Southwestern Historical Quarterly
This rare opportunity to see this many Smith images should not be missed.
The photographs are jewels, and are nicely presented and interpreted by Amon
Carter Museum curator Barbara McCandless and author B. Byron Price.
Dallas County Heritage Society Gary N. Smith
"La Belle: The Mystery of La Salle in the Gulf." Traveling exhibition, June i-July
30, 1998. Lafitte National Historic Park, 314 St. Mary Street, Thibodaux,
Louisiana. No catalogue. Created by the Corpus Christi Museum of Science
and History, Corpus Christi, Texas.
The internationally recognized French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La
Salle, landed on the Central Texas coast in early 1685 with the escort warship
Joly, the storeship Aimable, and a small frigate, the Belle. Later, the Joly returned
safely to France, but La Salle's ship, the Aimable, wrecked near the entrance to
Matagorda Bay, and the Belle went aground inside the bay. Despite the loss of
two ships, La Salle established Fort Saint Louis, where the colonists flew the
French banner with the fleur-de-lis for four years before local Indians overran
The location of the grounded Belle was discovered by marine archeologists of
the Texas Historical Commission in the summer of 1995, and in July of the fol-
lowing year, the Commission proceeded to excavate after constructing a sophisti-
cated cofferdam around the site. Since August 1996, the French fleur-de-lis has
been popping up in Texas museums in celebration of the Texas Historical
Archeologists uncovered over one million artifacts (including 750,000 trade
beads, three bronze cannons, boxes of muskets), a human skeleton, and numer-
ous other valuable items from the Belle. The Commission also initiated an innov-
ative educational program to display the artifacts, using a traveling exhibit that
includes photographic panels of the excavation, two videos on the treasures
found on the Belle, six cases of artifacts, including a sword, buckles, buttons, lead
shot, ceramics, pewter plates, glass trade beads, hawk bells, and an impressive
six-foot, eight-hundred-pound bronze cannon mounted on a simulated ship's
deck. The exhibit can fit comfortably within a space of 800o to i ooo square feet,
with room added to view the videos.
Although the primary purpose of the exhibit is to display a collection of arti-
facts recovered from La Salle's ship, the show is designed also to depict life
aboard the Belle and at the fort and to document the Commission's effort to
locate the ship and manage the excavation. The exhibit was created by the
Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History with artifacts loaned by the
Commission. The two videos, Treasures of the Texas Coast: La Belle and The La Salle
Shipwreck, were prepared by South Texas PBS and Education Management
Group. The Institute of Texan Cultures prepared photographs included in five
photographic panels illustrating the excavation. The technical selection and pre-
sentation of the materials are impressive, and the artifacts are arranged and dis-
played in enclosed cases clearly labeled.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/. Accessed September 2, 2014.