J. Frank Dobie Collection, 1910-1991


Notes on Texas cattle brands from the J. Frank Dobie Collection

J. Frank Dobie Collection, 1910-1991

James Frank Dobie was born on September 26, 1888 in Live Oak County, Texas, to Richard J. and Ella Dobie. At the age of sixteen he went to live with his Grandparents in Alice, Texas where he completed high school. He enrolled in Southwestern University where he was introduced to English Poetry and met Bertha McKee, whom he married in 1916. After graduating in 1910 Dobie worked for the Galveston Tribune and the San Antonio Express, before attaining a high school teaching job in Alpine. He moved on to teach at the Southwestern Preparatory School and later earned his M.A. from Columbia University. In 1914 he joined the University of Texas faculty and as well as the Texas Folklore Society. He left the University and served for two years in field artillery during World War I.

After returning to Texas, Dobie published his first articles as a newspaperman in 1919. He made the decision to resign from his position at the University of Texas in 1920 in order to manage his Uncle Jim Dobie’s ranch. It was during his time on the ranch that Dobie’s passion for describing aspects of Texas lifestyle and culture was developed. Dobie was named the secretary of the Folklore Society in April of 1922. His first book, Vaquero of the Brush Country, was published in 1929. His other publications include: The Voice of the Coyote, The Mustangs, Tales of Old Time Texas, Up the Trail From Texas, I’ll Tell You a Tale and Cow People. He also wrote for the Southwestern Review and a Sunday newspaper column. Dobie died on September 18, 1964. Several schools and other buildings were named in Dobie’s honor and he was posthumously inducted into the Texas Heroes Hall of Honor.

The materials that make up this collection portray J. Frank Dobie’s interests in and contributions to the Texas Folklore Society. The predominant themes are Texas folklore and culture, cattle branding, Dobie’s time in England as a professor at Cambridge and his World War I experiences.

Significantly, there is also a file of illustrations of cattle brands which were sent back and forth between SHSU faculty members Frances McMinn and Emma Normand and, we believe, J. Frank Dobie. These illustrations were eventually used to create a quilt depicting cattle branding as art.

View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.

J Frank Dobie Collection, 1910-1991

Digitized materials from the J. Frank Dobie Collection, 1910-1991

The SHSU Athletics Display

The display.

The display.

During my last weeks as the Archives and Special Collections intern, I spent time designing and putting together a physical display that is located on the second floor of Newton Gresham Library. The physical display is called “SHSU Athletics: A Winning Tradition” and features prints from the Sports Slides Collection, as well as some older photographs, SHSU Alcaldes from the 1920s, 40s, 60s, and 90s, and a selection of sports history books from the main library collection that are available for check-out.

With this display I intended to showcase just a few of the many achievements accomplished by SHSU student athletes, as well as showing how far back most of our sports programs go and the many changes that have taken place over the decades. I also wished to highlight the diversity in our athletics department, showing as many different sports as I could with the space and materials that were available to me, as well as the many different athletes from diverse backgrounds that have played for Sam over the years. I also pointed out challenges that athletes faced at Sam, including participating in college sports during wartime in the 1940s, and the new opportunities that Title IX introduced for female athletes in the 1970s.

I really enjoyed putting this display together and seeing the results, and I hope you do too! I also feel I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge and experience over the summer while working in the Special Collections, Archives, and Digital Resources departments. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow through this experience, and I hope that others also get some use and enjoyment from the results.

Diamonds in the Rough


Alice in Wonderland Book
Sometimes when you are working on a large project for archives in a different area of the library you find diamonds in the rough where you least expect them. This edition of, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass”, was a surprise find in the Loyce Adams Graduate Reading Room here on the 4th floor of the Newton Gresham Library.

There is no visible publishing date but an inscription on the inside cover reads, “May Adelaide’s birth days to come be as full of pleasure as was her 10th, Peyton Dec 7th 1913.”

The ten year old Adelaide mentioned in the inscription grew up to be the wife of S. Calhoun Wilson, Jr. who was the son of S. Calhoun Wilson, Sr.

S. Calhoun Wilson, Sr. was the Head of the Sam Houston State Teachers College Department of Agriculture from 1910-1939. S. C. Wilson, Sr. is credited with growing the Sam Houston State Department of Agriculture to one of the largest agriculture departments in the South at the time. He was known as, “The father of vocational agriculture in Texas”. He was also responsible for acquiring large amounts of aid for his department and the university in 1917 under the Smith-Hughes Act.

This book is now a part of the S. C. Wilson Collection in the SHSU University Archives.

Creating Sports @ Sam, Building a physical display, and wrapping up as the Archives/Special Collections Intern

All of the Sports slides have now been digitized, and some of them are already appearing on the Sports @ Sam tumblr (shsusportscoll.tumblr.com), which will continue to update twice a week with more photos. While creating Sports @ Sam, I learned a lot about the different ways that institutions can use social media outlets such as tumblr, facebook, and twitter to connect with other institutions, patrons, and the community. Making collection-specific social media sites, such as the Sports @ Sam tumblr page, can create interest and promote the institution (both the Archives and the University) while also providing examples of what students or researchers can find in the special collections and University archives, so that the next time a student has an assignment or a researcher/faculty is considering a new topic, they might be reminded to come by the Thomason Room or the Archives department and see what is available.

Moving forward for my final week here as the Special Collections and University Archives Intern, I have been preparing a physical display which will also draw heavily from the Sports slides collection, much like the Sports @ Sam tumblr. The display will showcase SHSU Sports history, using prints from the Sports color slides and also incorporating some older photos, dating back to the 1910s. The bulk of the preparation went into creating a poster for the display and writing captions for all of the prints. Next week I’ll provide photos of the display and provide more details about all of the different elements as they come together.

As my summer internship draws to a close I have been thinking about all of the skills I’ve acquired and all I’ve learned through the experience of processing and displaying this collection, and I feel that I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge about the different departments (Special Collections/Thomason Room, Archives, and Digital Resources) which work together to preserve and provide access to all of the rare and unusual documents and items that we have here at Sam. I feel that the experience I’ve had here will be very valuable for me in the future, and I also hope that the work I’ve done will be useful to others as well.



Introducing Sports @ Sam


We are proud to announce a new Tumblr webpage created by the SHSU Special Collections and University Archives Departments’ intern Amanda Chang, which spotlights SHSU Sports teams from seasons past. The “Sports @ Sam” Tumblr updates each Monday and Friday with a new photograph showcasing athletes from the 1980s, ‘70s, ‘60s, and beyond. Many of the photographs come from a recently digitized collection of color slides dating from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, which feature mostly baseball, basketball, football, golf, and softball photographs. The slides were originally created by the Sam Houston News Bureau in 1970s and the Sam Houston Public Information Office in the 1980s. Along with these photographs, older archived photos will also be posted.

Athletes have been playing for Sam Houston State for over 100 years, starting out as the “Normals” when SHSU was known as a Normal Institute, and later switching to the “Bearkats.” Throughout the years our sports programs have developed into the strong teams which represent our University today. Our sports programs have grown along with the University, and this is reflected in many of the photographs that will be posted on Sports @ Sam. Not only do these photographs feature the athletes themselves, but also the fields and gymnasiums, and later stadiums and coliseums, that each team called home.

Sports @ Sam offers an opportunity to look back on the teams that created a solid foundation for today’s student athletes. Sports @ Sam can be found at shsusportscoll.tumblr.com or, and the Special Collections and University Archives Departments’ Tumblr can be found at nglspecialcollectionsandarchives.tumblr.com.

Putting things together


A side by side comparison of a Thomason photograph with a Thomason drawing












The image on the left is a photograph from the John W. Thomason collection. It is of soldiers marching with the American flag. John W. Thomason was stationed at the Legation in Beijing in the 1930s, so this is possibly the location of this picture.

The image on the right is a sketch by John W. Thomason. It seems to have been inspired by the picture on the left.

Even before leaving Huntsville, Texas, Thomason developed a habit of recording his surroundings in his drawing notebooks or on whatever scrap of paper he had nearby — which accounts for the large collection of diverse drawings held at Sam Houston State University.

See the original here: Marines marching, carrying flag

See the whole  collection at : John W. Thomason drawings

Digitizing SHSU Sports History in the Digital Resources Lab


Scanning Sports Slides

After researching the history of the different athletic teams and events pictured in these slides in the Thomason Room and the University Archives, I’ve moved on to the Digital Resources Lab to digitize the slides. The first step to digitizing involves scanning the slides, followed by editing them in Photoshop and then saving them in a properly labeled and organized file system within the special collections drive.

Editing a scanned slide.

Once all 400 or so slides are scanned, edited, and filed away my next task will involve designing a social media-based online display for them, where they will be made viewable by the public. The online display will serve the dual purposes of showcasing the photos and informing viewers about the history of various sports at Sam while also helping to promote the University Archives and the Thomason Room.

In addition to the online display, I will also create a physical display including a few of my favorite sport photos, as well as some selected books, in the Newton Gresham Library. After that display is completed I will take pictures and post them here as well.

Scanning the slides has been interesting, since it is the first time I’ve been able to view the photos up close. Sometimes this means I can see that I got something wrong the first time around, like when I found that quite a few of the slides I thought were baseball photos were actually softball photos. The digitization process has afforded me the ability to go back through the collection a second time for a closer look and allowed me to fix mistakes like that. I’ve also had the opportunity to gain experience using Photoshop to help clean up the slides, which are often a little scratched and dusty.

I’ve gained a lot of experience through processing this collection over the past month or so, and soon I’ll be ready to put what I’ve learned on display for others to see. I look forward to displaying these photos for others to view.


Looking back at SHSU in the 1970s through the Houstonian


Pre-1981 issues of the Houstonian are stored as physical copies in the archives

This week in the archives I’ve been sifting through old issues of the Houstonian from the 1970s, looking through sports articles for more information on the teams and games depicted in the photo slides I’ve been organizing. While going through all the old issues of the Houstonian I’ve come upon a couple interesting (and vaguely sports related) articles I wanted to share here.

“Sammy Bearkat” perches on the shoulder of his student trainer.

The first article concerns a certain SHSU mascot. An issue of the Houstonian from October 1975 contained the headline, “Bearkat Needs Trainers Before Spring Semester.” The article includes a photograph of “Sammy Bearkat,” who was actually not a Bearkat at all, but a small mammal from South America called a “kinkajou.”

The article was more of a plea for new caretakers for the kinkajou, as his current caretakers were graduating. It outlined his behavior, the types of food he ate, and the requirements for any potential trainers. Apparently Sammy the kinkajou was the official mascot at SHSU from 1970-1975, although I didn’t find any more information about him after that year.

Female athletes are welcomed into the Bearkat Den (athletic dorms) in 1979

The second article, from September 1979, was a reminder that the 1970s were a significant decade for collegiate athletics due to changes such as Title IX, which requires high schools and colleges to provide equal opportunities and resources for female athletes. The article, headlined “Women are in the Bearkat Den,” announced that for the first time in SHSU’s history women were allowed to live in the official dorm for student athletes. In the article, the women’s softball coach emphasizes that although the dorms are co-ed, no men were allowed inside the women’s rooms. Accompanying the article is a picture of female athletes hanging on the balcony rails of the Bearkat Den.

An introduction, Interning at the archives, and a summer Sports History Project

Hello! I am Amanda Chang, and I am the summer intern for SHSU’s Thomason Room and the University Archives. I am a graduate student at Sam, working toward earning my master’s degree in History. My interests within the field include the history of the Western U.S., as well as women and gender in American history. I hope to continue my studies by earning a Master in Library Science and ultimately want to work in academic or public libraries.

Now that you know a little about me, I’ll introduce my summer project and also talk a little about what I’ve learned during my initial few weeks in the archives. The project I have been tasked with for the summer is the organization, research, and design of a display that will showcase Sports History at Sam. This includes sorting and scanning dozens of old SHSU News Bureau slides, dating mostly from the 1970s-1980s, as well as digging through old yearbooks and newspapers in order to begin to piece together the story of the teams pictured in these photographs. Before beginning this project I knew almost nothing about the history of sports at SHSU, but this project has shown that through the years many accomplished athletes have made their mark inside our stadium and coliseum (and before they were built, on our fields and in our gyms), and their achievements certainly deserve preservation and commemoration. I’ve only just begun the research stage of this project, so I’m very excited to learn more.

For most of my time so far I’ve been working with Barbara Kievit-Mason in the Archives, sorting the slides from random boxes, listing them on spreadsheets, and placing them neatly in binders. While in the archives I’ve learned a lot about the history of the University, the inner workings of the archive, and have had a lot of fun looking at old documents, unique books, and the miscellaneous items of interest that have found their way into the archives over the years. Now that I am in the research phase of the project I’m splitting time between the Thomason Room and the archives while going through old Alcaldes (the SHSU yearbook) and issues of the Houstonian (SHSU’s newspaper) to gather as much information as I can on the teams pictured in the slides (of which there are approximately 450 total, focused mainly on Football and Basketball).

Before: Photo Slides in Boxes

After: Neatly stored and organized

As I progress on the project I’ll be posting updates here, and I’ll continue to share my experiences as an intern with you all. Thanks for reading!

Promoting Finding Aids on Social Media @ Society of Southwest Archivist 2014


On May 29, 2014, Scott Vieira, James Williamson and Felicia Williamson presented “Promoting Finding Aids on Social Media: What Worked and What Didn’t Work” at the Society of Southwest Archivists Annual Conference in New Orleans. The presentation centered on the findings of our yearlong project during which we attempted to determine whether social media sites could be used to promote the use of finding aids from our Archon website (https://archon.shsu.edu). We also wanted to know if certain sites were better the others at promoting the use of our finding aids to conduct in depth archival research.


social_speccolmontageTo determine this, we selected 9 social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, Myspace, Google +, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and HistoryPin) and a blog (WordPress). For six months, we managed all ten sites — adding content, increasing the number of followers and promoting SHSU Archives and Thomason Special Collections. At the end of the six month period, we began our research phase by posting one finding aid a week on each site with a description of the collection. Using Google Analytics, we tracked the progress of the finding aids week by week including how many times each finding aid was viewed and various demographic details about the viewers (point of origin of the click, etc.)

Our presentation generated a great deal of positive feed back at SSA and we are happy to share our PowerPoint, which can be viewed at the link below. We are currently working on a journal article to be published (we hope!) next year.

Marketing Finding Aids_SSA _Final_05232014


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