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

More:

This is mostly an encore post.


Teacher video: No, Texas can’t secede

December 11, 2012

Another video from super teacher CGPGrey, right up our Texas alley, on the issue of Texas secession:

Minor error:  No provision I can find in any Texas Constitution to allow Texas to split.  Language to allow a territory to split into as many as five states was pretty standard for new U.S. territories organized during the 19th century; but that didn’t carry over to the Texas Constitution approved by Congress, not in a unilateral way.  One needs to recall that when Texas entered the Union, it carried with it lands that eventually became parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming — which was part of the scruff with Mexico, which led to the U.S.-Mexico war of 1846 to 1848.

Still a teacher from another state demonstrates a much clearer conception of Texas history and state and federal law than some of the nutcases in Texas.  That so many Texans hold so many false perceptions of law and Texas history is an indictment of Texas education, and Texas’s governor and legislature.

You also should check out:

And, while we’re thinking about it, did you ever comment on the Digital Aristotle concept, which first introduced this blog to Mr. Grey?

More:


One more time: No, Texas cannot secede; no, Texas can’t split itself (2012 edition)

November 13, 2012

Someone in Texas, I swear, sells do-it-yourself-at-home lobotomy kits.  Worse, about 50,000 Texans buy the kits every year, and give themselves a self-lobotomy.  Then, when something happens in national politics or something else that doesn’t please them, having put an ice pick through that part of the brain that carries reason and self-control, and scrambled it, they start spouting nonsense about “Texas ought to secede.”

Texas splits from union, trespasses on Mexico

If Texas seceded from the U.S., would it be trespassing on Mexico?

This issue heated up last just after President Barack Obama took office and stopped the national slide into recession; Texans got ticked off that Obama hadn’t let them slip down the bung hole, and the Tea Party was born to push and make sure no one stopped such a slide in the future.  Rick Perry, our peripatetic occasional governor and head coyote persecutor, threw gasoline on the fire.  I posted this explanation back then.

Comes the 2012 election, Democrats and other supporters of Obama rise up and re-elect him.  One of the previously mentioned fools found a feature President Obama’s team added to the White House website, whereby anyone can start a petition on a subject; Obama being the fair-minded man these fools claim he is not, Obama and his team said they’d answer any petition that got more than 25,000 signatures.  Several people started petitions asking for secession.

Think about that for a moment.  They’re appealing to President Obama to let the secede, because they don’t like Obama’s reelection.  Compounding the irony, they’re using a citizen-feedback system designed by Obama’s team.

But then the pro-secession, anti-Obama people threw all sense to the wind.  This process is almost outside official channels.  While Congress will accept petitions, there’s no guarantee that these petitions will go to Congress — only that the Obama White House will answer the petition in some form.

More than a few of the signers are convinced that if they hit the magic number of 25,000 signatures, the action becomes semi-0fficial and will get real consideration.  Here’s news:  You might get a letter from President Obama.  Won’t that please them no end?

Gov. Perry already disowned the current round of zaniness.  It interferes with the zaniness in the run-up to the bi-annual Texas State Legislature meeting, for which “prefiling” of bills started this week.  Even and perhaps especially political zanies can handle only so much zaniness at one time — they’ve hit their zenith of zaniness for 2012.

But the bloggers and Facebookers still jump up and down.  Now, Dear Reader, you are a person of some intelligence:  You don’t think evolution is “from the pit of Hell,” you vaccinate your children and get an annual flu shot, you haven’t been abducted by alien spaceships recently, you worry that your home insurance will continue to climb until we act as a nation to stop air pollution that causes climate change, you understand Hawaii has been a state since 1960 and so a man born there after that, or at any time after annexation in 1898, is a U.S. citizen eligible to be U.S. president, and you don’t fear the UN is going to come take your golf course away (especially since golf-loving Barack Obama is our president); so I warn you, those yahoos who forgot entirely about the Civil War and think they might get a chance to secede from the U.S. and NASCAR just by putting their name on an internet petition, are not going to believe you, nor will they grant any credence to the facts outlined below, as to just why Texas cannot and will not secede.

But, here’s the explanation, anyway:

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Rick Perry put his foot into something during one of the Astro-turf “tea parties” on April 15 [2009].  Someone asked him about whether Texas should secede from the United States, as a protest against high taxes, or something.

The answer to the question is “No, secession is not legal.  Did you sleep through all of your U.S. history courses?  Remember the Civil War?”

Alas, Perry didn’t say that.

Instead, Perry said it’s not in the offing this week, but ‘Washington had better watch out.’

He qualified his statement by saying the U.S. is a “great union,” but he said Texans are thinking about seceding, and he trotted out a hoary old Texas tale that Texas had reserved that right in the treaty that ceded Texas lands to the U.S. in the switch from being an independent republic after winning independence from Mexico, to statehood in the U.S.

So, rational people want to know:  Does Perry know what he’s talking about?

No, he doesn’t.  Bud Kennedy, columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (still one of America’s great newspapers despite the efforts of its corporate owners to whittle it down), noted the error and checked with Gov. Perry’s history instructors at Texas A&M and his old high school, both of which said that Perry didn’t get the tale from them.  (Score one for Texas history teachers; rethink the idea about letting people run for state office without having to pass the high school exit history exam.)

A&M professor Walter L. Buenger is a fifth-generation Texan and author of a textbook on Texas’ last secession attempt. (The federal occupation lasted eight years after the Civil War.)

“It was a mistake then, and it’s an even bigger mistake now,” Buenger said by phone from College Station, where he has taught almost since Perry was an Aggie yell leader.

“And you can put this in the paper: To even bring it up shows a profound lack of patriotism,” Buenger said.

The 1845 joint merger agreement with Congress didn’t give Texas an option clause. The idea of leaving “was settled long ago,” he said.

“This is simple rabble-rousing and political posturing,” he said. “That’s all it is.  . . .  Our governor is now identifying himself with the far-right lunatic fringe.”

Three false beliefs about Texas history keep bubbling up, and need to be debunked every time.  The first is that Texas had a right to secede; the second is that Texas can divide itself into five states; and the third is that the Texas flag gets special rights over all other state flags in the nation.

Under Abraham Lincoln’s view the Union is almost sacred, and once a state joins it, the union expands to welcome that state, but never can the state get out.  Lincoln’s view prevailed in the Civil War, and in re-admittance of the 11 Confederate states after the war.

The second idea also died with Texas’s readmission.  The original enabling act (not treaty) said Texas could be divided, but under the Constitution’s powers delegated to Congress on statehood, the admission of Texas probably vitiated that clause.  In any case, the readmission legislation left it out.  Texas will remain the Lone Star State, and not become a Five Star Federation. (We dealt with this issue in an earlier post you probably should click over to see.)

Texas’s flag also gets no special treatment.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard Texans explain to Boy Scouts that the Texas flag — and only the Texas flag — may fly at the same level as the U.S. flag on adjacent flag poles.  Under the flag code, any flag may fly at the same level; the requirement is that the U.S. flag be on its own right.

Gov. Perry is behind Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in polling of a head-to-head contest between the two to see who will be the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 — Hutchison is gunning to unseat Perry.  He was trying to throw some red meat to far-right conservative partisans who, he hopes, will stick by him in that primary election.

Alas, he came off throwing out half-baked ideas instead.  It’s going to be a long, nasty election campaign.  [Yeah, those two paragraphs are dated; they are here as historical footnote.]

_____________

Update [2009]: A commenter named Bill Brock (the Bill Brock?) found the New York Times article from 1921 detailing John Nance Garner’s proposal to split Texas into five.  Nice find!

Another update: How much fuss should be made over the occasional wild hare move for some state to secede?  Probably not much.  A few years ago Alaska actually got a referendum on the ballot to study secession.  The drive to secede got nowhere, of course.  I was tracking it at the time to see whether anyone cared.  To the best of my knowledge, the New York Times never mentioned the controversy in Alaska, and the Washington Post gave it barely three paragraphs at the bottom of an inside page.

Texas has a slightly grandiose view of itself. TM Daily Post image

Texas has a slightly grandiose view of itself. TM Daily Post image

More and Related Information:


El Grito de Dolores, September 16 (2012 edition)

September 16, 2012

An encore post, repeated:

No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s “Independence Day.”

It’s amazing what is not available on video for use in the classroom.

Texas kids have to study the “Grito de Dolores” in the 7th grade – the “Cry from Dolores” in one translation, or the “Cry of Pain” in another (puns in Spanish! Do kids get it?). Father Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo made the speech on September 16, 1810, upon the news that Spanish authorities had learned of his conspiracy to revolt for independence. The revolution had been planned for December 8, but Hidalgo decided it had to start early.

This date is celebrated in Mexico as Independence Day. Traditionally the President of Mexico issues an update on the Grito, after the original bell that Father Hidalgo used is rung, near midnight.

Hidalgo himself was captured by the Spanish in 1811, and executed.

Father Hidalgo issues the Grito

Statue of Father Hidalgo in Dolores, Mexico.

It’s a great story. It’s a good speech, what little we have of it (Hidalgo used no text, and we work from remembered versions).
It’s important to Texas history, too — it’s difficult to imagine Tejians getting independence from Spain in quite the same way they won it from Mexico.

Why isn’t there a good 10- to 15-minute video on the thing for classroom use? Get a good actor to do the speech, it could be a hit. Where is the video when we need it?

Update from 2008: Glimmerings of hope on the video front:  Amateur videos on YouTube provide some of the sense of what goes on in modern celebrations.

And, see this re-enactment from Monterrey:

Update from 2009: The Library of Congress’s Wise Guide for September features the history of the day:

The Grito de Dolores (“Cry of/from Dolores”) was the battle cry of the Mexican War of Independence, uttered on September 16, 1810, by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Roman Catholic priest from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato, Mexico.

“My Children, a new dispensation comes to us today…Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen 300 years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.”

Although many mistakenly attribute the Cinco de Mayo holiday as the celebration of Mexican independence, Sept. 16 was the day the enthusiastic Indian and mestizo congregation of Hidalgo’s small Dolores parish church took up arms and began their fight for freedom against Spain.

Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920” has a rich collection of photographs of Mexico. To view these pictures, search the collection on “Mexico.”

Portals to the World contains selective links providing authoritative, in-depth information about the nations and other areas of the world. Resources on Mexico include information on the country’s history, religion, culture and society to name a few.

September is also a notable month for Hispanic culture with the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month Sept 15 – Oct. 15. Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition to Mexico’s independence day on Sept. 16, Chile recognizes its independence day Sept.18. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is Oct. 12, falls within this 30-day period.

The theme for the 2009 Hispanic Heritage Month was “Embracing the Fierce Urgency of Now!” To coincide with the celebration, the Library and several partners present a website honoring Hispanic culture and people. [Nice idea, calling it “Heritage Month” instead of “History Month;” maybe we can change February to “Black Heritage Month,” and study Hispanic and black history every day.]

Viva la república! Viva el Cura Hidalgo! Una página de Gloria, TITLE TRANSLATION: Long live the republic! Long live Father Hidalgo! A page of glory. Between 1890 and 1913. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction Nos.: LC-USZ62-98851 (b&w film copy neg.), LC-DIG-ppmsc-04595 (digital file from original, recto), LC-DIG-ppmsc-04596 (digital file from original, verso); Call No.: PGA - Vanegas, no. 123 (C size) [P&P] Catalog Record: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04595A street in Guanajuato, Mexico. Between 1880 and 1897. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-D418-8481 (b&w glass neg.); Call No.: LC-D418-8481 <P&P>[P&P] Catalog Record: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/det.4a27131

Specifically on the Grito de Dolores, see the Library of Congress’s American Memory Project:

Cry of Dolores

My Children, a new dispensation comes to us today…Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once.Cry of Dolores, attributed to Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, September 16, 1810.

The Palace from the Cathedral, city of Mexico
The [National] Palace from the Cathedral, city of Mexico,
William Henry Jackson, photographer,
between 1880 and 1897.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

Early on the morning of September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla summoned the largely Indian and mestizo congregation of his small Dolores parish church and urged them to take up arms and fight for Mexico’s independence from Spain. His El Grito de Dolores, or Cry of Dolores, which was spoken—not written—is commemorated on September 16 as Mexican Independence Day.

Father Hidalgo was born into a moderately wealthy family in the city of Guanajuato, northwest of Mexico City, in 1753. He attended the Jesuit College of San Francisco Javier, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mexico in 1774, and was ordained into the priesthood in 1778. He soon earned the enmity of the authorities, however, by openly challenging both church doctrine and aspects of Spanish rule by developing Mexican agriculture and industry.

In 1803, Hidalgo accepted the curacy of the small parish of Dolores, not far from his native city of Guanajuato. Between 1803 and 1810, he directed most of his energy to improving the economic prospects of his parishioners. He also joined the Academia Literaria, a committee seeking Mexico’s independence from Spain.

Guanajuato, Mexico
Guanajuato, Mexico,
William Henry Jackson, photographer,
between 1880 and 1897.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

In September 1810, Spanish authorities learned of the group’s plot to incite a rebellion. On September 13, they searched the home of Emeterio González in the city of Queretaro where they found a large supply of weapons and ammunition. Warned of his impending arrest, Hidalgo preempted authorities by issuing the El Grito de Dolores on the morning of September 16. Attracting enthusiastic support from the Indian and mestizo population, he and his band of supporters moved toward the town of San Miguel.

The rebel army encountered its first serious resistance at Guanajuato. After a fierce battle that took the lives of more than 500 Spaniards and 2,200 Indians, the rebels won the city. By October, the rebel army, now 80,000 strong, was close to taking Mexico City. Hidalgo, fearful of unleashing the army on the capital city, hesitated, then retreated to the north. He was captured in Texas, then still a part of the Spanish empire, and executed by firing squad on July 31, 1811. After ten more years of fighting, a weakened and divided Mexico finally won independence from Spain with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba on August 24, 1821.

Learn more about Mexico:

Resources, other material:

Even More (2012):

Share this bit of history:  Tweet about it, note it on your Facebook page, or spread the word some other way.


True story of how a woman won Texas’s independence

April 21, 2011

This is mostly an encore post, for the 175th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto.

After suffering crushing defeats in previous battles, and while many Texian rebels were running away from Santa Anna’s massive army — the largest and best trained in North America — Sam Houston’s ragtag band of rebels got the drop on Santa Anna at San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836. Most accounts say the routing of Santa Anna’s fighting machine took just 18 minutes.

San Jacinto Day is April 21. Texas history classes at Texas middle schools should be leading ceremonies marking the occasion — but probably won’t since it’s coming at the end of a week of federally-requested, state required testing.

Surrender of Santa Anna, Texas State Preservation Board Surrender of Santa Anna, painting by William Henry Huddle (1890); property of Texas State Preservation Board. The painting depicts Santa Anna being brought before a wounded Sam Houston, to surrender.

How could Houston’s group have been so effective against a general who modeled himself after Napolean, with a large, well-running army? In the 1950s a story came out that Santa Anna was distracted from battle. Even as he aged he regarded himself as a great ladies’ man — and it was a woman who detained the Mexican general in his tent, until it was too late to do anything but steal an enlisted man’s uniform and run.San Jacinto Monument brochure, with photo of monument

That woman was mulatto, a “yellow rose,” and about whom the song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was written, according story pieced together in the 1950s.

Could such a story be true? Many historians in the 1950s scoffed at the idea. (More below the fold.) Read the rest of this entry »


Texas Independence Day, March 2

March 2, 2011

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.

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

 

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

Original Manuscript, Texas Declaration of Independence - 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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,420 other followers

%d bloggers like this: