Interactive Houston Folk Music Venue Story Map


The Woodson now has a new addition to our Story Maps. We’ve used Esri’s ArcGIS software in conjunction with their Story Map application to create a map that follows the growth and decline of Houston’s folk music scene. Included are photographs of venues, posters, video clips of people describing the places, and some live audio.

If you haven’t checked out our Story Maps on U.S. Civil War Narratives and Journals and Diaries, you are in for a visual treat.

Memorabilia Monday: Autographs 4: Literary Writers

Let’s forge ahead with more notable signatures from the Gordon Russell West collection. Unlike the last few batches that have been British-only, this is more of a hodge-podge.

First, we’ve got playwrights.


Caption: Henrik Ibsen: 1828 – [1906]


Caption: Tom Taylor: 1817 – 1880. English dramatist and art critic. Editor of “Punch”, 1874 – 80.

While Tom Taylor may not be a household name, Pres. Lincoln was watching Taylor’s play, Our American Cousin, when he was shot.

Next, there are the novelists.


Caption: Victor Hugo: 1802-1885.

If you look up Hugo’s quote, it has a few iterations.


Caption: Charles Dickens: 1812 – 1870.


Caption: Charles Kingsley 1819 – 1875.


Caption: Anthony Trollope: 1815-1882.


Memorabilia Monday: Autographs 3: British Scientists

Continuing our ongoing series on the unusual Gordon Russell West autograph collection, today we’ll focus on scientists.

First, we can start with an unlikely inventor.


Caption: Baron Henry Peter Brougham. 1778-1868. Celebrated British statesman, orator, jurist, and scientist. One of the founder of the “Edinburgh Review” in 1802. Counsel of Queen Caroline 1820-1821, and Lord Chancellor of England 1830-1834.

Baron Brougham is also known for inventing the brougham style of carriage.


Caption: Sir William Crookes, FRS, etc: 1832 – [1919] noted English chemist and physicist, who discovered thallium ad invented the radiometer.

He was also a pioneer in vacuum tube technology.


Caption: John Tyndall: 1820-1893. British physicist and natural philosopher, who made notable contributions in electricity, magnetism, light, acoustics, and glaciation


Caption: Sir Richard Owen: 1804-1892. Noted English biologist and paleontologist.


Based on that letter, which is a bit hard to read, Owen was a bit feisty.


Caption: Sir William Thomson, 1st Lord of Kelvin, FRS, LLD, etc. Celebrated British physicist and mathematician, who made important contributions in electricity, magnetism, and heat. He took a prominent part in laying the first submarine cables across the Atlantic. (1824-1907).


Happy 4th!

Fireworks over Lovett Hall during the 1990 Economic Summit, Rice University

This photo is from the 1990 Economic Summit, held in Houston in July. Fireworks are lighting up the night sky over Lovett Hall and the academic quad; Willy’s statue is visible in the lower center, and city buildings can be seen in the distance.

We hope your holiday is filled with peace and joy, family and friends.



To get our collections processed, we have to remove a lot of stuff. That includes switching out folders and removing rusty staples, all binder clips, paper clips, and sticky notes. Trevor, one of our summer student archivists, has been processing  the City of Bellaire historical records. Over the course of one day, he amassed this amount of material to either be recycled or thrown in the trash. At least, it’s colorful.

Recordio Disc

Wilcox-Gay Recordio Disc, c. 1954

More obsolete media!

This disc, dated 1954 and listing a song on each side, popped up in the box with the 78rpm records. It’s a cardboard record, made for home recordings, of plastic-coated thin paperboard. It was manufactured by the Wilcox-Gay Corp; in 1939 they launched the Recordio device, which played records and also allowed the user to use a microphone to record themselves onto a blank record — a “Recordio Disc.” The Recordio machine recorded at 78 rpm.

You can find a short discussion about cardboard records at the Museum of Obsolete Media.

Tape Op magazine’s web site also has an interesting discussion of the history of the Recordio. It includes a reference list for further reading.

We are going to try to recover the recordings on this disc, which has sustained some damage over time. Wish us luck!

Memorabilia Monday: Autographs 2: British Politicians


Caption: George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Earl 1859- [1925], English statesman. Governor-general of India 1899-1904. He married a daughter of Joe [Levi] Leiter, of Chicago. Upon returning to England he became Chancellor of Oxford University, and at the same time served in the ministries of Asquith and Lloyd George. He was one of four (the Prime Minster, Milner and Henderson [?]) constituting the War Cabinet, responsible for the daily conduct of the World War.

Building off the post from last Monday, here are some notable British politicians’ signatures from the Gordon Russell West autograph collection.


Caption: Sir Robert Peel, Bart., 1788-1850. Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer: 1834, et seq. under William IV.

Sir Robert Peel was instrumental in setting up the modern police force, also known as “bobbies” after its creator.


Caption: William Ewart Gladstone, 1809 – 1894 Eminent British statesman, financier, and orator. Prime Minister of England in 1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, 1892-1894, and also served as first lord of the treasury, chancellor of exchequer, and lord privy seal.


Caption: Wm. Lamb: Lord Melbourne. 1779-1848. Prime Minister of England in 1834, preceding Peel, and again 1835-1841. A close friend and adviser of Queen Victoria. His favorite political dictum was: “Why not leave it alone?”


Caption: Arthur Wellesley: Duke of Wellington. 1769-1852. British general who, with Blücher, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. Later Commander-in-chief of the British army, and Prime Minister of England 1828-1830.


Magic Brain

RCA Victor Division inner record sleeve, c. 1940’s

While processing a box of 78rpm records I found this paper sleeve with an ad for the Magic Brain RCA Victrola. Immediately I thought I NEED ONE

Two hours of continuous undisturbed enjoyment.
No needles to change.
Records last indefinitely.

Unfortunately the technology was short-lived; the need for shellac in the manufacture of bombshells during World War II made 78 records scarce, and the industry turned to vinyl. You can find a contemporary description of the Magic Brain here in the International Arcade Museum Library website, and you can read about the history of the technology here at The Prudent Groove.

I found this video on the Magic Brain in operation here. It seems pretty rough on  the records.  If any of you have seen one of these in action let me know-

Memorabilia Monday: Autograph collection, part 1


In our vault is a small little collection consisting of only three folders. It came to the Woodson in 1985, donated by Josephine Morrow West who passed in the same year. She was the sister of Kyle Morrow, who is the namesake for the Kyle Morrow Room, which at one time held the rare books collection. Her spouse was Gordon Russell West, 1896-1976.

West maintained a rather peculiar autograph collection. You may wonder why it was peculiar and the answer is there are scrapbook pages consisting of famous signatures removed from the original source material. In other words, West purchased letters or notes written by notable people, cut out the signatures, and pasted them onto scrapbook pages. Another scenario is that West purchased these items already clipped from a dealer. The collection is divided into three groupings: labeled signatures on scrapbook pages, loose signatures many unidentified, and intact letters without descriptions.

Over a series of Mondays, we’ll show images from this collection. This week will be British royalty, followed by British politicians, scientists, literary writers, and finally a hodge-podge of philosphers, historians, and activists.

The following signatures do not need a major introduction and are nicely described in beautiful handwriting by West.


“George III: 1738-1820. King of Great Britain and Ireland, 1760-1820. Said to be one of the last documents signed before he went insane, in 1811.”

Wouldn’t it be great to see the original document?


“George IV: when regent for his father (1811-1820)”


“George IV: 1762-1830: King of Great Britain and Ireland, 1820-1830”


“Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India. 1819-“

It is rather odd that there is not a date for the end of her reign, since there are other items in the collection with later dates, specifically the Governor of Nebraska ca. 1930.

Charlotte and Maximilian revisited

Dr. Ruiz Razura presents her book to the Woodson Research Center

This week we had a return visit from our friend Adriana Ruiz Razura of the Universidad de Guadalajara, who researched the sheet music of Mexico in the Charlotte and Maximilian Collection.  Ruiz Razura collaborated with the Universidad de Guadalajara and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México to present concerts in May and August of 2017 celebrating the country’s rich musical history. She also wrote La Música del II Imperio en México to commemorate the events, and brought us this copy for the archives.

The book describes the historical context of the music and includes a USB drive with a recording of the concerts, which you can enjoy in the reading room.