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Snapshots of the Good Old Summer Time

July 15, 2013

Texans have been making visual records of their summer activities since professional photographers first came to their area.  By the 1880s, community and itinerant photographers were frequently hired to take group portraits at club picnics, Fourth of July celebrations, and family gatherings.  Following professional practices, these images were staged for best lighting and composition.  While technically good, they are mostly stiff and lacking in authenticity.  A more candid and informal style of photography didn’t become common until George Eastman’s introduction of the Kodak camera in 1888.   With the Kodak, anyone could take a picture instantaneously and record life on the fly.  The snapshots taken by these amateur photographers provide significant insights into the ways people worked and amused themselves.

The photographs below are from our General Photograph Collection (MS 362) and were copied from collections owned by Texas families.  These snapshots, dating from the 1890s to the 1950s, show some of the ways people used their spare time away from jobs and school during the summer months.

Toddlers cool off in a galvanized wash tub, Somerset, c. 1918.  (MS 362: 093-332)

Toddlers cool off in a galvanized wash tub, Somerset, c. 1918. (MS 362: 093-332)

Gertrude Keeran and children on a boat ride down Garcitas Creek, Victoria County, c.  1913.  (MS 362: 095-165)

Gertrude Keeran and children on a boat ride down Garcitas Creek, Victoria County, c. 1913. (MS 362: 095-165)

San Antonio residents fishing in a Texas Hill Country stream, c. 1893.  (MS 362:  086-0440)

San Antonio residents fishing in a Texas Hill Country stream, c. 1893. (MS 362: 086-0440)

Members of the Dreiss family and friends at the Guadalupe River near Waring, c. 1893 (MS 362:  086-0438)

Members of the Dreiss family and friends at the Guadalupe River, Kendall County, c. 1893 (MS 362: 086-0438)

Danish-Americans, from Danevang, during annual camping trip to Matagorda Bay near Palacios, c. 1918.  (MS 362:  098-0566)

Danish-Americans, from Danevang, during annual camping trip, Matagorda Bay near Palacios, c. 1918. (MS 362: 098-0566)

Robert and Atlee Ayres, from San Antonio, play in the sand on gulf beach near Port Aransas, c. 1902.  (MS 362:  089-0018)

Robert and Atlee Ayres, from San Antonio, play in the sand on gulf beach near Port Aransas, c. 1902. (MS 362: 089-0018)

Residents from surrounding area gather for a Sunday afternoon baseball game at Biry, Medina County, c. 1934.  (MS 362:  096-0873)

Residents from surrounding area gather for a Sunday afternoon baseball game at Biry, Medina County, c. 1934. (MS 362: 096-0873)

Three girls roll on unpaved street in Dilley, 1951.  (MS 362:  096-1258)

Three girls roll on unpaved Miller Street, Dilley, 1951. (MS 362: 096-1258)

Bobbing for apples at annual picnic of the Japanese-American residents of the Rio Grande Valley, Boca Chica, June 1937.  (MS 362:  086-0349)

Bobbing for apples at annual picnic of the Japanese-American residents of the Rio Grande Valley, Boca Chica, June 1937. (MS 362: 086-0349)

San Antonio residents make doughnuts in camp on ranch near Waring, 1914.  (MS 362:  081-0237)

San Antonio residents make doughnuts in camp on ranch near Waring, 1914. (MS 362: 081-0237)

Residents of Marshall in canoe on Caddo Lake, c. 1937.  (MS 362:  093-0440)

Residents of Marshall in canoe on Caddo Lake, c. 1937. (MS 362: 093-0440)

Hans and Anna Anderson, Matagorda County farmers, are about to cross a river in the Texas Hill Country, early 1920s.  (MS 362:  098-0459)

Hans and Anna Anderson, Matagorda County farmers, pause for a photograph before crossing a river in the Texas Hill Country, early 1920s. (MS 362: 098-0459)

Children swim in the San Antonio River as parents visit on the river bank during Escobedo family gathering, Berg’s Mill, early 1950s.  (MS 362:  108-1010)

Children swim in the San Antonio River while parents visit on the river bank during Escobedo family gathering, Berg’s Mill, 1952. (MS 362: 108-1010)

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