History Revealed Through Home Movies


The home movies of the Peter Pauls Stewart family are proof that you don’t have to be a Hollywood filmmaker to leave a lasting visual legacy. Spotlight on North Texas first learned of Mr. Stewart and his film collection when his daughter, Elizabeth Wally, brought some of his films to our 2016 Denton County preservation event at the Denton Public Library.

On January 10, 2018, Mr. Stewart passed away peacefully in his home, surrounded by friends and family, at age 97. We are grateful for the opportunity to have met him and for his lasting commitment to the preservation of Dallas history.

Dallas Icons: Peter Stewart & Elizabeth May “Betty” Exall

Peter Stewart was born in May 1920 in Kansas City, Missouri to Myrtle and Harry E. Stewart. In the 1930s, H.E. moved to Dallas where he owned and operated the Stoneleigh hotel and Stewart Co., a farm-equipment business. Peter Stewart attended the Culver Military Academy, the University of Texas,  and then Harvard University. In 1942 he married  Elizabeth May “Betty” Exall. The Exall family are philanthropists responsible for many significant Dallas institutions, including the Dallas Public LIbrary and the Dallas Museum of Art. Betty Exall Stewart, who passed away in 2009, was engaged in many Dallas civic organizations including as president of the Dallas Woman’s Club, Dallas Shakespeare Club, and The Dallas Garden Club.

In 1949 Mr. Stewart began working as the assistant sales manager at Stewart Co, which became the nation’s largest farm and industrial equipment distributor. Mr. Stewart was active in real estate development and numerous Dallas civic organizations including the Dallas Art Association, the Dallas Arboretum, and the Hockaday School.  Perhaps his most lasting impression on the Dallas landscape was his role in creating Thanks-Giving Square as the founder of the Thanks-Giving Foundation.

History Revealed

The films contained in the Peter Pauls Stewart collection document the geographic and industrial development of the Dallas area and beautifully illustrate enduring family and community traditions. We hope you enjoy these films and encourage you to explore more films on The Portal to Texas History. 

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 3 – North Central Expressway] on The Portal to Texas History.

This 1950 home movie documents the Stewart family driving on the North Central Expressway with footage shot from the car and the roadside, including a glimpse of the Mrs. Baird’s bread plant, Superior Lanes Bowling Alley, and Republic National Life.

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 5 – Helicopter and Railroad Rides] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie (ca. 1955) includes a helicopter ride over newly constructed North Texas roadways and Mr. Stewart awaiting the arrival of a train at the White Rock train station.


[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 6 – Holidays and Community Events] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie includes multiple family and civic events (see stills below), including groundbreaking ceremonies, transportation, and business.


[Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 12 – Ford Tractors] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie (ca. 1957) shows Mr. Stewart’s tractor business.


[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 41 – Construction] on The Portal to Texas History.

This home movie from 1974 includes footage of construction in downtown Dallas (00:01:51).

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 50 – Sun Study No. 2] on The Portal to Texas History.This home movie from 1985 is one of four fast-motion “Sun Studies” of Thanks-Giving Square.

[The Peter Pauls Stewart Family Films, No. 33 – Graduation] on The Portal to Texas History.

This 1972 home movie shows a graduation ceremony at the Hockaday School.

Do you want to be part of Dallas film history?

Did your family shoot home movies of community events and family traditions in the Dallas area? Bring your home movies to our free community digitization event at Top Ten Records on Saturday May 19th from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.!

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