Ticket to Yesterday.

Excerpt from 1919 Houston City Directory, Part One.

Excerpt from 1919 Houston City Directory, Part Two.*

* The small print above reads: “Take it home with you and do away with the dust, the worry, the grime.  Make it pleasant for your wife.” Houston Lighting & Power Company (now Reliant) was located at San Jacinto & Capitol back then and their telephone number was Preston 4140.

This 1919 advertisement for the Houston Lighting & Power Company goes on to extol the modern  conveniences of those new applainces that were then available, but only to those businesses and families that subscribed to the provision of electrical power for the office and home. Such items as vacuum cleaners, irons, toasters, sewing machines, fans, and grills were all then listed as items that any family should want to have live and running back in the post World War I days of life in Houston, There was no mention of radio and air conditioning, Those luxuries were an eye blink and another world war away from widespread popularity and dependency – and forget television, microwave ovens, and the Internet. Those convenient consumer addictions were several amusement and comfort-hungry generations down the road.

Now, in 2010, it’s only possible for me to be sharing this story because of our ready and taken-for-granted-until-Rita-and-Ike dependency upon the everyday  availability of electricity here in Houston. Boy! Did those two monsters of nature ever take us quickly back instantly to the everyday realities of our steaming hot and humid way of life in Houston back in General Sam’s day!

All of this commotion here too is just my way of sharing the news with those of you who don’t already know that our wonderful Houston Public Library system has now made several ancient Houston city directories available to all of us online for the first time. Now we are helped again with our local research by the library’s constantly moving efforts to make our work easier and freer of physical trips downtown to the archives for everything.

For those of us involved in local baseball research, the availability of these sources dating back to the Civil War era are a monumental gain for all of us non-funded research people who would otherwise have to schedule time for going downtown, and paying for gas and parking, simply to look up an antiquated street address. Now we shouldn’t have to do that on many occasions.

The danger of these ready resources is similar to the risks we all face in local reasearch. You will find so many items of distraction from your original purpose that you will need to stay focused on why you are doing a particular search. (One of these days, I’m going to have to go back and try to learn more about that bar I found in downtown Houston back in the 1890s. They called it the “Two Orphan’s Saloon.” What a great name for a turn of the 20th century watering hole.)

Here’s the link that will get you to the general site where all the directories are online.

http://digital.houstonlibrary.org/cdm4/browse.php?CISOROOT=%2Fcitydir

Thank you, John Civitello, for letting me know about the availability of this incredible resource. And have a nice weekend, everybody – especially if you plan to spend it in search of Houston’s history.

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