The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959 Page: 317
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The Intellectual Climate of Houston
animal resembling an anteater.25 The wharfmaster of the city of
Houston had little respect for science, for he collected from
Smith, on his sundry boxes of wild animals and fourteen hundred
plant specimens, a wharfage more than double that later charged
by the Galveston wharfmaster.20
At the end of 1837, there was organized in Houston the Philo-
sophical Society of Texas, designed to accumulate a library and
cabinets of mineralogical, geological, and natural history speci-
mens.27 There were, alas, too few philosophers in Texas, and far
too many on its roster of self-appointed philosophers turned out
to be politicians who preferred brawling in taverns to philoso-
phizing in some bleak hall. And so the society quietly and quickly
died, to be revived, after almost a century, in 1936, by self-ap-
pointed philosophers with considerably more talent and a great
deal more wealth.28
There were some in Houston who read books and some even
who collected them. Private libraries were likely to have been law
libraries, as were the substantial collections of John Scott29 and
William Fairfax Gray.30 Smaller collections were sometimes more
belletristic. William Longthorp owned works of Shakespeare,
Byron, Coleridge, and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Young's
Night Thoughts.1 John Faber, Jr., had eighteen volumes of
Schiller, two of Victor Hugo, and Goethe's Faust.32 A woman,
Julia Neil, who was declared non compos mentis in the early
1840's, owned a volume of Aristotle.3
Two serious attempts were made to operate circulating libraries.
In 1839 Henry F. Byrne and Company initiated the Houston Cir-
culating Library in its book, stationery, and fancy store at No. 7
25Telegraph and Texas Register, March 23, 1842; June 15, 1842; June 22, 1842;
Morning Star, March 22, 1842; June 14, 1842.
26Ibid., September 20, 1842; November 17, 1842.
27Telegraph and Texas Register, January 12, 1838; May 5, 1838; November 14,
1838; December 1, 1838; Gulick and others (eds.), Lamar Papers, V, 216-217; Hous-
ton Public Library, Annual Report, 1926, pp. 41-43.
28Handbook of Texas, II, 373-374-
20Probate Records of Harris County (MSS., County Clerk's Office, Houston), F,
soIbid., C, 564-565, 6oo.
allbid., D, 480-481.
32Ibid., F, 259, 261.
Ibid., F, 237, 387.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959, periodical, 1959; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101173/m1/380/: accessed June 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.