From the DRT Library: An Invitation to Governor Sam Houston’s 1859 Inaugural Ball
After raising private funds to build it, in October of 1950 the Daughters of the Republic of Texas established the DRT Library to house the earliest pieces of its Texas history collection. Over the decades, the Daughters have grown and preserved the collection, receiving praise for the management of the library from those who have used it. Today the collection includes more than 38,000 separate items, including books, maps and other artifacts associated with the history of the Republic and state of Texas, the city of San Antonio and Bexar County.
Although the collection is filled with many amazing artifacts, one of the truly unique and rare pieces is an original invitation to Governor-elect Sam Houston’s inaugural ball in 1859. We recently reproduced this stunning historical artifact and hand-delivered copies of it to members of the Texas Legislature as a keepsake of Texas history. Given the increasing attention on the DRT Library Collection, we wanted to use this piece of Texas history as a way to introduce and demonstrate the nature of the collection to legislators, many of whom are not aware of the collection or the Daughters’ efforts over the years to assemble and preserve it. On these copies, we included information about the original piece, as well as a link to our historical Texas micro-website (http://thetexasstory.com/) as a reintroduction of the DRT and our collection to legislators and their staffers. Our plans are to continue to provide legislators and other Texas leaders with information about and, when possible, keepsakes from the collection that will build recognition and appreciation for the DRT’s role in preserving it.
We also want to shine the spotlight on unique pieces of the collection for the enjoyment of the DRT membership and will be featuring items in future newsletters. In keeping with that goal, included is a bit of background on the Houston inaugural invitation.
After serving as the first elected president of the Republic of Texas (1836-1838), Sam Houston became the seventh governor of the state of Texas, taking office on December 21, 1859.
Houston had run as an independent on a relatively moderate platform as what he called a “Union Democrat.” He won a relatively close race, 33,257 votes to 27,500, despite the increasing unpopularity of his stance against secession. His opponents decried his election.
According to Marquis James in his biography of Houston, The Raven, the extremists in the Texas legislature reacted negatively to the new governor. He wrote, “In the legislature an appropriation for furnishings for the Executive Mansion was obstructed by a controversy whether Sam Houston, who had lived in a wigwam, should be surrounded by civilized luxuries at public expense. The House debated whether it should offer its quarters for the inaugural ball and, if so, whether the carpet should be removed.”
James continued, “Houston made his own inaugural arrangements. Instead of taking the oath in the House chamber before the Legislature and a select few, he delivered his inaugural address on the portico of the Capitol.”
The invitation was donated to the DRT by Madge Thornall Roberts from her mother’s (Madge Hearne) papers on July 28, 1959. Both ladies have served as president general of DRT. The invitation remains one of the most valued pieces of the DRT’s Library Collection.