Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Day at the Governor's Mansion

12/29  New Year’s Day at the Governor’s Mansion

         On January 1, 1892 there was the traditional New Year’s Day reception at the Governor’s Mansion, with hundreds of guests and a lavish buffet.

As Ima remembered years later:

These called for great preparations. Men came in to cover the carpets with white canvas and everything was elaborately decorated. It was the day when people festooned the windows and pictures and door openings with smilax. The large crystal chandeliers in the two parlors were also delicately outlined with smilax which could not be put too near the lights because they were gas and as I recall it, did not have any shades over the flames. The mantels were always banked with flowers.

Table decorations were entirely different from those now. They were usually quite low with forms made of tin and filled with wet sand. In these, flowers were packed very closely together to give a clear outline with a special motif and color. I cannot remember how the tables were covered, but I believe, having seen my Mother’s interest in qualities of damask, that the damask of fine Irish linen was used.

Young men in Austin who were interested in social functions came in to assist with the decorations. Neighbors arrived to do what they could to help in the kitchen and dining room. There was a colored porter at the Capitol named Bill Boulding who always came to stand at the door and announce the guests as they entered the parlor.

But receptions were always a trial for the frail Governor’s Lady:

Finally Father got her a high stool which she sat on or leaned against so that she could get through receptions without being too fatigued. She was entirely too conscientious and should have delegated a great deal more than she did to the servants.

         A letter Sallie wrote in 1892 to her son Will, who had gone back to boarding school after the holidays, shows her bravely carrying out her duties as mother and hostess:

         Don’t think your Mother has forgotten her boy you know I have been very busy ever since you were here getting ready for another reception, and oh! I am so glad it is over. The flowers you sent Mama were so pretty. Many thanks for them, I sent you a small box [of treats from the reception] it was the only size I had. I could have sent you other things but they would not keep long enough to get to you. Everything passed off very nicely (so everybody says).

         Brava, Salllie Hogg.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"A very artistic temperament"

Ima Hogg had fond memories of her mother as First Lady of Texas:

Mother was quite small, about five feet, two inches tall, and never weighed over 108 pounds. Her distinguishing feature, everyone said, was her tiny, beautifully formed hands. Her little feet never gave her enough support for I remember her complaining of them after standing any time, She had dark brown hair, gray eyes, and fair skin with little color. Without being a beauty, her even features gave her a sweet and refined appearance.
         She was of a very artistic temperament, exceedingly fastidious, well read and accomplished in all the arts of homemaking. She must have had some executive ability for our house ran smoothly and rather lavishly for our means. We seemed to have everything that we could desire though we knew that we should not ask for much spending money.
         I often wonder now how she managed on my father’s small salary. [The attorney general of Texas made $2,000 per year; the governor, $4,000. But a dollar then was worth about 20 of today’s dollars.] I can look back upon many small economies which she practiced. . . . Buttons on our clothes were always taken off to be used on the next garments; even hooks and eyes and bones were removed from old dresses.
         Somewhere mother learned to be an exquisite needlewoman. She always had ready a piece of embroidery, or hand work, which she could take up while talking with visitors. It was the style when I was a child for little girls to wear white aprons over gingham and woolen dresses and my aprons were the most exquisite hand-made creations made of finest muslin, dimity or swiss with rolled and hand-whipped ruffles edged with real lace trimming or eyelet embroidery. She did not always make these herself but she would have felt disgraced if I had worn anything made on a machine. . . .
         There were no extravagances outside of the household but my mother always had a few very fine gowns made each year. . . . Mother would have been happy to make her own dresses had she had the time but, of course, she did not. She spent much time overseeing the work of a seamstress who came into the house to make the boys’ shirts, my clothes, and perhaps some of her housedresses.
         I have been trying to remember what Mother’s first reception dress was like. . . . I remember we thought it was very beautiful and I am still confused as to whether it was black taffeta with large orchid brocaded figures outlined with some kind of tinsel and beads or whether it was orchid color with orchid brocade on it. I know we all went into ecstasies over her appearance.

         Brava, Sallie Hogg.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Austin was awesome."

When Attorney General Hogg first moved his family to Austin in 1887, they found a bustling place with a population of nearly 15,000. State politics was its main business. Dallas, with 38,000 people by 1890, was Texas’s largest city, but to Jim and Sallie and their children, who had grown up in rural East Texas, Austin was awesome. The city had thirty mule-drawn streetcars clacking along on ten miles of track. Streets were not paved, but many were lit by gas lamps. It was a small city, with its grid of streets laid out between Shoal Creek and Waller Creek, bounded by the Colorado River to the south and 15th Street to the north. There were gentle hills and an abundance of trees—live oak and cottonwood, pecan and walnut. (Before his death in 1906, ex-Governor Hogg requested that a pecan tree and a walnut tree be planted on his grave.)

On Sixth Street, a cattle baron named Jesse Lincoln Driskill had just built a grand 60-room hotel. (Years later ex-Governor Hogg would occupy a suite there, and one day the Driskill Hotel would have a suite named for him.)
         Ima remembered that Austin was elegant: "It was quite the fashion for ladies and gentlemen to drive up and down Congress Avenue and over the Colorado bridge, [and] around the Capitol grounds, especially on Sunday afternoons. Many Victorias [light, open carriages] drawn by fine horses with the driver on the seat above made a beautiful picture."

By the time the Hoggs left the Governor's Mansion in 1895, Austin had electric streetcars, an underground sewage system, waterworks, and electric lights.

And there were the railroads: The first one—the Houston and Texas Central Railway--had come to Austin in 1871, and the International and Great Northern in 1876. By the 1890s Austin passengers could go by train (at the breath-taking speed of 30 miles an hour) to St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, with journeys of two or three days eased by Pullman sleeper cars and dining car buffets.
And there was the University of Texas. It had opened its doors on September 15, 1883 with 13 faculty members and 218 students, and graduated its first class of 32 seniors on June 15, 1887.

Three of the Hogg children--Will, Ima, and Mike--would one day call UT their alma mater.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"He always ate dessert first."

J. S. Hogg, who used to order a hundred pounds of ham at a time, and lard by the barrel, enjoyed every bite he took.
Ima recalled lavish menus for parties at the Governor’s Mansion:
         Chicken salad, baked turkey and baked ham, and beaten biscuits, of course, were the main dishes for receptions. Green olives were just being introduced, that is, as far as I remember. Celery was a scarcity but was served and lettuce was very different from what we have now. Salted nuts, especially almonds, were always used. There were many varieties of cakes – marble cake was beautiful and delicious. Spice cake seemed to be another favorite. In season, fruit cakes were made. But I recall Lady Baltimore Cake as being very frequently made with lemon layer cake as second best. Pies were ever ready and I imagine they were never allowed to become stale. The cookie jar was never empty and beaten biscuits were a necessity. I can remember hearing the beating of the biscuit dough and used to take a great delight in taking my turn with the wooden mallet. The Saratoga potatoes fascinated me more than almost anything because our cook took the greatest pains with them cutting them large and very thin then letting them soak in water for a long time, then carefully draining them and dropping them into a deep iron pot of hot grease.

Saratoga potatoes became better known as potato chips. They were first served in the 1880s at Moon Lake House, a well-known resort in Saratoga, New York.

         There was another thing which was very difficult to make and I do not know where they can be found anymore – a very delicate crisp sweetened waffle made on a kind of lacy waffle iron, This we often had for parties and it took a long time to make them. Father was very fond of salt rising bread and we always had this as well as light bread and hot rolls. Then there was a bread which he enjoyed, called Steam Boat bread, not a yeast bread, something similar to that which is now called Sally Lunn, I think.        

J. S. Hogg loved a good meal. He could never forget going hungry in his youth (when he was 16 and traveling across Texas, he once went without food for three days). When he was a young county attorney in Wood County in 1878, he was “thin and muscular,” but he soon began to put on weight. When he ate at the boarding house in Tyler he became famous for his appetite. He always ate dessert first, so as not to be too full for it at the end of his meal. 
By the time he was Governor in 1890 he weighed about 300 pounds. With his 6’4” frame, he was an imposing figure. As one Wood County resident remembered him, “Governor Hogg was a very large and powerful man, requiring four large napkins to cover him while he was eating, sitting well back from the table; he was always very jolly, very affable, and ate with a great deal of gusto.”

But then, J. S. Hogg did everything with gusto.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Housekeeping was a rugged occupation."

After every Sunday there was a Monday, and a work-week to follow. At the Mansion, household tasks were many, and servants were few. Sallie supervised everything. Monday was wash-day (wash tubs, rub-boards, line drying); Tuesday was ironing-day (irons heated on a stove, with chances for burning fingers and scorching clothes)  and so on.
Ima remembered how it was:
After the laundress came on Monday, Grace, the maid, ironed on Tuesday. Father's shirts and collars were sent to the Chinese Laundry nearby.

And once a year, after the nine fireplaces with a winter’s worth of soot and smoke were cold ashes, there was spring cleaning:
Springtime was an ordeal. The carpets were taken up, put on a stiff line and beaten. For some strange reason . . . the furniture went outdoors too to be scrubbed and perhaps varnished.
Housekeeping was a rugged occupation.

 Cooking wasn’t easy, either: a wood-burning stove, no mixes, everything from scratch.

There were certain days for baking salt rising bread, beaten biscuits, cakes of all kinds and cookies to fill the cookie jars for the children and their playmates.            
Things were purchased wholesale – barrels of sugar and flour, one hundred pound cans of lard, cases of canned vegetables when there were none to be had from the garden, etc. Chickens were purchased by the dozen on foot, turkeys as well. When chickens were $2.00 a dozen hardly anyone could afford them. Bacon was bought by the side and I think was five or ten cents a pound. . . . Each week were baked quantities of bread, cakes and pies with wholesale preserving and canning of fruits in season. Our store room was a delight. Mother went about with a great bunch of keys and nothing came out of the store room that she did not check. . . .
            Family meals were “simple and wholesome,” but there were three of them to prepare every day in the big Mansion kitchen, not to mention official dinners. Ima and Mike and Tom loved to watch the makings:

            From the upstairs back hall steps which led down into the kitchen was a favorite place for the children to sit so we heard kitchen talk while we watched the preparations.

         They loved to eat, and so did their father, who weighed 300 pounds.