The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989 Page: 168
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
collection of childhood material culture, borrowed from individuals
and from nine institutions around the state. A human yoke illustrates
the burden of work borne quite literally by some youngsters. Patrons
can sit on benches taken from a one-room schoolhouse and scribble on
a student's slate. A selection of cradles, cribs, prams, and walkers hints
at evolving ideas on the treatment of infants. There are rusted lunch
pails, copy books with Latin lessons, collections of shoes, and an infant's
death cast made by Elisabet Ney. Three full cases are filled with toys-a
variety of dolls, a porcelain tea set, cast-iron fire engine, card games,
miniature hutch, "horse tricycle," and a mechanical goat eating a leaf.
As with the best of such exhibits, the amusing details reinforce larger
lessons-in this case Americans' increasingly idealized view of child-
hood, the use of play to nurture prevailing values, and the child's inti-
mate involvement in the family economy, at least in rural America.
These well-chosen points are taken from the best current scholarship
on childhood and its changes.
The exhibit, however, has two shortcomings. The theme of evolving
attitudes toward children, the "quiet revolution" highlighted at the
start of the exhibit, is not sustained as the viewer moves along. Per-
haps this is unavoidable in an arrangement that is topical rather than
More significant, the exhibit's point of view is more that of adults
than of children. The work done by boys and girls reflected the goals of
parents. Clothing told of adult perceptions of childhood; rituals of
mourning revealed the idealized vision of youthful innocence firmly in
place by the end of the century. Nearly all toys displayed were made by
adults, most of them to reinforce cultural lessons, such as the appropri-
ate spheres of male and female. Of the children's own fears, ambitions,
perceptions, and amusements, there is much less to be learned.
This, too, reflects what has-and has not-been written. In the
literature of the frontier, the child's world remains mostly unexplored
territory. This excellent exhibit thus breaks new ground but also re-
minds us of how much more needs to be done.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Opposite page: Stained-glass window of Stephen F. Austin by unknown artist,
1912. For the story behind the window see page 177 of this issue. Courtesy Austin
College, Sherman, Texas.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989, periodical, 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/m1/195/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.