Skip to main content


Weekend Reading? Trump as Jackson Think Pieces Galore

Recent posts

Blogging AHA17: Session #7, On Family & Business

The first conference panel I attended today may have had more attendees than the panelists expected considering the snow and the focus on the social history of the private worlds of women, merchants, and antebellum America but there should have been many, many more people in the room to hear these four papers.
First, Lindsay Keiter, a public historian conducting research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation provided a close reading of prescriptive literature and perhaps even satire—with Ben Franklin it’s always a fine line—about the practicality of marrying well versus for sentiment.  Historians of courtship and child raising have long noted that from the colonial era through the Revolution into the antebellum period Americans graduated from a fairly austere and severe familial mode toward companionate marriages and kindly parenting.  Generally affectionate relationships displaced authoritarian relationships.  For courtship economics, the value of a brides dowry or her match’s futur…

The Canales Hearings, the Loyal Rangers in the Era of the Mexican Revolution

During World War I, but more relevantly, the era of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) the state of Texas authorized the expansion of the Texas Rangers by establishing special commissions for what became known as the Loyalty Rangers.  These Rangers were not within the established Rangers chain of command and often were locally hired and paid by agricultural planters, railroad corporations and mining interests to provide security on the US-Mexico border.  Despite state authorization of these Rangers, they were more or less deputized vigilantes engaged in policing Mexican American communities during times of political turbulence.  Generally, despite the increasingly frequent episodes of violence on the frontier, these Loyalty Rangers also offered effective and often violent support in the maintenance of labor relations between the Mexican American laboring class and Anglo American managerial and employing class.  Not unsurprisingly, the laboring class found themselves fr…

Kara Walker, Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)

Kara Walker has had over three dozen solo shows since 1995 and, so far as I can tell, the last of them to exhibit in Texas was over nine years ago when “My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love” visited the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.  It seems quite rare that her work is exhibited in the South, much less Texas.

In the spring of 2014 her Marvelous Sugar Baby sculpture in the vacant Domino Sugar Refinery in Brooklyn became the most talked about art installation of the year, and frankly, I have heard nothing about another work of art discussed as much.  An enormous sphinx made with large sugar cube blocks, it exhibited familiar critiques of the black Mammy iconography that Walker observers should recognize from her earlier conceptual work with silhouettes, prints and Jim Crow era found objects.

So far as I know, there has yet to be a major Kara Walker show in Houston.  The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, however, possesses the fifteen print series of lithographs and screenprints p…

Franz Winterhalter

After the death of her uncle, King William IV, the London born Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 at the youthful age of 18.  Born of a German mother and eventually married to her German cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, Queen Victoria’s life was deeply intertwined with continental royalty even before her coronation.  Victoria and Albert had nine children, each married to another continental aristocrat, and-- as best as I could ascertain from some of the sumptuous Winterhalter exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston—her nine children had more than forty of their own, and a dozen of them became kings, queens, emperors and empresses of Greece, Norway, Russia, Romania, Wales, Spain, Prussia and other various German kingdoms.  Until August 14, about 45 of his paintings will be on exhibit at the MFAH.

In the 1820s and 1830s, the German born Franz Xaver Winterhalter emerged from the Munich Academy of Arts as a favored court painter for the aristocracy in Baden.  Winterhalter…

Old South's Old Testament

I just picked up an old copy of Roark Bradford's Ol' Man Adam an' All His Chillun (1928) and found the chapter illustrations to be delightful.  Bradford grew up in Tennessee and served in World War I, and although his major stories and novels came out in the 1920s and 1930s he is most certainly overshadowed by other Lost Generation writers, especially William Faulkner.  He later served in WWII and taught literature at Tulane.

Bradford's collection makes use of southern black dialect and Jim Crow minstrelsy stereotypes to retell Old Testament fables reset in the Old South; I suppose the black child narrator serves a sort of Scheherazade like conceit, introducing each of the Biblical tales together for his audience.  The collection became the basis of a prize winning, popular drama about the South, Green Pastures (1929) and many of the nostalgic themes would of course appear in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind (1936).  Green Pastures on stage and television pro…