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how people are using our digital libraries for scholarship, creativity, and lifelong learning.

In March of 1837, Thomas Borden sold his interest in the Telegraph and Texas Register to Francis W. Moore. Under Moore’s editorial direction from 1837-51, the paper became the most important news source in Texas, and many of his stories were geared towards attracting immigrants to the new Republic. What is not widely known and is “forgotten” is that unlike most editors of the day, Moore never listed the name of his printer.  

 This fact caused retired English professor Dr. Joe Allen Rice (called “Doc”) to imagine why this was, and inspired the creation of a play about who this printer may have been. Dr. Rice’s imaginative, fictionalized account conjectures – what if his printer was a free African-American? And what if Moore employed this man as his printer? The result is a play that will be produced next month based on exploring this idea. The Forgotten Men Who Invented Texas will be performed at the Clarence Muse Theater in downtown Dallas on November 10, and is being produced and staged by TBAAL, The Black Academy of Arts & Letters.

 TBAAL’s program states that the play “is the moving story of an editor and printer of the Telegraph and Texas Register, two White and African American men, who share thoughts and wishes for Texas during the years of the Republic: 1837 – 1845. These two beloved and forgotten best friends live on borrowed time as the Civil War draws nearer. They were erased from Texas history by Southern sympathizers who erected monuments of heroes of the Confederacy. We should know them … and this gripping story tells why!”

 Advertisement for the play from TBAAL schedule

 DB: Doc, this sounds like a fascinating play! What was your inspiration?

 Doc: I was recuperating from a quadruple bypass. I read every single issue of the Telegraph and Texas Register between 1836 and 1846, about 500 issues, thanks to the UNT Libraries. I couldn’t resist telling the story of a talented white editor and his equally talented black printer who were erased from history by my ancestors and men like them. Francis Moore, the editor, was Houston’s mayor three times, served in the Congress of the Republic as a senator, built the first bridge over Buffalo Bayou, and designed Houston’s city seal, which is still in use. He also created a remarkable map of Texas, of which only 3 survive. One recently sold for $274,850!

Moore was a one-armed man who served as a surgeon in Sam Houston’s Army. He was a Harvard educated physician like his father before him and he was also licensed to practice law. The more I read, the more I could see the hand of his printer at work. The printer – who name is lost to history – was reimagined as a free man of color. And the paper was flawless. Almost any newspaper of the same size today would have more errors.

DB: Why was this paper so influential?

Doc: Francis Moore wrote the first article about “The Lone Ranger,” Capt. Jack Hays.  Moore drew settlers to Texas because it was an era of free newspaper exchange, and publishers around the country and in Europe loved to reprint his stories. He was an excellent writer and Texas was romantic and mysterious.  Editors in the East and in Europe couldn’t get enough.  He drew people from as far away as Central Europe who came to Texas and opposed slavery.

 I’ll add one last thing:  he invented “Texas Brags.”  Nobody before had boasted about Texas the way he did, every week, relentlessly.  He paid special attention to “minerals,” till Sam Houston appointed him Secretary of Geology after Texas had become a state.

DB: Since the name of Moore’s printer is lost to history, what research did you draw upon to create the story of their friendship?

Doc: When Dr. Francis Moore reached Texas in ’36, he brought with him a family of blacks as well as his own family.  At least that’s what I found digging around.  Suggested.  Not proven.  Then there’s the paper’s masthead.  Moore, very much a man of his time, saw no need to list his printer, as other papers of the day sometimes did. I imagined why this might have been, and was taken by this idea. What would their conversations have been like? What might they have said to each other?

DB: Can you share a brief excerpt from the play?

Doc: Sure! Here’s the lead-in to the poem that closes the end of the play.

STAGE MANAGER: The winter of 1846 is bitterly cold.  Editor Moore wears heavy clothing as he steps to his desk, withdraws an envelope and fumbles it open.  He stands looking at the poem it contains, then speaks.

EDITOR: The fool!  He took only half the money we made from “Escaped Slave” ads.  It was a gift!  He left half behind?  I never yet met a negro who could understand the value of money.

We brought you here with scant regard,

Your sweat lubricates our luxury.

We shelter you with whip and guard,

Embrace your very inferiority.

God left his design

For us to mold your mind

And soul into one that is whole.

One day —

As will soon come to pass

We shall see our one-time property

Independent and so-called “free”

Float far beyond our embrace.

And we

Forever and ever will yearn

For the return

Of that we have earned.

Whatever else you are, or not,

You are our fortune –

You’re all we’ve got.

DB: I know that you credit the UNT Libraries for enabling your research, but also the President of the The Black Academy of Arts & Letters, Curtis King. How did he help you with this process?

Doc: Curtis King saw my play as worthy of production and never hesitated in his support. I truly thank him for making this happen for an audience.

 If you want to go …

Play: The Forgotten Men Who Invented Texas

Date: Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 5 pm

Where: Clarence Muse Café Theater, 650 Griffin Street, Dallas, TX 75270

Price: $ pay what you can

Who: play by Dr. Joe Allen Rice, produced and staged by TBAAL, The Black Academy of Arts & Letters

About Dr. Joe Allen Rice.

Doc belongs to the Sons of the American Revolution and Sons of the Republic of Texas – his ancestors crossed the Sabine into Texas on January 10th, 1821. He is eligible for both Sons of Confederate Veterans and Sons of Union Veterans.Doc holds a doctorate in American Literature from the University of Texas and Florida State University. His dissertation was published as Flash of Darkness.

He shared in a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, “many years ago,” during an 8 year period as a weekly op/ed columnist and major newspaper contributor.

His career included 40 years teaching English composition, literature, and technical writing at  University of Houston, and has written the book Writing to Express. He’s also been an oil industry-research, technical writer/editor/consultant.

Photo of Joe Allen Rice

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In honor of the Memorial Day weekend, here are some related items in the UNT digital collections:  Memorial Day Parade 1955

~ The Library of Congress Congressional Research Service has published  this list of commemorative observances from 2004-2006, if you want to know about other national holidays.

~ In Grayson County Reminiscences: The First 150 Years, one author tells about the Memorial Day traditions in Van Alstyne, Texas in which the families gather together to tend the graves in the local cemetery.

~ According to the Texas Almanac, there are special rules governing the Texas state flag on Memorial Day: “On Memorial Day, the state flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon and at that time raised to the peak of the flagpole.” —  Texas Almanac, 2004-2005  Regulations for displaying the United States flag are published in this CRS report.

~ Here are some newspaper articles about Memorial Day activities in El Paso, Texas, 1900 and Canadian, Texas, 1956Find more in the Portal.

~ During World War II, 150,000 people gathered in Houston, Texas to remember the sailors killed in action.  Read more in 1941: Texas Goes to War.


See more “Memorial Day” items in The Portal to Texas History and the UNT Digital Library.

Here are some additional items about military personnel in the Portal.

[Memorial Day at Fairview Cemetery]

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Perhaps you’ve been doing some spring cleaning and finally have space for some new hobbies, or perhaps you’ve been thinking about finding new things to try over the summer.  You may be surprised about the vintage how-to instructions that can be found in the digital collections.  Here are a few topics to consider:

Bird watching – Learn how to build and maintain birdhouses and identify some common birds.

Illustration of a bird house

Bee keeping – Learn how to keep bees and obtain honey from them.

Clothes – Learn how to select and care for clothing or re-fit dresses.
Image of dahlias
Cooking – Learn how to “choose and use apples,” make cottage cheese, grape juice or sugar-beet sirup, and how to select foods.  And, of course, you can consult some of the recipes that can be found in the Portal.

Gardening – Learn how to grow your own ingredients and other plants through home gardening, including fruits and nuts, snap beans, roses, or dahlias.  You can also save vegetable seeds for planting.

Weather – Learn how to predict the weather using folk wisdom, or, if you have an interest in flight, learn more about how weather affects aviation including how to read weather depiction charts, radar summary charts, and surface weather maps.

Image of a weather map.


Of course, if you’re a visual learner – or you’re not sure that you’re ready to take up something new quite yet – there are plenty of photographs in the Portal of other people learning or showing how to do activities:
[Milking Demonstration]

[Photograph of a Group of Women Stretching]

Explore more “how tos” on the Portal or the Digital Library.

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Resources 4 Educators icon

Ten years ago Texas history teachers had few options when looking for primary source materials to support their lessons. Now there is a bountiful supply of digital photographs, documents, maps, artifacts, and more that are freely available online through The Portal to Texas History. More than 200 institutions which include universities, historical societies, private collections, government agencies, and museums, have contributed their collections to The Portal to Texas History.  Each day thousands of teachers are discovering ways to use these wonderful resources in the classroom. Among the many treasures in the Portal are photographs of early Texas pioneers and Native Americans, historical maps that document explorers’ routes and Indian trails, the transcribed correspondence of Stephen F. Austin, and historical newspapers.

As a way to save teachers time, The Portal to Texas History team also created a companion website, Resources 4 Educators, which has more than sixty lessons that incorporate primary source materials from the Portal. All of the lessons are aligned to Texas Essential Skills and Knowledge standards and provide links to additional resources and background information. Most of the lessons include a PowerPoint lecture and interactive learning activities for 4th and 7th grade classes.

The Portal to Texas History itself is constantly growing and each month there is something new to discover. At the request of teachers, University of North Texas digitized and added more than 5,000 items for its Texas Cultures Online project sponsored by the Amon Carter Foundation. This project reveals the many ethnic cultures of Texas through photographs and other historical items belonging to seventeen organizations. Included is the Texas Folklife Festival Collection of photographs that depict folk dancing and foodways of Czech, German, Cajun, Polish, Scandinavian, Lebanese, Mexican and Native American cultures.

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…that you can see usage statistics for items, collections, and contributing partners/departments in the digital collections?

We have statistics available to see how often items are being used at several granularities (e.g., by partner, collection, or item).  At each level, there is a link or tab to view “Statistics.”


For example, if you “Explore” our list of Partners or Collections, you can choose “Statistics” in the results list:

Location of "statistics" button on Explore screen


You might also be curious about the collection or partner and visit the “About” page, either from the link on the explore page (above), or on an item record:


About links on item record


From the “About” page, you can still see the statistics for the collection or partner by clicking on the “Stats” button in the upper-right corner:


Location of "Stats" icon on "About" page


The statistics show the number of items, the number of files, the total monthly usage for the collection or items contributed by the partner, and a graph of item usage for the last month.


Statistics for JFK Dallas Police Department Collection


You can also see usage statistics for indvidual items by looking at the bottom of the Brief Record or clicking on the “Statistics” tab while you’re looking at an item:

Location of statistics in an item record

You may be surprised to see which collections or items are popular!

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[Children in Goat-Pulled Cart]Historically, people have found lots of ways to travel, particularly in a state as large as Texas.  One collection in The Portal to Texas History titled, “Are We There Yet? Transportation in Central Texas” explores various methods of transportation through images. The collection comprises photographs from three different institutions, digitized under a grant project.

The photographs from Taylor Public Library include images from Taylor, Texas such as parade floats, horse-drawn wagons, bicycles, trains, and, of course, automobiles.  Some of the images show city streets throughout the years, or people traveling to and from Taylor.  Others show people posing with various vehicles, such as this image, “Nurses at Taylor Sanitarium”:

Nurses at Taylor Sanitarium

There are similar images from the Williamson Museum depicting transportation throughout Williamson County.  Although there are many more images of automobiles, buggies, and parade floats, there are also goat carts, old baby buggies, airplanes, and many people riding animals, like this one:

[Woman Sitting on Longhorn]

The third organization to contribute to the collection is the Texas Department of Transportation.  Those photographs include images of highway structures, bridges, and construction work done through TxDOT contractors.  Most of these photographs are close-up images to display particular details in the structures (such as braces for overpasses and bridges) or wider views to show highways and construction projects completed.  For example, this image, “[U.S. Highway 79 in Taylor]” shows the detail of a sidewalk corner and retaining wall on a TxDOT street:

[U.S. Highway 79 in Taylor]


To see some of the interesting ways that Texans have found to get around, check out the rest of the collection or look at some of the other items in the Portal related to transportation.



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…that printed documents in The Portal to Texas History and UNT Digital Library are full-text searchable? 

Nearly all printed documents in both The Portal to Texas History and the UNT Digital Library have OCR (Optical Character Recognition) files to enable full-text searching.  When you search for a term or phrase in our main search box and click on an item record, there is an option to see “Page Hits” for the word(s) that appear on the pages of the item.

View of display for page hits in a text.


If you click on one of the page results, the search term(s) are highlighted in yellow to make them easier to find.  You can also use the “Remove Highlighting” button on the right side of the screen if you would prefer to turn it off.


Image of highlighted search terms on a text page.


Full-text searching can be used in books, pamphlets, reports, newspapers, and any printed document that uses standard fonts (such as Times Roman), although items written in script cannot be OCRed.

Image of search term in a newspaper article