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Inside Texas

Culture, Identity and Houses, 1878–1920

Cynthia Brandimarte

Publication Year: 2013

“Inside Texas: Culture, Identity and Houses, 1878–1920” is a 464 page book with 296 photos that tests and rejects the notion that Texas homes, like all things Texan, were unique and different.  Over the 40 year time span covered by the book, decorating ideas nationally and in Texas went from the era of Victorianism with “all that stuff” to the spare, clean lines of the arts and crafts movement. By 1920, like Americans across the country, many Texans, especially the wealthier, were taking their decorating ideas from the new professionals – architects and designers – and their homes reflected less their own identity than the taste and eye of the decorator.

In seven years of research, Brandimarte traveled the state, collecting photographs of interiors of Texas homes – rare in comparison to exterior views.  The images reprinted here are arranged neither in chronological order nor according to decorating style but by identities –occupation, family, ethnicity, social group, region, culture and refinement, class and style.  Brief biographical information about the homeowners is incorporated into the text.

“Inside Texas” is about people and houses.  It is social history, a significant contribution to scholarship, an invaluable resource for preservationist, docents, architects and designers as well as a book to be treasured by anyone who loves old houses. 

Published by: TCU Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Inside Texas is about people and houses, using domestic material culture, documented in photographic images, to study Texans from 1878 to 1920. How did they set about fashioning homes for themselves and their families? What image or images did they wish to project in their homes? ...

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1. “All That Stuff”: An Introduction

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pp. 3-14

In 1984 author-screenwriter Horton Foote called me to advise him on a set design for the movie 1918, a semiautobiographical film shot in Waxahachie about the 1918 influenza epidemic. Foote explained that many scenes would recreate his family's home. ...

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2. Ranchers and Lawyers, Photographers and Artists: Occupation

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pp. 15-48

Texans were carpenters, clerks, domestics, farmers, lawyers, merchants, musicians, railroad workers, ranchers, and teachers. But no matter what their occupations, they often chose to signify their work in household decoration. ...

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3. Ties That Bind: Family

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pp. 49-74

Among the household elements most expressive of an identification with family were crayon portraits, cabinet cards, cartes de visite, and snapshots of immediate family and relatives. Such images adorned middle- and lower-middle-class houses throughout the state. ...

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4. “Madonnas upon Log-Walls”: Ethnicity

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pp. 75-98

Photographs document the expression of ethnic identity among Texans of Danish, Hispanic, German, Wendish, and English origins. Other groups settled in Texas — the Japanese, the Italians, and the Polish, for example — but photos of their home interiors do not survive in large numbers. ...

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5. Home Away from Home: Social Group

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pp. 99-118

People who lived away from home had a number of choices including cooperatives, hotels, boardinghouses, and dormitories, each of which had public and private spaces. The interiors of these shared dwellings were distinctively different from those of private residences. ...

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6. The Alamo, the Lone Star, and the Confederacy: Region

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pp. 119-142

Regional identification was often indicated by furnishings, decorative motifs, building materials, and accommodation to the climate. Louis Melcher of LaGrange fashioned settees and center tables from the horns of Texas longhorn cattle and filled his parlor with the furniture — the room asserts its cattle-country origin. ...

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7. Art Good Enough for Texas: Refinement

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pp. 143-166

In a 1921 issue of the New York journal Arts & Decoration, art critic Forbes Watson related an anecdote about a woman from Texas who some twenty-five years earlier had been impressed with the Winged Victory. Seeing a plaster cast of the famous statue in Boston, the naif reportedly exclaimed: ...

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8. From Art Galleries to Sears, Roebuck: Class

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pp. 167-194

Photographs in this chapter illustrate that a householder's socioeconomic level was a critical variable in the decoration of domestic interiors. Many interior views show extremes — high or low income levels — which represent the range of choices people had based on their financial resources. ...

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9. Aesthetic, Mission, and Colonial Revival: Style

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pp. 195-222

Many Texans sought decorating models beyond those that evolved from their occupation, ethnicity, or region. The desire for a recognizable style became a major criterion for house decoration, and acceptance of various styles linked Texas homes and interiors to national decorating trends. ...

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10. Houses of Many Rooms: Multiple Identities

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pp. 223-272

Through the decoration of their homes, people expressed their identity as residents of a region and as members of families, various social and ethnic groups, and economic classes. In many cases such identification was visible throughout a room and occasionally through several rooms. ...

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11. “Interior Decorators Were Not Yet With Us”: Advice Literature

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pp. 273-306

Even Texans who created the most idiosyncratic interiors also sought to approximate national decorating trends. That pursuit introduced elements that effected the way Texans shaped their domestic environments once they were aware of the cultural marketplace ...

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12. Toward Professional Decoration: A Case Study

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pp. 307-336

When householders began to use the services of architects and decorators, the result was standardization in house design. Some prosperous Texans wholeheartedly embraced the decorating advice of the professionals they employed, thereby subordinating indicators of their own occupational and ethnic identities. ...

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13. Deep in the Heart of Anywhere: Architects and Decorators

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pp. 337-396

To what extent were design professionals accessible to turn-of-the-century Texans? Ellen Bowie recalled that when her parents built the family's Weatherford home in 1901 "interior decorators were not yet with us."1 ...

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A Complex of Trails: Conclusion

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pp. 397-402

In 1981 two University of Chicago social scientists, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton, published The Meaning of Things, Domestic Symbols and the Self. They had interviewed 315 people in two neighborhoods in the Chicago area in an effort to discover what household possessions the interviewees valued. ...

Appendix 1

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pp. 403-404

Appendix 2

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pp. 405-416


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pp. 417-424


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pp. 425-442


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pp. 443-452


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pp. 453-460

E-ISBN-13: 9780875655178
E-ISBN-10: 0875655173
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875650920

Page Count: 460
Illustrations: 296 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2013