SHE DID IT HER WAY

Born in 1892, when females were not expected to have a career, Waldine Amanda Tauch received encouragement to draw from her father who was a photographer. He allowed her to copy his photographs. In an interview conducted in the early 1980s, Waldine said that the

Waldine Amanda Tauch,
Wikipedia

day before she started school in Schulenberg, someone showed her an ivory bookmarker. She was so taken with the image on the piece that she asked her teacher for one of the large pieces of chalk. Using her father’s pocket knife, she carved the image with such detail that she earned immediate praise. She knew at that time that she intended to be a sculptress. She worked in clay and later she used soap, wood, chalk, and stone.

The family moved to Brady when Waldine was in her teens and some stories claim she caught the attention of ladies in the Tuesday Study Club when she carved butter into a centerpiece for a tea table. The women’s organization raised money for her art education and a friend of the renowned Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini asked him to accept Tauch as his student.

Waldine said that her mother “wanted me to get married and have children, but my father who was a photographer was so happy someone was going to help me be a sculptress.” Ten days before she graduated high school in 1910, Waldine moved to San Antonio to study with Coppini. When her scholarship funds ran out, he and his wife claimed her as their foster daughter.

Waldine followed Coppini’s naturalistic style in classical sculptor, but she refused to listen to him when he warned that she was too small for the physical rigors needed to follow her dream of creating larger-than-life-sized works.

In 1923 Waldine followed Coppini to New York to help care for his wife and assist in his creation of the Littlefield Fountain for the University of Texas at Austin. Over the next twelve years in New York, she received commissions primarily for portrait busts and for small genre figures produced by Gorham for the mass market.

“The First Shot Fired For Texas Independence” (1836)
Texas Centennial celebration
Battle of Gonzales site.

She returned to San Antonio in 1935 to win the commission inspired by the Texas Centennial celebration (1936) to carve The First Shot Fired for Texas Independence, a life-sized bronze bas-relief set in granite honoring the 1836 Battle of Gonzales.

Waldine had moved from assistant to a partnership when she and Coppini shared the cost of opening a San Antonio studio that grew into an academy dedicated to traditional art styles and techniques. After Coppini’s death, Waldine renamed it the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts in honor of her mentor.

The commissions kept coming, including the eight-foot bronze of General Douglas MacArthur when Tauch was seventy-four years old. Her biographer, Alice Hutson, explained that the skeleton of a figure begins with arranging boards to form the shape and pose. Then pipes are bent within the board frame to form the right curve before the figure is packed with clay. Even clothed figures are first created nude in order to get the muscular structure correct. In an interview, Tauch said that when she was creating the MacArthur figure, she used his army physical record to get his weight and height and that Mrs. MacArthur loaned his uniform. Tauch laughed when she disclosed that a man had written a poem after he came into her studio while she was working on MacArthur. The nude figure wore only his shoes and his cap. The startled gentleman wrote that “nobody in San Antonio knows the man the way Waldine does. She knows him from head to foot.”

“Douglas MacArthur” (1966-68)
Howard Payne University, Brownwood

Biographer Hutson says when Tauch created the heroic-sized bronze Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World (1965) she used three male models. Seems she liked the facial contour of one model for the head, but his body was too slender. So, she used the torso of another man. His legs did not look good, so she used a third model whose legs she admired.

“Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World” (1965) Trinity University campus

In 1964 Tauch was elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society of New York City. Five years later the Texas Senate presented Tauch an award for sculpting outstanding Texans, stating that her general patriotism added to the culture of Texas.

“Pippa Passes” (1956) Armstrong-Browning Library, Baylor University campus

Her work is found in front of the Armstrong-Browning Library at Baylor University and at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon. Figures are housed in workshops and at exhibitions, at the MacArthur Memorial Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, and in the Witte Museum in San Antonio.

Waldine Tauch died in 1986 and is buried in San Antonio’s Sunset Memorial Park in a plot beside Pompeo Coppini and his wife.

Alice Hutson points out that Waldine Tauch created her grand bronze figures in an era before the Women’s Movement before women were allowed to do such things. In that early 1980s interview, Waldine Tauch said “I am happy I had my career. I did what I wanted to do. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

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Waco’s Bridge Over the Brazos

After the Civil War, Waco was a struggling little town of 1,500 nestled on the west bank of the Brazos River. No bridges crossed the Brazos, the longest body of water in Texas. During floods, days and even weeks passed before travelers as well as cattle on the Shawnee and Chisholm trails could safely cross the river. Although money was scarce and times were hard during recovery from the war, a group of businessmen formed Waco Bridge Company and secured a twenty-five-year contract to construct and operate the only toll bridge for five miles up and down the river.

John A. Roebling and Son of New York designed the 475-foot structure, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world at that time. Waco’s bridge served as the prototype for Roebling’s much-longer Brooklyn Bridge completed in 1883.

The fledgling Waco company ran into problems from the beginning. Work started in the fall of 1868 with costs, originally estimated at $40,000, growing to $140,000. The investors continued to issue new stock offerings. The nearest railroad stopped at Millican, over 100 miles away, which meant that coils of wire and cable, steel trusses, and custom-made bolts and nuts had to be hauled to Waco by ox wagon over rutted, sandy roads. The contractor floated cedar trees down the Brazos for shoring up the foundation in the unstable riverbed. Local businesses made the woodwork and the bricks.

The bridge opened to traffic in January 1870 with tolls of ten cents for each animal and rider; loose animals and foot passengers crossed for five cents each; and sheep, hogs, or goats crossed for three cents each. It was not long until residents on the far side of the river began complaining about the tolls. Businessmen who used the facility joined them in their protests.

Landowners along the river began allowing cattlemen, travelers, and local citizens to cut across their property to reach fords on the river. The uproar increased for the next nineteen years, until September 1889, when the Waco Bridge Company sold the structure to McLennan County for $75,000 and the county gave the bridge to the city.

Vehicles continued using the bridge, without paying a toll, until 1971 when it was converted to a pedestrian crossing. Today shaded parkland edges both sides of the river and the bridge enjoys a listing on the National Register of Historic Places and designation by a Texas Historical marker. In 2008 sculptor Robert Summers created “Branding Brazos,” the first of several bronze figures on the south side of the bridge that depict a trail boss driving longhorns on the Chisholm Trail.

TEXAS’ LADY CANNONEER

I call it being organized–juggling several things at the same time.  However, like a circus clown trying to toss one too many bowling pins, I’ve dropped the whole passel.  Expecting Friday to be especially busy, I wrote my blog, even added all the photos and went to bed knowing at the appointed hour on Friday I could press “publish” and poof, it would post.

Then, I woke with a start.  Why did Angelina Eberly, the subject of the blog, already appear in the category list?  At 1:30 a.m., my husband, who patiently put up with my flaying and fretting over forgetting, suggested I get up and forage through my folder of files.  I did.

Over the years I’ve written historical markers and articles about the markers, and books about the stories on the markers and even given lectures about the stories on the markers and in the books.  You can understand how I might forget if a story appeared on a marker or in an article or in a book.

My middle-of-the-night search revealed I published a post about  Angelina Eberly February 23–of this year–not six or eight years ago. Last Monday night I told her story again during a lecture.  Folks liked it well enough to inspire me to tell it again in this Friday’s blog.  I’m confessing this confusion because I assume you, as a faithful reader, may remember the February version.  I’m calling the version below The Second Iteration:

Texans love stories of pioneer settlers and heroes.  Angelina Eberly fits the bill.  Born in Tennessee in 1798, Mrs. Eberly married her first cousin, made the journey to Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast in 1822 and finally, with the help of several slaves, opened an inn and tavern in the new village of San Felipe de Austin on the Brazos River.

After her husband died, Mrs. Eberly continued operating the hotel until Texans burned the town in 1836 to prevent it from falling into General Santa Anna’s hands during the Texas War for Independence from Mexico.

After the war she married again and moved with her new husband in 1839 to the new Texas capital of Austin where they opened the Eberly House.

History reveals Texas’ politics as contentious during the days of the republic as they are today.  The constitution of the new republic allowed the president to serve only one, two-year term, which meant Sam Houston, first president and hero of the war for independence, stepped down to allow the election of his successor and nemesis Mirabeau B. Lamar.

Immediately Lamar appointed a site-selection commission that moved the capital of the republic from ole Sam’s namesake city of Houston to a little village in the wilderness of Central Texas and named the place “Austin,” after the father of early Texas settlement.

The legislature met in a frame house on Congress Avenue and other offices occupied different structures along the dirt street. Because of Austin’s vulnerability to attacks by Indians and Mexican troops, the new government provided the residents with a six-pounder cannon, loaded with grapeshot.

Despite primitive conditions, President Lamar and his cabinet dined at the Eberly House.  When Sam Houston won reelection two years later, he moved into the Eberly House rather than occupy the house Mirabeau Lamar designated for the president.

Since Sam Houston and his supporters disapproved of the capital’s location on the western frontier, they jumped at the opportunity to move the Congress to Washington, a tiny village on the Brazos River when Mexican troops captured San Antonio on March 5, 1842.

Determined to keep the last symbol of the capital in their town, Austin residents demanded the national archives, which consisted of diplomatic, financial, land, and military-service records, remain in Austin.

When Mexicans invaded San Antonio again in December 1842, Sam Houston found his excuse for action.  He instructed two army officers to take eighteen men and two wagons to Austin in the middle of the night and quietly remove the archives from the General Land Office.

No one ever explained what Angelina Eberly was doing outside in the middle of the night, but when she saw the wagons leaving with the archives, she ran to the loaded cannon and fired it to warn the citizens of the robbery.

The military men traveled about twenty miles that first day to Kenney Fort located near present Round Rock. The next morning, when the officers rose to continue their journey, they discovered the citizens of Austin circling the fort with their cannon aimed toward the enclosure.  Without further ado, the military men returned the files to the Austin citizens, thus ending what has been dubbed both “The Archives War” and “The Bloodless War.”

With most of the republic’s business handled in Washington, Austin struggled for several years, the population dropping below 200 and its buildings deteriorating.  Finally, in 1845 a constitutional convention approved Texas’ annexation to the United States and named Austin as the new state capital.  In 1850 Texas residents finally voted to officially designate Austin as the state’s capital.

Angelina Eberly moved in 1846 to Lavaca (present Port Lavaca) where she leased Edward Clegg’s Tavern House while the surveyed the area for the best location for her business. Upon seeing nearby Indianola becoming a thriving seaport, she moved down the coast and opened a hotel.  At the time of her death in 1860, her estate appraised at $50,000, making Mrs. Angelina Eberly the wealthiest citizen of Calhoun County.

Today, Austin residents honor their cannoneer with a larger-than-life-size bronze sculpture at the corner of Congress and 7th Street.