Growth from the Ashes: Highlights from a Century of Preserving History at The Texas Collection

F. L. Carroll Library and Chapel opened in 1903. Adorned with its exquisite furnishings, a stained-glass dome atop the building and a pipe organ on the stage, the first library building on Baylor’s campus provided ample seating for the entire student population. On February 11, 1922, a fire of unknown origin prompted students to rescue library materials before the building was engulfed in fire and smoke. While the interior was destroyed, the exterior was salvaged and used to create the new, fireproof library building, adding a basement and third floor to the structure.

On June 12, 1923, Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth officially donated his personal collection of Texana to Baylor University, establishing the Texas History Library. The materials were kept under the care of Francis Gevrier Guittard, Chair of the History Department, until a suitable space could be opened in the newly renovated Carroll Library. The first Texas History room was opened on the second floor of the library.

The continued support of Dr. Aynesworth allowed the History Department to appoint Miss Aleph Tanner as the first Curator of the Texas History Library as well as Professor of Texas History. Her course was the first Texas History class taught at the university level in the state. As curator, Tanner’s duties allowed her to grow and collect materials related to Texas.

In addition to general Texas interests, The Texas Collection has also been home to the Baylor University Archives, with materials dating to the school’s presence in Independence (1845-1866). The history of the oldest continuously operating university in Texas is very much a part of Texas history itself. Items featured in this exhibit highlight the beginnings of the collection, showcase the collecting interests of past curators and directors, and in some cases are the materials handled by our earliest benefactors.

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