Collection - The Texas Film Sampler
Showcasing films from 1900 to 2002, the Texas Film Sampler offers a curated overview designed to illustrate the eclectic nature of TAMI's collection content. These materials underscore TAMI’s goal in championing the value of regional voices in constructing Texas history. Additionally, this selection illustrates the serious need for greater attention to the care and management of this rare material. Many of the clips seen here are in extremely poor condition.
Galveston Hurricane Aftermath (1900)
Shot in September, 1900, this film material represents some of the oldest motion pictures in the world. One of the Library of Congress' unique "paper prints," this film illustrates the significant damage wrought by the hurricane that struck Galveston on September 8, 1900, killing over 6,000 people and decimating the city.
Laredo/Nuevo Laredo: Halting Foreign Plant Foes (1922)
Illustrating the longstanding concern over the entry of “foreign agricultural pests” into the United States, this film features excellent shots of early automobiles crossing the border from Nuevo Laredo into Laredo, Texas. Mexican citizens are searched coming into the country and various plants are examined for potential hazards. Cotton from Mexico is seen being inspected in Nuevo Laredo and fumigated in Laredo – a fascinating look at the border inspection process of this era.
El Paso: Bonus Army Ranks Swell (1932)
This news story reports on the growing numbers of World War One veterans journeying to Washington, D.C. from all over the country in the spring of 1932. With the onset of the Depression in the late 1920s, the veterans had decided to camp in the nation’s capitol to demand early payment of promised bonuses for service overseas. This footage features veterans marching, “hopping boxcars,” and even riding in “El Paso Bonus Army” airplanes to head to Washington. In July, 1932, D.C. police and Army troops destroyed the shanty town built by the veterans in Anacostia (an area across the Potomac River from the capitol grounds), further exacerbating tensions during this era.
Dallas: Small Boy Runs Dog Circus (1935)
Very little information exists about this film, but we know that you will enjoy it. TAMI staff would be very interested to hear from you if you might recognize anyone in the film – or, indeed, know about the dog circus phenomenon of the period!
Talco Oil Boom (1936)
This short film depicts the population explosion in largely rural Talco, TX, after the discovery of oil in February, 1936. People from all over the country came to Talco looking for oil as well as for jobs on the rigs or in the accompanying businesses opening up around town. The realization that the oil located in the area was better used for the production of asphalt slowed the numbers of new residents, but the story of Talco’s experience during this time well illustrates the boom and bust world of Texas wildcatting. In the late 1930s, the census indicated that Talco’s population had reached more than 2,000 – but by early 1940, only 912 citizens claimed to be residents of the community.
La Villita, San Antonio, TX (ca. 1937 - 1942)
Unedited footage documenting the restoration of the historic settlement in San Antonio, La Villita, was produced by the federal government. Originally a Coahuiltecan Indian village, La Villita served as both home and business location for generations of diverse settlers – from Spanish soldiers and Tejano rebels to German, Polish, and French immigrants. During the 1930s, La Villita had become a relatively abandoned part of the city catering to many of those suffering most from the Depression. San Antonio Mayor Maury Maverick received funding from the National Youth Administration to restore this area – and proudly proclaimed:
OLD VILLITA [IS] NO LONGER CONCEALED BY THIS SLUM OF SLUMS WHERE IN CROWDED SQUALOR EXISTED CATS, RATS, VERMIN, SICK DOGS, 119 RESIDENT HUMANS AND AN UNKNOWN NUMBER OF MIGRANTS… RESTORATION HAS STARTED. WITH IT MODERN POWDER ROOMS, SANITATION AND PLUMBING, HEALTH AND CONVENIENCE COMBINED WITH AUTHENTIC RE-CREATION OF HISTORIC BUILDINGS [sic.] (From “The Restoration of La Villita.” San Antonio: University of Texas Press, 1939.)
Citrus Festival, Mission TX (ca. 1940)
Mission, TX’s annual festival showcaes the citrus industry of the Rio Grande Valley. Begun in 1932, it features parades, contests, and even fashions designed from locally grown fruit. Universal Newsreels, including this short film, frequently covered the unique Texas festival throughout the pre-WWII period:
From Universal Studios:
"BEAUTIES SLIP ON CITRUS PEELS Mission, TX: A bevy of gorgeous Texas ‘eyefuls,’ all dressed up in orange or grape-fruit skins, lend color and pep to the annual Citrus Fiesta. They top off the fete with a swimming party in a sea of grapefruit.”
Big Bend National Park (1940s)
Not much is known about this film. Archivists believe that it was shot by the National Park Service to illustrate the variety of topography, vegetation, and activities available in the Big Bend area – from the Rio Grande River and arid mountains, to the vibrant colors of the desert cacti in bloom.
Report From Texas (1942-46)
This film is a documentary explaining Texas (and Texans!) to those serving in the armed services during wartime. On the fields of battle as well as at home, Texans are depicted as serving their country. Women are seen working in the construction of naval ships, and the state is praised for increasing its production of magnesium, sulphur, and agricultural products including wool. Perhaps most poignantly, the film features how families and loved ones grapple with the absence of soldiers serving overseas.
Alien Enemy Detention Facility: Crystal City (ca. 1943-45)
During World War II, the Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) ran a number of internment camps scattered across the country. The Crystal City camp, like others located in Texas, primarily housed Japanese and Germans from Latin America who had been deported to prevent espionage in the region.
According to federal reports, the Crystal City internment camp housed close to 4,000 people primarily of Japanese and German ancestry. Produced by the INS, this film claims to show how the government organized and created an internment process that was comfortable, if not downright beneficial, to its detainees.
Battle of Flowers Parade, San Antonio (1948)
This film provides a personal view of one of San Antonio’s most familiar traditions: The Battle of Flowers Parade. Since 1891, festivities have commemorated the Battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto.
Shot by the Raymond Winter family in 1948, this home movie showcases the value of amateur motion picture footage in documenting the Texas experience. The Winter collection has a number of films featuring the parade throughout the 1940s and 1950s which detail the changing cityscape and the ever evolving commemoration of the Alamo. Click Here for a good overview and history of the event.
San Marcos: Our Home Town (ca. 1949)
Independent and entrepreneurial filmmakers have always been an important component of the larger American motion picture heritage. Unfortunately, many of these films remain unknown and undiscovered due to their “independent” status – outside of corporate or state archival collections and often in private homes or abandoned warehouses. This film serves as an excellent example of this type of filmmaking. Texas documentary filmmaker Shadrack (Shad) Graham, a former Hollywood director, produced films about daily life in small towns across the United States throughout the Depression. After filming an award winning documentary about the Texas City explosion in 1947, Graham relocated to Missouri City, TX, and focused on his “Our Home Town” series – films encouraging commerce and civic activity in largely rural communities. Many of the films produced by his company, Texas News Trailers, from this period are missing. This clip from one of the few Graham films still existent, Our Home Town: San Marcos, illustrates Graham’s work as well as serves as an important artifact for city and state history.
Knife Throwing Family (ca. 1950s)
This short film features Louella Gallagher throwing knives at her two small daughters, Connie Ann and Colleena Sue. Not much is known about this film, but it represents well the tone of most national newsreel stories about Texas – a little nonsense, a little awe, and more than a little disbelief!
San Antonio: Japanese War Brides (1954)
Between the years of 1947 and 1964, over 46,000 war brides emigrated to the United States from Japan. No Japanese brides could have arrived before this period as the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 banned all Japanese immigration to the U.S. Congress passed the 1946 G.I. Fiancees Act that allowed servicemen to bring Japanese wives back to their home country – but this was an important exception to the larger ban on other Japanese immigration which remained in place until 1952. This film serves as a fascinating artifact from this period. Shot by the U.S. Army, the footage features three separate Japanese war brides speaking directly to the camera about their experience in their new country. Shot at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the film clearly was intended to be sent back to Japan. This clip features a young woman from a rural Japanese area speaking in both standard Japanese as well as English.
Tomboy and the Champ Premiere, From Katy to Houston (1961)
“She’s the pig-tailed pride of the Texas plains!” claimed Universal Studios when this film premiered in Houston in 1961. An intriguing piece of Hollywood history, the Tomboy and the Champ was produced in honor of 4-H clubs across the country and exemplifies what some critics describe as the popular “country musical” genre from this period.
Shot in Katy, Houston, and Chicago, the film’s producers dedicated it to “the heart of America.” This short clip showcases how Universal Studios bused citizens of Katy to Houston to attend the film’s premiere in Houston. Although the newsreel serves as a fun look at when “Hollywood came to Texas,” perhaps more interesting now is the way the film depicts the rural topography between Katy and Houston of the early 1960s – a remarkable comparison to the area’s current urban environment.
LBJ Barbeque in Texas (date unknown)
Quasi-home movie material shot at an undated barbeque held, presumably, in honor of Vice-President Hubert Humphrey who appears at the very end of this footage. These vibrant and colorful images offer insight into a classic Texan barbeque – including eating techniques, cooking guidance, and definitely fashion and style tips!
Project Safeguard (ca. 1964)
This unique educational and training film dramatizes the challenges (and benefits) that the cancellation of DDT brought to the Rio Grande Valley area in the early to mid-1970s. In fact, “Project Safeguard” was a larger project initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to educate the public on the replacement of DDT with organophosphates. Placed within a quasi-narrative format as news reporters discover the world of “pesticides” on the border, this footage of Harlingen and the surrounding areas presents a great example of the educational film format of the era as well as offers unique images of the community at this time.
Wichita Falls Tornado Footage (1979)
On April 12, 1979, a tornado struck Wichita Falls. This film, shot by the Army, features Texas National Guardsmen sifting through the destruction. Aerial photography illustrates the incredible destruction wrought by the storm that killed 42 people and injured over 1700. The tornado, three funnels fused into one, remained touching the earth for an hour with winds from 207-260 mph (an F4 rating) and destroyed over one fifth of the city. Cars were lifted away, sides of apartment buildings were ripped off, and the city was forced to establish a curfew. The storm served as one of the deadliest and most destructive tornados in state and U.S. history.
Nuclear Family (1984/2003)
In the 1990s, filmmaker Don Howard learned that noted Houston based photographer Geoff Winningham had shot motion picture film of football in Midland and Odessa in 1984. The footage was to be featured in a documentary version of Winningham’s book about Texas football in the 1970s, The Rites of Fall, but was never completed. Inspired by Winningham’s footage, Howard worked with the material, combining it with newly shot video, to create his own innovative documentary, Nuclear Family, that was released in 2003. For Howard, Winningham’s material “captured the reality of high school football in a way that Hollywood never has or will."
Spit Farther! (2001)
This footage showcases the annual Luling, TX watermelon festival from a ten minute documentary short entitled "Spit Farther!" Located thirty miles southeast of Austin, Luling has held its annual "thump" in early June for over fifty years. The weekend event features a parade headlined by the “Watermelon Queen” and her court, contests for best locally grown watermelon, watermelon eating, and, as the main event, the "world" championship watermelon seed spitting contest. The footage seen here is from the very start of the adult division spitting competition – the world record of which is said to be over 69 feet. “Spit Farther!” was produced by University of Texas filmmaker Paul Stekler, who re-used some of this footage in his 2002 film "Last Man Standing: Politics, Texas Style," which focused on a race for state representative in a district that includes Luling.