Dallas Historical Society Newsletter
April, 2008
In This Issue
Polly Smith
Aaron Douglas
Frank Lloyd Wright
Historic City Tours
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A Texas Journey 
polly smith

Those familiar with the Hall of State know all too well the photographs that were embedded in the building's two exhibit galleries in 1936.  Hired by the Texas Centennial

Commission to show that the state was more than cowboys and oil, Frances Sutah "Polly" Smith traveled the length and breadth of Texas, shooting its farm life, industry and commerce, its people and its vast geographical diversity.  Many of Polly Smith's historic photography, housed among the Dallas Historical Society's collection, are now available for the general public in book form.


Evelyn Barker's A Texas Journey: The Centennial Photographs of Polly Smith just arrived from the press.  Published by the Dallas Historical Society, and distributed through the University of Oklahoma Press, A Texas Journey will be on book store shelves soon.  The book details Polly's family and her own life along with seventy of her nearly two hundred photographs taken for use in regional and national promotion of the Texas Centennial.  The bulk of her photographs are housed at the Dallas Historical Society.  Polly's year-long adventure was like no other as she was the first to photographically chronicle the vastness of Texas.


This book was made possible through a generous grant from the Charles and Gail Muskavitch Trust. Ms. Muskavitch, who is very proud of Polly's work, is one of Polly's older sisters.  Polly had seven siblings; all reared by a single mother, and were successful in their adult lives.  C. R. Smith, long-time president of American Airlines, was her brother.


Ms. Barker, who is a librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington and former curator of the library and archives collections at the Dallas Historical Society, researched and wrote about Polly's career for over a decade.

Dallas: Arts and Artistry 

Greetings. In this issue we will focus on just a few interesting and often overlooked aspects of Dallas and her involvement in the world of the Arts.
Aaron Douglas' legacy and the Texas Centennial 
The Dallas Historical Society's collections are again at work: this time on a long reach.


Dr. Susan Earle at the Spencer Museum of Art at The University of Kansas assembled a traveling exhibit on African-American artist, Aaron Douglas (1899-1979) entitled "Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist."  Douglas, born in Topeka and graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1922, was directly connected to the Texas Centennial Exposition fourteen years later.  His biography and influential works are published in Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist, a catalogue book, published by Yale University Press to accompany the exhibit.  Its 252 pages contain six separate essays which put his life in perspective and interpret his works.


Douglas, a prolific artist and considered the foremost visual artist of the Harlem Renaissance, through his modern art, forced a dialogue with American and international modernism that put African artistic influences and African American life, labor and freedom at its center.  Through the racism of the 1920s, Douglas provided a dignified voice of opposition, insight and aspiration through his powerful and distinctive imagery.


The sixth essay, "Creating a 'Usable Past' and a 'Future Perfect Society: Aaron Douglas' Murals for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition" is by Renée Ater.  Douglas painted the four large murals that adorned the Hall of Negro Life's lobby walls. Ms. Ater essays the story of the Hall of Negro Life against the backdrop of the Texas Centennial and interprets his work.  Four pictures from Dallas Historical Society's collection are used with this essay.


The show is currently at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville until April 13, 2008 and then goes to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D. C. from May 9 to August 3, 2008 and then at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York from August 30 to November 30, 2008.


The catalogue book is available through the Yale University Press.

The Dream that Almost Was.
 lacy hotel
 East Texas oilman Rogers Lacy had a vision to build a dream hotel in Dallas that was to be the country's first post-war luxury hotel.  He had the money in his pocket, an ideal location and the country's hottest architect.  The only ingredient needed was time.


In 1947 Lacy engaged world-famous architect 74-year old Frank Lloyd Wright to draw a 47-story hotel (pictured) for the corner of Commerce and South Ervay that was heralded as a modern wonder.  The project was to cost at least $10 million.  The location was across from Neiman-Marcus downtown flagship store.


Lacy, an oil man from Longview, who had extensive holding in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, was considered at the time the richest man in the state.  He had extensive properties in Dallas and had been granted a permit to build a television station.  The project was on hold due to rising costs when he died on December 9, 1947 and his dream for a world attention grabbing hotel for Dallas came to an end.

Historic City Tours 
2008 Historic City Tours

April 26th - East and South Dallas with well known author and Dallas personality Rose-Mary Rumbley

May 3rd - Cemetery Tour with "Cemetery Lady" Frances James

May10th - Rediscovering Downtown Dallas with local author and historian Mike Hazel

May 17th - Deep Ellum

May 26th - Running with Bonnie and Clyde with author John Neal Phillips

Call today to reserve your seat on the bus!  Tickets are $35/members and $45/non members.  All tours leave from the Hall of State in Fair Park promptly at 9 AM, and return by 2 PM.  Lunch is included in ticket price.

For tickets, please call Pam Lane at (214) 421-4500 x101 or email her at Pam@dallashistory.org.

We hope you have enjoyed this issue and it inspires you to look into more Dallas' role in the Arts, or perhaps even your own...

Dallas Historical Society