In 1957, Galveston Historical Foundation started collecting artifacts, furnishings and artworks for display in its historic house museums. Today, GHF preserves and manages over 4,000 historic objects that contribute to a better understanding to Galveston Island’s rich history. GHF uses its collections to support educational programs, exhibits, and research. The items on this page represent a sampling of pieces in GHF’s collection that date from the 1830s-1850s.
Pudding Mold Stoneware, c. 1850s
Unlike the jiggly snack packs sent in children’s lunches today, puddings in the 1850s were more like heavy fruit cakes which were steamed rather than baked. After cooking, the pudding would be turned out of the mold revealing its design and served with a sauce.
Mirror New Orleans, c. 1830
New Orleans was the closest, largest port city to Galveston and regular steamboat trade started as early as 1837 moving cargo and passengers between the two gulf cities. It took only two days to travel by steamboat.
Bill of Sale for Francis Lenora, 1858
In 1845, the United States of America annexed Texas as a slave holding state. By 1860, there were 1,178 slaves recorded on the US Census living in Galveston, nearly 20% of the city’s population. Francis was sold on December 12, 1858.
The bill of sale reads: “The State of Texas know all men by these presents that I Hiram L. Conner of Galveston County for the consideration of the sum of eight hundred Dollars to me paid by Philip C. Tucker Jr. of Galveston County, (the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged.) have bargained, sold and conveyed, and by these presents do bargain, sell and convey, unto the said Philip C. Tucker Jr. a certain Negro Slave to wit.: Francis Lenora, black girl aged about 12 years to have and to hold the same to the said Philip C. Tucker Jr his heirs and assigns forever. And I for myself, my heirs, executors and administrators, do covenant and agree to and with said Tucker his heirs, administrators and assigns, that I have good right and lawful authority to sell and convey said slave that she free and clear of all incumbrances [sic], a Slave for life, and sound in body and mind and that ____ [left blank] warrant will forever defend the same unto the said Tucker his heirs, administrators and assigns.”
Reclining chair, c. 1840
Listed on an inventory of the Williams family belongings, this chair cost Samuel May Williams $7.50. He would allegedly bring the chair onto the front porch of his house at night to look at the stars.
Toy Borden’s Milk Wagon Illinois, c. 1930s
Rich Toys, Inc
As an inventor and customs collector living in Galveston, Gail Borden invented condensed milk in order to combat food contamination. The company he founded is better known today as Borden’s Dairy Company, which still produces Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk.
Wardrobe Louisiana, c. 1815-1830 Pine and Mahogany
During the 1830s and 40s many settlers moved to the Republic of Texas from neighboring Louisiana. The wardrobe disassembles into smaller parts making it easier to move.
Godey’s Lady’s Book, Vol. XXVI Philadelphia, 1843 Edited by Sarah Hale
Even in the Republic of Texas, women depended on publications like Godey’s Lady’s Book, which came by mail, to inform them of the latest fashions, short stories and biographical sketches. Samuel May William’s family subscribed and received the publication all the way in Galveston.In 1858, Eleanor Spann felt there were too many northern publications available to Texans, so she set out to produce her own literary magazine called, Texian Monthly Magazine.
Texans used hand-cranked mills like these to grind their coffee beans. They poured the beans into the top. The handle turns a blade that pulverizes the beans into grounds, which fall into the drawer below.
Spoon Galveston, TX c. 1840s Retailed by John A. Sauters Coin Silver
John A. Sauters emigrated from Germany to Galveston by 1841. He ran a grocery and provisions store, and the Gothic Saloon before opening the House Furnishing Warehouse in 1848. He sold any household goods that the early settlers needed to furnish their new homes including this spoon purchased by the Williams family.
This handmade ladder-back chair has a rawhide seat. Settlers raised cattle along the outskirts of Galveston and the market downtown sold fresh beef during the hours of daybreak until six o’clock in the morning. Beef and fish cost less than pork as they were more readily available in Galveston.
The fountain pen was not patented until 1884 and before then, it was more common that pens or feather quills needed to be dipped into ink before being applied to paper. Although various forms of self-inking pens existed before 1884, their frequent ink spills and impractical designs kept people from buying them on a large scale.
Platter England, c. 1855
While many Texas pioneers ate off of wooden or pewter plates, Galvestonians had greater access to imported ceramic dishes because of the harbor.
Inscribed “Genl Sam Houston to Saml M. Williams”