Poll Taxes

The other month we sent a few boxes of the Legett collection off-site to be digitized and uploaded to the West Texas Digital Archives. They came back this week.

Whenever objects leave their home, we keep detailed lists and records to double check whatever is sent off is returned in the same condition it left.

Think of Santa making his list and checking it twice. We don’t want anything to fall through the cracks.

Today’s post is inspired by papers read while in-processing the Legett collection:

Poll Tax Receipts

Poll Tax Receipt for K.B. Legett, 1919
Poll Tax Receipt for K.B. Legett, Jan. 19, 1929


Wait a minute…you had to pay to vote? How is that legal?

Poll Taxes emerged in the United States in the late nineteenth century as an extension of Jim Crow Laws.

(For those who need a quick recap of U.S. history: Jim Crow Laws developed to prohibit the recently emancipated African American population from participating as full, free citizens. These laws allowed, and in some instances, encouraged segregation and racism.)

Poll taxes mandated that anyone who wished to vote had to pay a tax before receiving a ballot. This monetary restriction kept poorer individuals away from the polls, and turned voting–a U.S. citizen’s right–into a privilege for only those who could afford it.

As I’m sure you could imagine, preventing certain demographics from voting kept opinions from being heard and legislature from changing. And as as result, any time the poll tax was on the ballot to determine whether or not to keep it, those who would have voted to disband the tax, could not afford to vote, thus allowing the cycle to continue.

Now, take a look at those receipts above. In 1919, K.B. Legett paid $1.75 to be able to vote. This may not seem like a lot of money today; however, if an individual is making 20¢ per hour, that poll tax is a significant percentage of that salary, making voting a nonstarter.

In Texas, poll taxes were in effect from 1902-1966.

So, the next time you have the chance, go out and vote!

giphy (1)



Allow me to reintroduce myself

It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything here on the blog, so to those who are no longer with us from holding their breath…our bad.


To recap the purpose of this blog for those who are new, or have forgotten, the HSU Richardson Library is home to a diverse and amazing collection of personal letters, photographs, memorabilia, and more from the leading individuals, families, and organizations of HSU, Abilene, and surrounding area.

Posts on this site will allow us to crack open the vault and share these delicious tidbits of history and drama with you, and the rest of the public.

If there’s a topic you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to reply in the comment section, and we’ll be sure to cover it in a future post!

So, stay tuned for the next exciting installment of The Vault!

The Corral

Hardin-Simmons students have left their mark on the campus in more ways than one. Over time they created several different student run publications: the yearbook – the Bronco, the newspaper – the Brand, the alumni newsletter – the Range Rider, and the literary/art publication – the Corral. Of these four major publications, the oldest is the Corral, published beginning in 1902.

Corral 1906
1906 Corral

The Corral started out as the only source of news on campus for students (other than gossip). The first few editions contained short stories and poems, along with information such as: Board of Trustee decisions, community news, and anything related to campus life. This early production also had advertisements for anything a college student could want including a bank, furniture, clothes, and even several photography studios. In 1933 the Corral ceased publication for the next 18 years, due to the fact that Simmons students didn’t fit with the writing of the time period (protest literature), so nothing was submitted. It resumed in 1950 with gusto.

Corral 1962
1962 Corral

By the 1960s, the Corral began to include more than just the literary arts. In the fall of 1962 one of the first drawings is presented in the Corral, and by the mid-1970s, the content was predominantly visual art and poetry. Another leap forward occurred in the 1984, when color was introduced to the publication.

Currently the Corral is in its 94th year of existence (or somewhere close), and shows no sign of slowing. Today, the Corral can be found numerous places every spring available for free. The HSU Library has also digitized past volumes and can be seen along with the Bronco, Brand, Catalogs, and many other items on the West Texas Digital Archives.

Corral 1984
1984 Corral

Arizona Bill

Not many people recognize the name Arizona Bill anymore. The name has disappeared from the consciousness of people walking the campus, but the symbol remains. Arizona Bill is the name given to the cannon that sits between the Old Main bell and the pond, on a stand of built up earth and rock named Fort Babe Shaw. Both names are tributes to students who gave their lives fighting in World War I, along with eleven others–

Chester A. Adams | Jack Blount  | Kenneth Burns | Ennis Camp | Robert Embry | Aubrey Fisher | Allister Goodnight | O.A. Keele | Frank Martin | Reed Morris | Dennis Pumphrey | Stephen Dupree Rainey | Clyde Shaw

Fort Babe Shaw Cannon

Over 400 young men (and one young woman) from then Simmons College played a part in World War I. Although many of them never graduated, they are a part of the tradition of HSU.


The anonymous poem below first appeared in the 1921 Bronco and paid homage to those who lost their lives in World War I.

arizona bill001

Chants and Yells

Supporting your university sports teams is a time-honored pastime for generations of college students. Few things on campus bind students together like sitting/standing in the student section with their classmates shouting the chants and yells of their college. Hardin-Simmons, through several name changes was the recipient of many created yells.
Dr. Julius Olsen, science professor and Dean, created a yell for Simmons around 1908:

Rah- hoo-rah!
Sim Sim
Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah,
Simmons! Simmons! Simmons!

Quickly this yell fell out of favor, as it needed intricate timing, so much so that even those who knew it often yelled in the off-beat.


A small pamphlet was later published entitled “Official Songs and Yells of Simmons College” which include such yells as:

Wild and woolly, wild and woolly
Bust a broncho, beat a bully;
Hootin’, tootin’, cuttin’, shootin’
We’re the bunch that do the rootin’!
Zip Spang Simmons

Hay-seed, hay-seed, punkin, squash
Simmons, Simmons, yes by ———–.
Strawberry shortcakes, gooseberry pie,
Are we in it? Well, I guess,
Simmons! Simmons! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Gone are the days when ________ had a team;
Gone are the days when ________ was supreme;
Down in defeat before the purple and gold,
We hear their gentle voices calling:
“Take us home!”

In the present day, chants and yells have mostly gone away, and have been replaced by songs performed by the Cowboy Band. The camaraderie and school spirit remains, however, and will continue as long as there are students to yell.

Prexy pt.2

After becoming president in 1909, Sandefer navigated the school through many important changes that led HSU to where it is today.


Sandefer helped advance the standing of the school in many ways, the first of which was getting Simmons College recognized as a teacher training agency by the Texas State Department of Education in 1912.  1914 saw the admission into the Texas Intercollegiate Association, for the purpose of athletics and oratorical contests.

A little over a decade later, 1925 brought along the first name change to happen under Sandefer, from Simmons College to Simmons University.  Since his appointment in 1909, he dreamed of the school becoming a university and offering graduate level programs, as there were none available in west Texas at the time.  Only two years later, in 1927, Simmons University was admitted into the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and in 1928 acceptance into the American Association of Colleges followed.  The School of Music also advanced in stature and in 1930, along with Baylor, was the first Texas schools to be members of the National Association of Schools of Music.

In the early 1930s Sandefer got word of a gift given to Baylor by Mr. and Mrs. John Hardin.  With high hopes, Sandefer approached the Hardin’s about a donation to Simmons, and in 1934, thanks to the efforts of Sandefer, the Board of Trustees accepted a gift of $250,000 and changed the name of the school to Hardin-Simmons University.

Throughout his tenure, Sandefer spoke regularly at chapel, held dinner parties large and small in his residence, and became the face of the university.  Prexy Sandefer would lead the school through a world war, a great depression, two name changes, and leave a mark on the school that is unmatched, and he chose to be buried along with Simmons and Pope in the campus cemetery outside of present day Moody Center.


Prexy pt.1

Prexy by definition is a slang form of president, usually referring to the head of a college.  In HSU history though, Prexy is not a reference to the current president, but to a specific president: Jefferson Davis Sandefer.  Most people on campus have at least heard the Sandefer name because of the admin building that carries it, but other than that, most people know nothing of the man known as Prexy.


Sandefer was born in Arkansas in 1868, and soon after moved with his family to Texas.  He earned his A.B. degree from the Parker Institute at Whitt in Parker County, and then became President of Strawn College.  From 1901-1906 he was a professor of Latin and history at John Tarleton College, of which he became President in 1908.

When President O.H. Cooper resigned in 1909, a presidential search committee gathered to come up with a list of candidates to replace him.  Dr. Cooper had some guidance over this process, and removed each name from the list and instead wrote the name of Sandefer, and returned it with the comment, “He is your man.”  The following day, several members of the committee rode the train to Stephenville to make the invitation to Sandefer.

Sandefer chose to accept the invitation to come look at the college and speak to some of the leaders, but what happened would change the course of Simmons College.  After many, many hours of meetings that lasted until after midnight, Sandefer agreed to consider the job if they would only adjourn the meeting.  When the committee members heard this they all shook hands and congratulated and thanked him for accepting the position.  In his biography years later, Sandefer himself says “after thirty years, I am confessing that they misunderstood me that night.”  Whether this was a negotiating tactic, or a simple misunderstanding, the decision would shape many lives for the next 31 years.

William Jennings Bryan and Sandefer

Back to School (for the 1st time)

Old Main001

Simmons College officially opened its doors to students for the 1892-1893 school year.  The first class consisted of 48 boys and 41 girls, and were instructed by 9 faculty members.  At this time the school held two different groups of students, the Primary Department and the College Department.  Within the College Department, there were 4 degree plans available, but in reality the only difference was how many and what types of languages were chosen.

Here are some highlights from the first catalog–

  • Holidays: 1 day for Thanksgiving, 2 days the week of Christmas, and the first day of May
  • Clubs: Two Literary Societies, one for young gentlemen and the other for young ladies, to meet once a week for debate and other exercises
  •  College Library: 600 volumes, Students are forbidden to bring literature of a “trashy nature” into the College building
  • Required Articles: each student is expected to furnish:
  1. A pair of sheets
  2. A pair of blankets
  3. A spread
  4. Towels
  5. Pillow-cases
  6. Comb
  7. Brush
  8. Toilet soap
  • Also included in the first bulletin was the first set of rules for the campus.

Rules 1

Rules 2

 The first catalog in 1892-1983 was 20 pages long compared to the 2013-2014 version which has 216 pages, and that’s just for undergraduates!

1892 catalog

Far Far Away

When Simmons College was founded in 1891, the city of Abilene was itself only a decade older, having been founded in 1881.  The railroad was the main hub for the early city, and the busiest section of town was around North and South 1st, and many of tree streets, including Pine Street.

campus view2

According to Google Maps, the distance from the entrance of HSU to North 1st and Pine is 2 miles.  Today we can hop in our cars and drive that route in a short time (or not if you hit all the red lights).  In the early years of HSU, driving was not an option, and even visiting town was discouraged by President O.C. Pope:

Aimless loitering about town on the part of male students does not speak well for the young men themselves nor for the schools which they attend.  Hence, frequent visits to town will not be encouraged and no student will be permitted to go to town without permission.campus view

Even with permission town was still 2 miles away, and with the primary method of transportation for the students being walking, most students stayed on campus.  The distance between HSU and Abilene can best be illustrated by the fact that the last house was at 8th Street, and the roads leading to campus “were as cattle trails through the brush country” according to Dr. Rupert N. Richardson.Streetcar

Around 1908 a street car had a route in Abilene.  The track ended at Simmons Street to the North, and ran to the Church of the Heavenly Rest to the South.  Even still, by 1915 it took over 30 minutes to get to town via this new transportation method, and there are many jokes written about the timeliness and speed of the street car in the Brand.

Hardin-Simmons is almost as old as Abilene itself, and has grown with the city over the past 122 years.  We take for granted how easily we move around on campus and through the city, when years ago, it would have been much more difficult to get to town, if you were even allowed to go.  Many things have changed since that time, and in terms of transportation, it has become much easier.

Purple and Gold?

Few things are as important and memorable to an institution as the school colors.  They are seen everywhere on campus, on signs, flags, golf carts, car decals, and all types of apparel.  It is imperative then, that the colors fit the identity of the people that call the institution their own.

From 1891 to 1895 Hardin-Simmons did not have an official school color, but that would change in 1896.  President Thatcher appointed a committee of 3 students to determine the school colors with two choices available to them: purple and gold, or pink and white.  Now, for some brief historical context, during this time pink was considered a boy’s color, and blue a girls color until around World War II, so pink and white would have been a very manly color.  There is no recorded reason as to why the colors purple and gold were chosen in regards to their other connotations, such as purple being the color of royalty or having some spiritual meaning.  How one of the “other universities” in town came to choose purple for their primary color, I can’t say, but it is safe to declare that HSU chose it first.

So try and remember the next time you are at an official HSU function, pink and white could be adorning each lapel pin, tablecloth, and banner.

Original photo by Thomas Metthe, Tommy Metthe/Abilene Reporter-News