Bureaucracy: A Texas Scrap-Book: Made up of the history, biography, and miscellany of Texas and its people Compiled by DWC Baker

Baker, D. W. C. A Texas Scrap-Book: Made up of the history, biography, and miscellany of Texas and its people Compiled by DWC Baker. Austin, 1935.

About

Businessman DeWitt Clinton Baker (1832-1881) was born in Portland, Maine and educated at Gorham Academy and Bowdoin College before eventually obtaining an apprenticeship in the printing business in Portland. Around 1850, he moved with his wife and nine children to Austin, Texas, where he worked in the drug business for several decades.  During this time, he was not only appointed an official weather record keeper for the state but also served on the state school examining board and attempted to develop a public school system.  An author of numerous poems, he is best known for his two book publications—A Brief History of Texas from Its Earliest Settlement in 1873 and A Texas Scrap-Book in 1875. The first book was briefly adopted for use in schools before the school board banned it, claiming that it expressed “anti-Southern” views (McLemore 27).  While the History contained few references to political events or to slavery, the Scrap-Book departed from interpretation and analysis altogether and instead compiled sources about Texas history. Like the History, the Scrap-Book was a commercial failure, and Baker sold his plates to another publisher, who incorporated them into Homer S. Thrall’s A Pictorial History of Texas, from the Earliest Visits of European Adventurers, to A.D. 1879.

Like other post-Civil War Texas histories, which sought to memorialize war veterans, the Scrap-Book focused in particular on the Texas Revolution of 1835-36, a war in which the colony of Texas declared its independence from Mexico and established the Texas Republic.  However, also like other histories, the Scrap-Book focused on the exploits of white men, providing little information about other populations in Texas, such as Tejanos and African Americans. The Scrap-Book is divided into four parts—historical, biographical, miscellaneous, and statistical.  Each section collates documents related to Texas’s past, including historical accounts of battles, accounts of conflicts with Native Americans, narratives of famous men’s lives, lists of the war dead, and copies of Texas’s multiple constitutions. The “historical accounts” offer a history of Texas from its Spanish colonizers through the Texas Revolution, focusing primarily on the revolution, the settlement of Texas by Anglo-Americans, and violent conflicts between settlers and Native peoples. Meanwhile, the “miscellany” included cultural and natural information.       

In the preface, Baker states that he viewed the scrapbook as a volume that would reclaim the history of Texas from obscurity, especially since many of the men who participated in the Texas Revolution had died. He had carefully “collect[ed] whatever of interest he could find relating to the history, biography, and miscellany of Texas people” in order to offer “original narratives of Texas history and adventure.”  As Baker’s title suggests, he participated in the immensely popular practice of scrapbooking, the process of collecting and compiling newspaper clippings to “to save, manage, and reprocess information” (Garvey 4). The form of the scrapbook preserved history for future readers while also allowing compilers to redefine their relationship to the material. For Baker, the form also allowed him to produce a selective version of Texas history.  For example, by listing personal information about the signers of the Texas declaration of independence on page 58 (shown here), Baker locates Texas history in the stories of particular men and suggests that readers can access the Texas past through the lives of its founders. Finally, on a practical level, the Scrap-Book allows Texans to locate their history: by turning to the compilation, they could find evidence of their country’s (and later, state’s) history, heroes, natural and cultural productions.

The Scrap-Book also seeks to locate Texas as a political and cultural entity that is separate from non-Anglo people and influences.  For example, Baker includes accounts of the battles fought during the Texas Revolution and its reproduction of Texas constitutions, and these histories define the state as a separate geographic, historical, and political entity from Mexico, despite the fact that people from the two entities shared histories, experiences, and languages. Indeed, the Scrap-Book acknowledges this fact by recounting Texas settlement by Spanish colonizers, thus representing the origins that Texas shared with Mexico. Yet, by focusing on the revolution, the Scrap-Book also posits that war as a key turning point that located Texas in a new history and disrupted its relationship to a Spanish past.  Similarly, the book seeks to define Texas heroes and cultural values as forged in their encounters with violent Native Americans but also as totally separate from those peoples.

Find A Texas Scrap-Book in the UNT Libraries Catalog.