrets, Recipes, History, Anecdotes, and a Lot of Fun (San Antonio, Tex: Wings Press), 11. [TX836 .T36 2011]

Some folks think that a tamal must be wrapped in a corn husk and filled with masa (corn dough), but the origin of the word “tamal” comes from the Nahuatl word tamalli, which means “wrapped food”. By definition, any wrapped food would be considered a tamal. Thus, tamales are a flexible food, capable of being adapted to include whatever ingredients are available. This adaptability is why some tamales are wrapped in corn husks and others are wrapped in banana leaves; some are filled with masa and others are filled with ground rice. Many families’ recipes are derived from generations living in the same region, so even if a family has moved, they bring a little bit of their hometown with them in their tamal recipe.

Maria Moreno with armloads of corn shucks, San Antonio Light Photograph Collection, MS 359, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Tamales haven’t always been associated with Christmas, but have been made at this time of year for thousands of years. Pre-Columbian celebrations throughout the year featured the tamal. The Aztecs celebrated the winter solstice with the Panquetzaliztli festival (named for the fifteenth month of the Aztec calendar), and the making and eating of tamales was part of this festival that celebrated the advent of Huitzilopochtli (god of war). Modern practices incorporate Christian traditions, but keep the tamales.

Bernardino de Sahagún, Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva España: codice laurenziano mediceo palatino, (Italy: Giunti), book 2, folio 102. [F1219 .S1384 1996]

Within the Mexican Cookbook Collection, we have a diverse range of tamal recipes from throughout Mexico, the U.S., and elsewhere. Some feature familiar ingredients like corn, pork, and chicken, while others feature unexpected ingredients like rice, cheese curds, and coconut. The earliest tamal recipe in our collection is from the 1831 El cocinero mexicano, published in Mexico City, which shares the title of “first cookbook published in Mexico”. Our oldest recipe in a manuscript cookbook comes from the 1884 writings of Guadalupe Perez in Acatzingo, Puebla, Mexico. In addition to the entries from these books, some of the more novel recipes come from the Durango City title Recetas practicas y utiles, sobre cocina, reposteria, pasteleria.

These recipes have been translated by our Student Clerk, Carla Burgos, and are linked below. We hope you will consider including one in your own tamalada this week. Some families might not be large enough to have their own tamalada, and if this is the case, see if there are any local tamaladas that are open to all. This past weekend, I participated in the Tamal Institute, which is part of the annual La Gran Tamalada here in San Antonio and there are tamaladas hosted throughout the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you can’t find one locally, host your own! No matter how you celebrate, have a wonderful holiday season and a cozy winter solstice!

Finding the Derry Family

November 25, 2019

UTSA Special Collections recently acquired a photo album of a San Antonio African-American family. Prior to researching the family, I only had the descriptions provided on some of the photographs in the album to tell me about this family. Some photos have a full name for their subjects while others only have a first name. Some photos provide the address pictured, others provide the city, but still others are completely blank.

I began by recording all of the descriptions, focusing on names and places. One photo in particular was key to my research. This photo identified Charles H. Derry as well as his residential address.

The Derry home.

Once I had Derry’s name and address, I dug into our Worley’s San Antonio city directories to see if he was listed. Indeed, in the 1921 directory, he was listed at the address on the photograph and alongside his name was his workplace. Later directories added further information to Derry’s story, including his job title, his wife’s name, job title, and workplace, as well as those of their son and daughter.

At this point, I had enough information about the Derry family to move on to other resources. My next stop was the HeritageQuest database. Many academic and public libraries have access to this database, which collects genealogical sources like local and family histories as well as U.S. Federal Census records up to 1940 and much more. Census records provided me with the family member’s approximate birth years, birthplaces, and their educational experience.  I also visited one of the San Antonio Public Library branches to access their onsite databases Ancestry Library and Fold3, which yielded death certificates and draft cards.

From there I searched both UTSA’s Digital Collections as well as The Portal to Texas History for each family member. The materials in these collections provided additional information on the family, including obituaries, funeral programs, and some of their social involvement. In UTSA’s Digital Collections, we have digitized our holdings of SNAP Magazine, a weekly San Antonio publication dedicated to reporting news from an African-American perspective. In The Portal to Texas History, users can search UTSA’s digitized issues of the San Antonio Register, the city’s second weekly newspaper focused on the local African-American community.

Based on all of this research, I have been able to put together the following narrative about the Derry family:

Charles Harry Derry, Jr. was born into a farming family in Flatonia, a town in Fayette County, Texas in 1883. His parents were Charles Sr. and Mattie (née Brooks) Derry, both of whom were born in Texas in 1864. Over in Gonzales County, a teamster named Allan A. and his wife Francis “Frankie” Smith gave birth to their second daughter, Mattie K. Smith. Allan had been born in Louisiana in 1855 and Frankie was a native Texan born in 1860. Mattie K.’s family eventually moved to San Antonio where she graduated from Riverside School on Rincon Street and went on to earn a bachelor of science degree from Prairie View State College and also attended the University of Southern California. 

Charles H. Derry, Jr. driving at the U.S. Arsenal.

By 1920, Charles Jr. was living in San Antonio with his wife Mattie K. and their son Elmore “Elmo” Vernon and daughter Johnnie Marvel. Charles was working as a chauffeur and then a foreman at the San Antonio U.S. Arsenal. Mattie K. was a teacher for 30 years, most of which were spent at Norris Wright Cuney Elementary School on Iowa Street. Their son, Elmo was a teacher at multiple schools, including Frederick Douglass Junior High School, Dunbar Junior High School, and Phillis Wheatley High School. Their daughter, Johnnie also taught early in her adulthood, but worked most of her life as a maid at the Karotkin Furniture Company.

The Derrys were active in the San Antonio community, especially in social organizations and church. Charles Jr. was an active member of the Utopia Culture Club and was a pallbearer at multiple funerals. Mattie K. was a member of numerous organizations, including the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority, the Order of Eastern Star, the Order of Calanthe, and the Worthy Counselors Council. She was also an active member of the St. Paul Methodist Church since childhood. Elmo was active in school groups, the Alamo Social Club, and the El Feyes Club. Johnnie, like her mom, was also a faithful member of St. Paul United Methodist Church.

The Derry family with their horse and carriage.

Both Elmo and Johnnie were college educated. While I have not yet found Elmo’s alma mater, Johnnie did attend Prairie View College. Both children married, but neither had children. It appears that Johnnie’s husband Clayborn Blevins died in World War II and Elmo’s wife Mattie (née DuBois) succumbed to a month-long illness in 1949. After his wife’s death, Elmo moved back in with his parents, where he would stay for the rest of his life.

Mattie K. was the first member of this nuclear family to pass in 1962. She was followed by her husband in 1970, her son in 1977, and her daughter in 2003. While their line ended 16 years ago, UTSA Special Collections keeps their stories alive by protecting materials that document their lives. We are honored to preserve their memories in perpetude.

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