August 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
The Alamo came close to demolition before Texans decided it was worth saving. W.S. Porter (O.Henry), who was quite the cartoonist, added his two cents worth in this Rolling Stone cartoon, “Remember the Alamo with 25¢.” More of his work in another post.
Another tasty one from Alex Sweet, 1881. Your lege at work. What has changed, other than the smoking? Look at Father of Dan Patrick up there.
August 26, 2016 § 2 Comments
The golden age of cartooning in Austin began with the Jazz Age. And since the jazz life was all about fun, UT jazzers got their own humor magazine in October 1919: the Scalper, a slick paper monthly. Since the death of the Coyote for insolence several years earlier, there had been no campus comic publication. The Scalper aimed to be like the Harvard Lampoon. Jack Hyman was the debut editor but was kicked out of school less than a month on the job. The Scalper would be in hot water with the UT administration throughout its short life.
During its first year, each issue of the Scalper lampooned one of the burning issues of the day, including Bolshevism, the Ku Klux Klan, Prohibition, free love, jazz and intellectualism.
The Scalper featured the artwork of a good half dozen of Austin’s all-time greatest cartoonists, including Roy Crane, Ralph Jester and Joe Ernest Steiner.
Roy Crane, Ralph Jester and Joe Ernest Steiner were UT freshmen in the fall of 1919 and began cartooning for the Scalper and Cactus yearbook. Creator of Captain Easy, Crane was the father of adventure story cartoon strips. Some of Austin’s foremost music poster artists cited Crane as a primary influence 50 years later.
Joe Ernest Steiner was the younger brother of Austin’s legendary T.C. “Buck” Steiner, world rodeo champion, “bubble dancer” Sally Rand’s boyfriend and founder of Austin’s Capital Saddlery. Joe Ernest went on to become the most prolific cartoonist for college and mainstream humor magazines during the Jazz Age, before settling down as a lawyer in Austin.
Ralph Jester moved on to create covers for the New Yorker before moving to Hollywood for a career in movie set design.
“Vulgar cheek dancing” got the administration’s long johns in such a knot that toward
the middle of the evening of November 18, dean of women Miss Lucy Newton interrupted to give a short talk on modern dancing and its application in university activities, followed by floor manager G.F. Simmons, who said that “death grabs” and other objectionable forms of dancing were to be prohibited.
The UT administration was not just cracking down on objectionable forms of dancing, as the Scalper’s editors observed in November 1921: “The University of Texas’ system of morality is based, it seems to us, on this sterling principle: that if a boy and a girl are alone for as much as one minute they will instantly commit a loathsome indiscretion.” Such editorializing did not win the Scalper many friends in the administration.
The Scalper was fighting for its life during April 1922, following the publication of its “Free Love” issue. In May, the Scalper staff resigned.
Following a series of controversial issues, the administration tomahawked the Scalper after the November 1922 issue, and UT was left without a comic magazine.
In the spring of 1923, acknowledging the student body’s need for a campus comic magazine, the Publications Board authorized the publication of a new comic magazine: the Texas Ranger.
When the Texas Ranger debuted in October 1923, it was an immediate success.
It immediately attained a circulation of 4,500 copies and exchanged jokes and cartoons with the country’s leading university and college comic magazines.
Despite promises of modesty, the Ranger’s jokes, humorous pieces and artwork were as risqué as anything seen in the Scalper, if not more so.
The March 1927 issue of the Ranger, dedicated to campus beauties, featured a cover drawn by John Canaday. Canaday was one of the Ranger’s raciest cartoonists; his style was distinct from that of Joe Steiner, sexy in a sophisticated, artful, continental way, as opposed to Steiner’s outlandish, more cartoony, Sheba/sheik style—which was not surprising, since John was a French and English literature major. Canaday’s girls were not afraid to show off their erect nipples, tight asses and shapely legs, clad in garter belts, bathing suits, clingy transparent dresses and even lesser forms of provocative dress.
The Texas Ranger bit the dust in May 1929, banned like the Coyote and Scalper before it, a victim of its own cleverness. It reemerged—emasculated—that fall, combined with the Texas Longhorn, the university’s literary magazine, as the Longhorn-Ranger Magazine. It was a harbinger of things to come.
A Gallery of Scalper and Cactus Cartoons
August 19, 2016 § Leave a comment
Today in Guy Town History:
A nice young “john,” he was, with plenty of money, accompanied with an earnest longing to take in Austin town and see the sights if it took a whole week. With his mind comfortably made up and this purpose firmly established and buried beneath the weight of diverse drinks, he procured a carriage and set out to learn something of ways that are dark and things that are crooked.
That afternoon he rode around the city taking in at regular intervals schooners of beer, until he was boozy and serenely indifferent as to who or where he was. In this condition he was driven to Fannie Kelley’s maison de l’amour at the corner of Cedar and Lavaca, and taking into the carriage Frankie Howard, started out on a moonlight ride.
They were out until three o’clock in the morning, when they returned to Fannie Kelley’s and, getting out, dismissed the carriage. They at once entered the house and ordered wine for two. It was furnished, and the fascinating Frankie requested the nice young john to foot the bill. Instantly his hand was down into his pants pocket and instantly it was out again and into another, and from there it was into all the pockets he had about him, while a ghastly look of goneness spread itself over his countenance.
He missed a purse containing 480 dollars and at once accused Frankie of having picked his pocket while in the carriage. She vehemently proclaimed her innocence, and she, the nice young john, and Fannie Kelly carefully searched the room, but no purse could be found.
The nice young john then declared his unalterable intention of searching Frankie, but Frankie positively refused to undergo the ordeal, whereupon the nice young john sent for an officer, but before he arrived, Frankie concluded to let Fannie Kelley search her, which she did, but no money purse found.
Strange to say, however, someone in the room peering around did discover the purse under the bed, where, just a few minutes before, the combined eyes of Fannie Kelley, Frankie, the nice young john and the carriage driver had failed to see it. It was examined, and the 480 dollars was safe, the wine was paid for, and Frankie, who it was believed had the purse about her person and during the search had contrived to get rid of it and kicked it under the bed, was arrested by the policeman who had arrived.
She was conducted to the lock up, but the following morning, August 19, 1880, the nice young john refused to post in an appearance and make a complaint, and Frankie was released from custody.
(P.S.: “Johnnie” is 1880s slang for a prostitute’s customer, or what we now call a “john.”)
August 15, 2016 § Leave a comment
Back when couples and families took Sunday drives … and they were worth the trip.
The Austin Statesman, 1917
That Austin people have scenery equal to that of Colorado or California right at their doors, and that few of them realize the fact, is the import of a statement made by A. W. Griffith and E. D. Allen in connection with a scenic loop which they recently logged for the Austin Auto Club.
The loop in question, taking in Oak Hill, the Bee Cave country, and the lake, measures 32.7 miles, starting and ending at Sixth Street and Congress Avenue.
Listen to the description of it:
“Few people, even though living in Austin all their lives, realize that in one hour’s drive from the city one is in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery to be found anywhere in the South — scenery that if seen in California, or some 2000 miles away, one would rave over. Yet just such scenery is almost at your very door.
“Fancy yourself on a ledge cut on the side of the mountain, then riding on the ridge that has all the indications of having been constructed for your particular benefit, looking into deep gorges on both your right and left, hundreds of feet to the bottom; then catching a glimpse of the valley stretching for miles of varied color until the eye meets the break in the horizon of mountains many miles away. Could you, surrounded by such scenes, realize for the moment that you were only ten miles from home. Yet the scenes are always there awaiting your visit, on the Bee Cave road, which is a part of the thirty-two mile loop of scenic beauty.
The log was made, not only in the interest of the Auto Club, but also that of all others who have never visited the scenes described. Photographs were made of some of the more striking scenes.
The log, as made by Mr. Allen and Mr. Griffith, is printed below (via Oak Hill Barton Creek, and back on the Bee Cave road; good road all the way around):
0.0: Austin, Sixth Street and Congress Avenue.
0.4: South Congress Avenue; cross concrete bridge over Colorado River.
0.7: Turn right, leaving Post road, which goes to San Antonio.
0.9: Keep straight on Tarvia road.
1.4: Pass under International & Great Northern Railroad bridge; turn left around house on left.
2.4: Turn to the right.
3.4: Go straight ahead; left road goes to Manchaca.
6.0: Keep straight.
6.9: Post oak tree in middle of road.
8.1: Oak Hill; W. O. W. hall on right.
9.0: Beautiful grove; fine for camping.
9.5: Take road on right that comes in at right angle; the road you were on leads to Fredericksburg and Johnson City.
11.1: Keep to right.
11.4: Rock fence on left.
12.5: Keep to right.
12.7: Beautiful view ahead and to the right.
13.6: Winding road across divide.
14.9: Take left fork.
15.0: High bluff on left; Barton Creek at bottom: fine view.
15.5: Cross Barton Creek; house on right; keep straight.
16.9: Bee Cave road coming in on right; turn back on this road; road straight ahead goes to Bee Cave, Pedernales and Marble Falls; sign boards in fork of roads; house across the road.
17.1: House on left; follow telephone wires.
17.6: House on left.
18.4: Road coming in on right.
20.0: Schoolhouse or church on left; and winds up hill.
20.3: Fine scene in front and right; road winds down hill.
20.5: Road coming in on right; chimney on right where house burned.
21.1: Fine view to right.
21.9: Road winds around ledge on side of mountain; valley on left and mountains in distance; Lake Austin in front.
22.1: Turkey Foot; road coming in right, going out on left; fine view on right and left; sign board; 11.7 miles to Austin.
22.7: Romantic scenery on right and left; mountain in front.
23.0: Fine cross-country view to left.
23.1: Road coming in on left from Colorado River.
23.2: Excellent view on both sides of road.
23.7: Deep canyon on right and left.
24.1: Roy ranch house on left.
25.2: Very high bluff overlooking valley on right.
26.0: Upper entrance to Marshall’s goat ranch.
27.7: Fine view of Austin in front.
30.4: Barton Springs on right.
31.3: Road goes under International & Great Northern Railroad again.
32.1: Concrete bridge over Colorado River.
32.7 Austin, Sixth Street and Congress Avenue.
August 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
In an early blow for equal rights for women, a couple of demi monds were working on the Austin street chain gang 140 years ago today, paying off fines of $30 and $40 for using obscene language on the streets. One of them had $65 in her stocking but evidently chose not to spend it. Luckily for them, an early cool front several days earlier brought somewhat more bearable temperatures and showers that wetted Austin’s notoriously dusty and blindingly white stone streets.
The backbone of the brutal summer had perhaps been broken, the Austin Daily Statesman mused, but the paper did not mince words when it dished out its opinion of this newly instituted penal practice.
The Hopeless Women on the Chain Gang – A Foul Shame and Horrible Crime.
“The subjection of women, however degraded, to public degradation, is hardly to be tolerated. It is bad enough that these lost and hopeless creatures are shunned by their own sex and abhorred by social law. They are infamous till the very term applied to them makes decency shudder, and when it must be printed the very types refuse to spell the word, and like an execration only the first and last letter of the damning epithet appears – thus: wh—e! Despite all this, these are women, once as pure and spotless as the best that scorn them. They have hands as delicate and limbs as shapely and brows as fair as the proudest damsel who has never heard a word that would bring a blush to the cheek of modesty. Fallen women they are, and they fell because they were betrayed by someone brutal enough to enjoy the debasing spectacle witnessed yesterday on the streets of the capital, when brawny, clubbed and pistoled policemen stood as masters beside the helpless women to make them toil as guilty slaves in the hot sunlight on the stony streets, and to be stared at by a jeering mob. The spectacle was revolting to common decency, and every gentleman who remembered that his mother and sister are women, shuddered when he contemplated it. They cannot work on the streets; no force or barbarity or exposure to public gaze, and no application of the club or lash can force them to do that of which they are physically incapable, and, therefore, this exposure of women to popular execration must have origin in some personal purpose of which the public is unadvised.
“Chain them to a tree. Their hands are small and limbs delicate, and the fetters must fit tightly, and then when these poor creatures, already degraded by the lives they lead and by the oaths to which they constantly listen from men a thousand-fold more brutal than themselves – when these women, starved as they are, and cursed and driven about by heartless men are thoroughly lost to all sense of shame and made to hate man and womankind, then take them back to the wretched dens in which they lead most wretched modes of life and then, when the good deeds of the city government are thus crowned with glory, we may have leisure to reflect that no punishment is inflicted by law which is not designed to reform the sufferer, or others, by the example. In this case a crowd of vulgar boys are only brutalized, and two women, fair enough to look upon, are made whited sepulchers, and the miserable men who must inflict the punishment are degraded in their own eyes. This horrible lesson is one full of degradation to a whole community.”
And that was soon the end of that.
And if you are curious, as I was, about the term “whited sepulchers,” it comes from the Bible, Matthew 23:27 (King James Version) when Jesus shouted, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
It was the Jewish custom to whitewash the exteriors of their tombs, or “sepulchers.” Several days ‘midst the dust of Austin’s streets had turned our two ladies of the night blindingly white.
August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
Back in the 1880s, all the most prominent men (and sometimes the infamous) in Austin were firefighters. If Michael Dell had been alive then, he would have been a firefighter. Companies were all volunteer and independent then, and competition among them was healthy.
Austin had been plagued by crime in the 1870s, and Ben Thompson, Austin’s most notorious gambler and pistolero, had been elected City Marshal in December 1880 on the voters’ theory that “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.”
The voters had chosen wisely. Once on the right side of the law, Thompson rapidly bulldozed the town into order. On August 9, 1881, Thompson, of Hope Hook & Ladder Company No. 2, took the train to Sherman to attend the state firemen’s convention.
And like an episode of Andy Griffith with Barney Fife as acting sheriff, the wheels were soon off the cart.
Whitt Burdett, John Dalley and Tom Morgan, along about 12 o’clock that night, were making things lively down in Guy Town and were having an intensely interesting time. They visited several places, and along about the bewitching hour took drinks in the famous Gem saloon. This had a decidedly exhilarating effect on the trio, and one of them after leaving the saloon drew a musical little pistol and fired it off. This attracted Policeman Evans, who at once set out and overhauled the young men and conducted them to the lock-up. Morgan threw his pistol out of the window while being searched, but the officer saw him and went down and got it. Burdett and Dalley pled guilty to the charge of disturbing the peace the next day and were fined $5 and costs each. Morgan, for carrying deadly weapons, was fined $15 (more than $300 in today’s money) and costs.
Elsewhere that night down in Guy Town, Henry Martin, riding a horse, dismounted in front of Mahogany Hall, and unloosing a 40 foot rope from the pommel of the saddle, retained one end in his hand and entered the house to have a quiet chat with the inmates for a few moments. When he entered, rope in hand, his horse was securely fastened to the other end, but on coming out he discovered that some fellow had approached, and untying the rope, had mounted Martin’s horse and rode off. He was seen some 40 or 50 yards off riding away at a rapid gait. Martin was now minus a horse, and vowed the next time he visited the damsels of the first ward he would take horse, saddle, bridle, rope and all into the parlor and stake ‘em to the piano legs.
August 5, 2016 § Leave a comment
With the recent tragic deaths of 16 ballooners near Lockhart from electrocution and/or fire, we are reminded of electricity’s awesome powers and dangers.
A friend of mine suicided some years ago by tying a power saw around his wrists, turning it on, and jumping into his swimming pool.
Incidental or accidental, electricity and water do not play nicely together.
Austin’s first death from electrocution occurred about noon on Saturday, August 27, 1888, when Edmund Ramey, a colored porter at the Iron Front saloon (corner 6th and Congress), went upstairs to wash the rear windows.
The second story of the building extended back about 80 feet, while the lower one, which contained the billiard hall, ran through to the alley, near the Driskill Hotel
Ramey, once upstairs, went out on the billiard hall roof with a small step ladder, and proceeded to wash the window glass.
He was gone some time, much longer than was necessary to accomplish the task, and his services being needed downstairs another porter went for him.
He went upstairs, and going out on the roof of the billiard hall was astounded and horrified at finding Ramey lying on the roof stone dead but still warm.
He gave the alarm and at once the news spread and an eager crowd soon gathered on the premises, all eager to see the victim and hear the particulars of the electric tragedy, the first serious one to have occurred in this city.
An investigation of all the surroundings led to the belief that while Ramey was washing the window through which the electric wire attached to the fan motor passed, he accidentally touched it and his death was instantaneous. There was not out cry, no call for assistance, no struggle, no anything but awful, sure, swift silent death.
The death-dealing wire was one of the patent insulated ones, but the covering had been saturated by the rains, destroying the insulation, and the moment the unfortunate man touched it his death followed, then and there. He either caught, or accidentally touched the wire with his right hand, three fingers of which were badly burned, the little one entirely through the bone, and it was left hanging by a small piece of skin.
Edmund Ramey was a brother to little Mary Ramey, who was so cruelly assassinated during the series of “servant girl” murders of 1885. His mother, who was wounded the night of Mary’s death, was still living but never recovered from the shock and the wounds of that terrible night of blood.
Coroner Calhoun was called, viewed the body of the deceased and held an inquest. He was as astonished as was everyone else at the hot feeling of the body and it remained in that condition for a long time.
Another Electric Prank.
Early the next morning, Sunday morning, the colored cook, old “Uncle Jack” Spann, at Mrs. Holly’s boarding house on 6th Street, entered the kitchen and proceeded to get breakfast.
The apartment was lighted with an incandescent electric light and about the time Uncle Jack thought he had the meal comfortably cooked he happened to step immediately under the festive little burner and in a trice he was prostrated to the floor. He was suddenly knocked down and lay where he fell, as if dead.
Mr. Jim Holly, standing in the dining room, saw him fall, and ran to his assistance, but no sooner did he step on the kitchen floor than he too was sent sprawling down upon it. Jim managed to get up and raised the alarm, and Dr. Johnson was sent for.
By this time the stove, the cooking utensils and the entire kitchen was completely electrified, and sparks and flashes of flame were darting in every direction.
Dr. Johnson arrived in a few minutes and when he stepped into the kitchen, received a severe shock.
He, with others about in the house, however, managed to get Uncle Jack out of the kitchen, and the doctor after some time, restored him to consciousness, but it was several hours before he could walk, and by evening, he had not fully recovered.
The able electrician was called by telephone and hurried up from the dynamo works. He found the kitchen still under the control of the electric fluid. He also found that the wires leading across the street were having a time of it, sending bright flashes along each other, and altogether the electric current seemed to turn itself loose and was out on a lark in the rain and murk of the Sabbath morning.
The trouble was caused by an arc light wire getting across the incandescent wire leading into Mrs. Holley’s kitchen. For some time after the trouble was removed the kitchen furniture was still electrified, and it was impossible to pick up the coffee pot or other metal articles without being shocked.
At the end of its coverage of both events, the Daily Statesman sternly warned the electric light company of the absolute necessity of a daily inspection of their wires in all parts of the city; it was a duty the company owed the public to so arrange them that by no possible chance would they come in contact with either the incandescent or telephone wires.
June 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
This little story ran in the January 20, 1855, edition of Austin’s Texas State Times and reads as fresh as anything in the political headlines today about “Cheeto Jesus” Trump and his minions.
A rather ludicrous exposition of “Young America’s” ideas of “Know Nothingism” occurred in the streets some weeks since. An “organ-grinder” with a monkey had been perambulating the place. The boys tried little tricks on the German which he bore with Job-like patience. They finally endeavored to lasso Mr. Monkey and thereby greatly enraged Mr. Kraut, who swore at them in bad English, and threw stones after them as they retreated. One of them, a sprout beyond the Atlantic, turned upon the Baron: “Oh, yes, you damned old Dutch rascal, the Know Nothings will be along here directly. They’ll clean you up.”
March 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Hemingway called it the black ass, them mean ol’ black-ass blues. Ain’t no song for the black-ass blues, so I’ve got to write it myself. If I finish getting the words down, the tune will come.
When the sun is bright,
But my soul is dark,
The sky is aching blue.
I’ve got the black-ass blues.
The black-ass blues,
Ink black thoughts.
I’m all washed up.
Ain’t no gettin’ out
Of that deep black hole.
The Black-ass blues …
October 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, the strange story of Austin’s Mr. Brauner, winter of 1890, from the Daily Statesman:
Mr. Brauner, who was found dead in his home south of the city last Sunday, was a native of Silesia. He was a graduate of the Vienna College of Architects where he took a full course, working in the city at odd jobs at the same time to obtain money to pay his way.
He was also a student in physics and had a good general education. After leaving college, he determined to come to America and worked his passage to Galveston, and from there he came to Austin, reaching here, as he often told, with just $2.00 in his pockets.
Being a practical workman, and understanding architecture, he soon secured work and for some years had more than ordinary success and accumulated some property.
He was eccentric however, and very superstitious and while superintending the construction of Mr. Newning’s residence at times he would hoist little flags to keep off, he said, evil spirits who were prone two warp roam about molesting the work of mortals.
He often talked about suicides to his friends in a general way and evidently he had given the matter much attention. He was thoroughly familiar with the different modes used to commit suicide, and as a student of physics he gave the various modes close study.
In short, he planned to several ways to commit suicide by physical force, and in conversation often asserted that a man could kill himself in such a way as to baffle the doctors and scientists. He asserted that by physical force and the use of certain instruments, he could take his own life in such a manner as to cause physicians and experts to positively affirm that no man could commit the act with his own hands.
The whole trend of his argument, while discoursing upon the subject, showed that the plans and modes he had studied out for self destruction were arranged especially for puzzling the physicians.
In a conversation a short time before his death, he brought up the subject of suicides and he was very confident that his mode would cause experts to declare that they were impossible and that a person using either of them never suicided but had been murdered or met death by accident.
When asked to explain his modes, he would refuse, and what object he had in wishing to confuse the doctors and experts, he never told.
Suicide with him was reduced to a physical science, and either of his plans successfully carried out would create wonder and cause doctors to look wise and calmly aver that it was impossible, while able coroners and intelligent inquest juries would have horrible visions of murder and assassination and suchlike.
Perhaps Mr. Brauner, who was a spiritualist, pictured in his own mind that if he should kill himself his spirit would be around at the inquest and have grim satisfaction in watching the confusion and listening to the various theories advanced as to how the deed was committed.