Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Book Selected for Galveston Reads Project 2008

Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines has been selected as the next title for the Galveston County Reads project.
A Lesson Before Dying is Ernest J. Gaines' eighth novel, published in 1993. It was selected for Oprah's Book Club in 1997.

The Galveston Reads committee is now working on ways to promote and publicize Lesson Before Dying. An effort will be made to publicize the book to Galveston County high schools and colleges for inclusion in their curriculum for next year. Programming for the book will occur January through March, 2008.

The next meeting of the committee will be on Wednesday, May 23 at 4:00 pm in the Wortham Auditorium of the Rosenberg Library.

For further information please contact the chair:

Karen Stanley
(409)763-8854 x119

Friday, May 4, 2007


The Rosenberg Library’s Galveston and Texas History Center announces the exhibit, “Captivating Commercial Calendars: Glimpses into Galveston’s Business History, 1906-1938.”

The majority of the calendars, illustrated by well-known magazine cover artists of their day, such as Haskell Coffin and Neysa McMein, feature portraits of young women depicted in warm colors that enhance their allure. A 1916 calendar for
E. R. Henck & Son, a manufacturer of sails and awnings, strikes a patriotic note. It features an illustration, “Long May It Wave,” that anticipated the United States’ entry into World War I. Another calendar from 1906, for the book seller Ferdinand Ohlendorf, depicts a woman placing a call using a hand-cranked telephone.

The calendars make an interesting visual statement about times past, such as women’s fashion and hair styles once in vogue. They are also reminders of firms that once operated in Galveston.

The exhibit was drawn from a collection of approximately 80 promotional calendars that the Library collected many decades ago. Among the earliest are F. J. Finck Stationery and Printing Co. (1905), which dealt in stencils and rubber seals, and the Galveston Tribune (1906). Knapp Bros, (17 calendars dating from 1916-1936) and J. V. Love and Co. (14 items, 1921-1934) are the most heavily represented firms.

The collection also includes eight calendars, 1926-1939, for Fred M. Burton & Company, an insurance agency, featuring color illustrations of such American history icons as Monticello and Daniel Boone’s trek in the Cumberland Valley. A 1926 calendar for the Creole Line, Navigazione Alta Italia – Genoa, a steamship line that called at Galveston, features a photograph of the steamer Monrosa.

“Captivating Commercial Calendars” may be viewed in the Harris Gallery (3rd floor) at the Rosenberg Library, 2310 Sealy, during normal hours (Mondays-Saturdays, 9 AM-5 PM). For further information, please contact Casey Edward Greene, Head of Special Collections, at (409) 763-8854, email; or Carol Wood, Archivist, at (409) 763-8854, extension 127, email

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Galveston’s Gaming Days

Glamour, Glitz, and Gambling: Galveston’s Gaming Days

Photo Caption:

Set of playing cards used at the Sui Jen Café and the Hollywood Dinner Club (gift of Mrs. Courtney C. Washington); $100 poker chips from the Balinese Room (gift of the Estate of Joseph Levy); $5 chip from the Turf Athletic Club (gift of E. Burke Evans, M.D.)

During the month of May, several souvenirs related to Galveston’s gambling era will be on display at Rosenberg Library. Playing cards, poker chips, and score cards from several old casinos are featured.

Long before Las Vegas became America’s capital of betting, drinking, and entertaining, Galveston was considered by many to be the “Sin City of the Southwest.” Bootlegging and gambling were major industries on the island from the 1920s through the 1950s.

During Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, a number of Galveston businessmen involved with bootlegging. Large sums of money could be made by those who illegally transported and sold liquor, and several enterprising individuals took full advantage of the opportunity. This venture led to an even more ambitious and more profitable industry: gambling.

Gambling was outlawed in the entire state of Texas. Galveston, however, had an “open city” policy, and casinos, though illegal, were more or less tolerated by law enforcement officials. Four island establishments—The Hollywood Dinner Club, the Turf Athletic Club, the Sui Jen Cafe, and the Balinese Room—offered cocktails, gambling, and entertainment. Some of America’s most popular artists, including Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Bob Hope performed in Galveston clubs.

The Hollywood Dinner Club, located at 61st Street and Stewart Road, opened its doors in 1926. The club, outfitted with elegant crystal chandeliers and a large hardwood dance floor, offered fine dining and top-notch live entertainment. Nationally known bands, orchestras, and singers performed regularly at the Hollywood Dinner Club. Although gambling was illegal at the time, it was permitted at the club.

The Turf Athletic Club and was another local hot spot situated in downtown Galveston. The three-story building, which was located on 23rd Street between Market and Postoffice, housed a nightclub, a restaurant, a casino, a gym, and a betting parlor for sporting events. The posh Studio Lounge at the Turf was touted as being one of America’s first air-conditioned clubs.

In 1923, the Chop Suey restaurant and gambling parlor opened on Galveston Island. Built as a pier overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the Chop Suey (later called the Grotto) was located at 21st Street and Seawall. In 1932, the facility was remodeled as an oriental café and night club, and its name was changed to the Sui Jen (pronounced “swee ren”). It was another chic venue for gambling and music, and famous American performers were booked there regularly.

The Sui Jen was completely remodeled and renamed the Balinese Room in 1942. The Balinese Room was a restaurant and nightclub with a South Seas-inspired décor. Its interior design featured bamboo and reed wall coverings, neon and copper palm trees, and colorful murals.

Things began to change in Galveston when Will Wilson became State Attorney General in the late 1950s. Determined to stop illegal gambling in Galveston, Wilson sent undercover agents into bars, nightclubs, and casinos to monitor the illegal activities that were taking place in the city. By June 1957, there was sufficient evidence to force 47 island establishments to close their doors permanently. Hundreds of slot machines and gaming tables were smashed to pieces and dumped into the bay. Stashes of weapons and business records were also confiscated. Galveston’s days as a gambler’s paradise had come to an end.

The Rosenberg Library Treasure of the Month can be viewed Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The artifacts will be on display in the Hutchings Gallery, located on the library’s third floor.
For more information, please contact Eleanor Clark at 409-763-8854, ext. 125 or at