Remembering the worst ever U.S. industrial accident, 1947: 576 dead at Texas City

April 16, 2014

April 16 marks the 67th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster.

It’s a day Texans, and all Americans should note.  It’s an event we need to remember, because every point of the disaster is something we forget at our very great peril.  Thinking such a disaster could not happen again, and failing to train for these same conditions, contributed to the disaster last year in West, Texas.

67 years ago, in the harbor at Texas City, a large cargo ship being loaded with tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, setting fire to other nearby ships, one of which exploded, devastating much of the town. In all, 576 people died in Texas City on April 16 and 17, 1947.

View of Texas City from across the bay, in Galveston, April 16, 1947

View of Texas City from Galveston, across the bay, after the explosion of the French ship SS Grandchamp, April 16, 1947. Photo from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1259

The incident also produced one of the most famous tort cases in U.S. history, Dalehite vs. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953). (Here is the Findlaw version, subscription may be required.)

The entire Texas City fire department was wiped out, 28 firefighters in all. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1259 has a website dedicated to the history of the disaster, with a collection of some powerful photographs.

More below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


Texas Independence Day, March 2 – fly your Texas flag today

March 2, 2014

Texans writing the Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836

In a meeting hall at Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texans meet to write the Texas Declaration of Independence, released March 2, 1836; image from Portal to Texas History

So, put some barbecue in the smoker, get a Shiner for you and your pet armadillo, sit back and enjoy the holiday.  If you’re near Washington-on-the-Brazos, go to the ceremony.  You’d better be sure you’ve got plenty of Blue Bell Ice Cream.

What?  You don’t get the day off?  You know, Texas schools don’t even take the day off any more.  (In 2014, of course, it’s a Sunday.)

I thought things were going to change when the Tea Party got to Austin and Washington?  What happened?

For Texas Independence Day, it’s appropriate to fly your U.S. flag — or your Texas flag, if you have one.

Original Manuscript, Texas Declaration of Independence - Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Original Manuscript, Texas Declaration of Independence, page 1 – Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Text from the image above:

The Unanimous
Declaration of Independence
made by the
Delegates of the People of Texas
in General Convention
at the Town of Washington
on the 2nd day of March 1836

When a government has ceased
to protect the lives, liberty and property
of the people, from whom its legitimate
powers are derived, and for the advance-
ment of whose happiness it was inst-
ituted, and so far from being a guaran-
tee for the enjoyment of those inesti-
mable and inalienable rights, becomes
an instrument in the hands of evil
rulers for their oppression.

[Complete text, and images of each page, at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission site.]

Resources for Texas Independence Day

Resources at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

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This is mostly an encore post.


Texas Statehood, December 29, 1845 – 168 years ago

December 29, 2013

texas our texas

U.S. and Texas flags at the Texas Capitol – photo: jmtimages

168 years ago today: Rub your pet armadillo’s belly, slaughter the fatted longhorn, crank up the barbecue pit with the mesquite wood, put Willie Nelson and Bob Wills on the mp3 player, put the “Giant” DVD on the television, and raise your glass of Big Red, Dr. Pepper, or Lone Star Beer (or Pearl, or Shiner Bock, or Llano Wine).

U.S. Flag Code rules urge flying the U.S. flag on the anniversary of a state’s joining the Union — even as much as that will frost the tiny band of desperate Texas secessionists.  (Will the secessionists fly the Texas flag at half-staff?)

Texas was admitted to the union of the United States of America on December 29, 1845.

President Polk's authorization to affix Great Seal of the U.S. to Texas Statehood documents

President Polk’s Authorization to Affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood documents – Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

The text of Polk’s message:

I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to an authenticated copy of “an act to extend the laws of the United States over the State of Texas and for other purposes” approved Dec. 29, 1845 dated this day, and signed by me and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

James K. Polk
Washington, Dec. 29, 1845

Seal of the U.S. affixed to Texas Statehood Proclamation

Great Seal of the United States of America, affixed to the Texas Statehood Proclamation – image from State Archives Division, Texas State Library

Resources:

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Much of this post appeared here before; it’s an annual event, after all.


Will Rogers and Wiley Post crashed in Alaska, August 15, 1935

August 15, 2013

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

August 15, the Ides of August, hosted several significant events through the years.  In 1935, it was a tragic day in Alaska, as an airplane crash took lives of Will Rogers and Wiley Post.  To refresh your memory, an encore post, with a few edits and additions.

After Mark Twain died, America found another great humorist, raconteur, story-teller, who tickled the nation’s funny-bone and pricked the collective social conscience at the same time. Will Rogers is most famous today for his sentiment that he never met a man he didn’t like. In 1935, he was at the height of his popularity, still performing as a lariat-twirling, Vaudeville comedian who communed with presidents, and kept his common sense. He wrote a daily newspaper column that was carried in 500 newspapers across America.  Rogers was so popular that Texas and Oklahoma have dueled over who gets the bragging rights in claiming him as a native son.

Will Rogers ready to perform.  Photo taken prior to 1900 - Wikimedia

Will Rogers ready to perform. Photo taken prior to 1900 – Wikimedia

Wiley Post was known as one of the best pilots in America. He gained fame by being the first pilot to fly solo around the world. Post was famous for his work developing new ways to fly at high altitudes. Post was born in Texas and moved to Oklahoma. He lost an eye in an oil-field accident in 1924, then used the settlement money to buy his first airplane. He befriended Will Rogers when flying Rogers to an appearance at a Rodeo, and the two kept up their friendship literally to death.

Post asked Rogers to come along on a tour of the great unknown land of Alaska, where Post was trying to map routes for mail planes to Russia. Ever adventurous, Rogers agreed — he could file his newspaper columns from Alaska by radio and telephone. On August 15, 1935, their airplane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, killing them both.

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying - Wikimedia photo

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying – Wikimedia photo

On August 15, 2008, a ceremony in Claremore, Oklahoma, honored the two men on the 73rd anniversary of their deaths. About 50 pilots from Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas will fly in to the Claremore Airport for the Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In Weekend. Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins will offer a tribute.

Rogers was 56, leaving behind his wife, Betty, and four children. Post, 36, left a widow.

Rogers’ life is really quite legendary. Historian Joseph H. Carter summed it up:

Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure. He now is a legend.

Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was taught by a freed slave how to use a lasso as a tool to work Texas Longhorn cattle on the family ranch.
As he grew older, Will Rogers’ roping skills developed so special that he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for throwing three lassos at once: One rope caught the running horse’s neck, the other would hoop around the rider and the third swooped up under the horse to loop all four legs.

Will Rogers’ unsurpassed lariat feats were recorded in the classic movie, “The Ropin’ Fool.”

His hard-earned skills won him jobs trick roping in wild west shows and on the vaudeville stages where, soon, he started telling small jokes.

Quickly, his wise cracks and folksy observations became more prized by audiences than his expert roping. He became recognized as being a very informed and smart philosopher–telling the truth in very simple words so that everyone could understand.

After the 10th grade, Will Rogers dropped out of school to become a cowboy in a cattle drive. He always regretted that he didn’t finish school, but he made sure that he never stopped learning–reading, thinking and talking to smart people. His hard work paid off.

Will Rogers was the star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s; a popular broadcaster; besides writing more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns and befriending Presidents, Senators and Kings.

During his lifetime, he traveled around the globe three times– meeting people, covering wars, talking about peace and learning everything possible.

He wrote six books. In fact he published more than two million words. He was the first big time radio commentator, was a guest at the White House and his opinions were sought by the leaders of the world.

Inside himself, Will Rogers remained a simple Oklahoma cowboy. “I never met a man I didn’t like,” was his credo of genuine love and respect for humanity and all people everywhere. He gave his own money to disaster victims and raised thousands for the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Post’s legacy is significant, too. His employer, Oklahoma oil man F. C. Hall, encouraged Post to push for aviation records using Hall’s Lockheed Vega, and Post was happy to comply. Before his history-making trip around the world, he had won races and navigation contests. NASA traces the development of the space-walking suits worn by astronauts to Post’s early attempts for flight records:

For Wiley Post to achieve the altitude records he sought, he needed protection. (Pressurized aircraft cabins had not yet been developed.) Post’s solution was a suit that could be pressurized by his airplane engine’s supercharger.

First attempts at building a pressure suit failed since the suit became rigid and immobile when pressurized. Post discovered he couldn’t move inside the inflated suit, much less work airplane controls. A later version succeeded with the suit constructed already in a sitting position. This allowed Post to place his hands on the airplane controls and his feet on the rudder bars. Moving his arms and legs was difficult, but not impossible. To provide visibility, a viewing port was part of the rigid helmet placed over Post’s head. The port was small, but a larger one was unnecessary because Post had only one good eye!

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Alaska bush advocate Pamela Bumsted.

Resources:


Amazon haiku to Sen. Wendy Davis’s pink Mizuno shoes

June 27, 2013

(Yes, you’re right — the shoes are red, not pink.)

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis‘s filibuster so insinuated itself into our culture already that it is now a part of shoe reviews at Amazon.com:

Mizuno running shoes for sale at Amazon.com -- the same shoes Sen. Wendy Davis wore during her filibuster on June 25, 2012.

Mizuno running shoes for sale at Amazon.com — the same shoes Sen. Wendy Davis wore during her filibuster on June 25, 2012.

Customer Review


147 of 150 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars SHOES HAIKUS, June 27, 2013

By

mistersnoid “mistersnoid”

This review is from: Mizuno Women’s Wave Rider 16 Running Shoe (Apparel)

Wendy wore these, and
she wasn’t even running.
Here’s hopes she soon will!

Standing and talking,
one needs a lot of support.
You have all of ours.

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Mizuno's red running shoes, worn by Texas Sen. Wendy Davis.  Image from Outside the Beltway

Mizuno’s red running shoes, worn by Texas Sen. Wendy Davis. Image from Outside the Beltway


Dallas crime history: Deaths of Bonnie and Clyde, May 23, 1934

May 23, 2013

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, notorious bank-robbing outlaws from Oak Cliff, Texas, ran into a police ambush and were shot to death on May 23, 1934, in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

Bonnie and Clyde in 1933 - Wikimedia

Bonnie and Clyde in 1933, about a year before their deaths – Wikimedia image

Though they wished to be buried together, her family protested. They are buried in separate cemeteries in Dallas. Bonnie is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery off of Webb Chapel Road in Dallas (do not confuse with the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis). Clyde is buried in the Western Heights Cemetery off of Fort Worth Boulevard, in Oak Cliff (now a part of Dallas).

Borrowed originally with express permission from a Wayback Machine; expanded and edited here.

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Additional photo resources:

US Department of Justice, Division of Investig...

US Department of Justice, Division of Investigation identification order for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Image via Wikipedia

Posse suffered deafness for hours after unleas...

“Posse members suffered deafness for hours after unleashing the thunderous fusillade” Wikipedia image

English: Photo of the grave of Clyde Barrow

The grave of Clyde Barrow – Wikipedia image

English: Photo of the grave of Bonnie Parker

The grave of Bonnie Parker – Wikipedia image

You should recall Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in their movie turn as Bonnie and Clyde.  But Serge Gainsborough and Brigitte Bardot, in French?  From 1968:


Remembering Lindheimer’s muhly grass from last year’s garden

April 23, 2013

It’s spring.  The grasses are sprouting.

Texas is a good place for grasses.

Lindheimer's muhly grass, in the afternoon sun

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Dallas, Texas, January 2013. Photo by Ed Darrell; horticultural adventures by Kathryn Knowles

Spring sunlight is spectacular on the new flowers; winter sunlight, in the afternoon, shows a different kind of spectacular.

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, shows beauty from soon after it sprouts until long after it’s gone dormant.  A garden is a year-around project, and joy.

History lives in those grasses, too.  You can find some at the Native Plant Society of Texas’s website, and its description of Lindheimer’s muhly.

This seems pretty dumb now, but many years ago when I first heard about so many grasses called “muley,” I was puzzled about that name. I’d heard of muley cattle such as polled Herefords, but not hornless grass! Needless to say, as soon as I looked up Lindheimer muhly, I could see it is in a genus named after a Mr. Muhlenberg.

Gotthilf Hunrich Ernst Muhlenberg lived from 1753 to 1815. He was born into a prominent Pennsylvania family, and his father and brothers were influential patriots during the Revolutionary War. Because of his family’s involvement in the Revolution, Muhlenberg was on the British hit list.

While he was hiding out in a rural area away from Philadelphia during the Revolution, Muhlenberg became interested in botany. Through his extensive collections, Muhlenberg made major contributions to botany, and many plants have been named in his honor. For example, among our local flora are several species of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia) and Chinquapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii).

Lindheimer muhly was named in honor of Ferdinand Lindheimer, the “Father of Texas Botany.” Many other plants native to the Texas Hill Country also bear the name “Lindheimer” or “Lindheimer’s.” Most of these plants were first collected by Lindheimer, who settled on the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels in 1845.

Another entry in the Blackland Prairie Almanac, perhaps.

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