Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Celebration!

Today at Bayou Bend, Ima Hogg’s former home, now a part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, there is a celebration of THE HOGGS OF TEXAS: LETTERS AND MEMOIRS OF AN EXTRAORDINARY TEXAS FAMILY, 1887-1906, published in November 2013 by the Texas State Historical Association. 
         I began work on it in 2008--the year of Hurricane Ike. In archives in Houston and in Austin I sorted through hundreds of letters the Hoggs and their close relatives had written to each other. Ima had seen to it that most of them were carefully preserved. Sometime in the 1970s she also began a memoir, working diligently, composing many drafts. It begins with her recollectios of life in the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, and ends with her descriptions of student days at the University of Texas and music studies in New York in the early 1900s. We are much the poorer because she did not live long enough to finish it.
         Portions of the memoir are woven into the book, stitching together the narrative of a remarkable family. If Ima had been present at Bayou Bend on January 25, 2014, I think that she would have been pleased.
         She would also be pleased to have visitors at Bayou Bend. You can go to this site to find out more.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"My Dear Little Friend"

Jim Hogg told various stories about why he named his only daughter “Ima.” He, like she, had to live with the endless jokes. Jim Hogg made fun of himself, too, and his sense of humor was one reason Ima adored him. He was a complex man who could be crude and earthy in the backwoods of East Texas, and genial and polished in the Waldorf Astoria’s “Peacock Alley.”
         He could take time from his busy law practice and oil speculations to compose a letter to a little boy who wrote to him asking for a goat. Of all the hundreds of Hogg letters, this is one of my favorites:

My Dear Little Friend:        
Out of the thousands of calls on me for contributions, presents and assistance I find none so unique, terse and boy-like as yours; which simply asks me to send you a goat. I wish I had one here now to express to you, but I have none. Down on my plantation, several hundred miles from this place, I have some goats and I will describe them to you. There are big goats, and little goats, he goats, and she goats, white goats, black goats, red goats, blue goats, grey goats, yellow goats, speckled goats, long-horned goats, Angora goats, Spanish goats, fine goats, common goats, all kinds, classes and colors of goats, and each and every one of them is a book-eating, tree-skinning, briar-cleaning, snake-stamping, bucking goat, used for the purposes of clearing up the woods, brambles and thickets around the premises. Now, the first time you hear that I am in Houston, I want you and your brother to call on me at the Rice Hotel, so that you can explain to me whether or not one of these malicious goats which you call for would get your father into trouble with his neighbor. I warrant you are a nice boy, and I hope to make your acquaintance. With sincere regards I am,

                           Your Friend,
                           J. S. Hogg

No wonder Ima Hogg wanted this man’s letters preserved for posterity.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Three Hogg daughters: Ima, Ura, and Sheesa

  Like bad pennies, the name stories about Ima, Ura, et al.  followed Ima’s father everywhere. One such occasion was in November 1899 when the ex-Governor of Texas attended a fair in San Antonio. He was accompanied by three young belles he called the “Waco Trio.” Afterward he wrote to one of them, Mary Lou Tinsley, about the good time he had escorting her and her friends. But, he said,
         “Only one thing marred my pleasure or wounded my feelings . . . I must tell of it. It was this: While proudly I assumed that I was regarded by that swarm of young fellows [at the fair] as their rival, I soon learned the hordes of strangers were being told that there ‘s ‘Old Hogg and his three daughters—Ima, Ura, and Shesa!” This was why I looked and felt so gloomy, at times.

Served him right!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Name--From Coast to Coast

Newspapers could not get enough of the Ima Hogg name stories.When Ima, age sixteen, went with her father on a trip to Hawaii in 1898, what must she have thought when she read the local paper?

         Ex-Governor Hogg of Texas now at the Hawaiian Hotel, besides being a man of force and strong convictions, has a vein of humor which finds all sorts of channels. His two daughters are named Ima and Ura, and a son is named Moore. These three names, in fact, introduced in succession, invariably have the effect originally conceived of. Miss Ima Hogg is with her father here.
--The Hawaiian Gazette, September 9, 1898.

A version of the name story appeared on this same day in a Kansas paper:

         Ex-Governor Hogg, of Texas, has a daughter named Ura, and another named Ima: Ima Hogg and Ura Hogg. He should now name a son Heza.
--The Atchison [Kansas] Daily Globe, September 9, 1898.

A year later, a longer story appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper:

Ima Hogg is the startling and decidedly non-euphonic name of the fair, winsome and pretty, curly-haired daughter of Governor James s. Hogg, of Texas, who at the Fourth of July dinner at Tammany Hall set the braves wild by a rattling Bryan and silver speech. Regarding the peculiar name of his daughter, the Governor says: “I suppose you have heard the ridiculous stories about how my daughter was named. She was named by her mother. Her mother was reading a book somewhere in which one of the characters which interested her exceptionally was named Ima. About that time the little girl came along, and she was named Ima. We never noticed the play of her name until it was called to our attention. The boys all have rational names. They are Tom, Mike, and Will.”
--The North American [Philadelphia] July 13, 1899.

         Ima was then seventeen years old. She believed what her father said, because she adored him.