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TABLE OF CONTENTS


Collection Summary

Administrative History

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Material

Separated Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Office of the Chief of Police, 1953, undated

Patrol Division, 1910-1950, undated

Investigations, 1964

Traffic/Highway Enforcement Division, 1933-1980

Court, 1904-1943

Professional Standards, 1931-2004, undated

Operational Support, 1876-1955

Administrative/Organizational, 1886-1952

Photos 1899-1972, undated

Austin History Center

Austin (Tex.). Austin Police Department Records

An Inventory of the Collection



Collection Summary

Creator: Austin Police Department
Title: Austin (Tex.). Austin Police Department Records
Dates: 1876-2004
Dates (Bulk): 1900-1955
Abstract: The Austin Police Department and Office of the Chief of Police were formally created in 1862 by the Austin City Council. Over the years, the department has grown to include different divisions and duties to tackle the expanding issues of a growing city. The department's records contain minutes, correspondence, photographs, videos, reports, legal documents, ledgers, and administrative records from 1876 to 2004, documenting the activities of Austin's police force.
Accession number: AR.P.001
Quantity: 48.2 linear feet (61 boxes and 49 oversize volumes)
Location: Archive Stacks, Oversize Volumes, Inner Vault
Language: English
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library,
810 Guadalupe, PO Box 2287, Austin, TX 78768

Administrative History

The Austin Police Department has grown over more than a century into an active network of officers and staff whose stated goal is first and foremost to protect the people under their care. Before the formal organization of the APD, Austin laws were enforced by a City Marshal. The first marshal was elected by the public in 1840, shortly after the city’s founding. He participated in criminal executions and upheld city laws, such as enforcing the established curfew for enslaved people. The marshal held almost absolute power when it came to upholding the law and maintaining order in the city, being the one who appointed officers as well as the person to whom the fledgling police department ultimately answered. It was not until 1862 that an ordinance establishing the police department and the office of chief of police was written. Prior to this, vigilance committees made up of volunteer citizens acted as a pseudo-police force in times of need. Four officers were appointed the year following the department’s creation, increasing it to seven in 1871. The new officers included the city’s first African-American policemen, John Goodman and Charles Wilburn. With Austin’s population (and thus crime) continuing to rise, new ordinances were passed giving the city marshal and police greater authority to curb disorderly conduct, as well as new resources such as the appointment of mounted police in 1873. While the department was experiencing new growth, it also was delivered its first loss when Cornelius Fahey became the first policeman killed in the line of duty in 1875.

New ordinances in 1874, 1880, and 1883 saw the introduction of the police uniform, defining of police duties, and the establishment of the department’s structures. Austin experienced a series of brutal murders lasting from 1883 until 1885, for which the Austin Daily Statesman criticized the police department as inefficient. Later that year, 30 additional policemen were appointed temporarily, likely in response to the killing spree that featured eight victims and was never solved.

In 1886, more detailed ordinances were passed specifying police dress and behavior, lending officers a greater air of authority and identifying them as a united force of the city. The new statutes helped to maintain regular numbers on the force and promoted higher standards of self-discipline for the officers, making them set better examples for citizens. In addition, the ordinances in effect merged the role of city marshal with the chief of police, and the two titles were used interchangeably for a time.

By 1919, the number of police officers had grown to 30, including one woman, Mrs. F. Buchner. With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century, fatal accidents occurred with increasing frequency in Austin, leading to the passage of detailed traffic ordinances for the city in 1921. The police were given the duty of enforcing these regulations. This burden was eased 16 years later when, in 1937, the first traffic light was installed at Riverside Drive and Congress Avenue.

The 1920s and 30s saw many changes for the department: as a sign of how far the department had come, the Town Marshal system ended in 1924 and was officially replaced by the Austin Police Department. Moreover, the position of head of police also changed from an elected office to one appointed by the mayor. After spending a year in the basement of the county courthouse, the police department moved from City Hall into new quarters at the recently built municipal building in 1938 (its original location being the corner of Bois d’Arc [7th] and Colorado streets); and that same year, two-way radios were installed in police cars, allowing for better communication between officers.

Mid-century saw the introduction of females into the work environment. The police fell under civil service regulations in 1948, with the first woman, Maybelle Stout, passing the police exam in 1950. Nine years later, female civilians replaced patrolmen as dispatchers at police headquarters (then located at 700 E. 7th street after another move in 1953). By 1970, there were 332 police officers, including 14 of Hispanic origin, 11 African-American, and 1 Native American, a sure step towards diversity. The department moved into its current home on 8th Street in 1982. 1989 saw the appointment of the first female lieutenant, Bobby Owens, and Austin’s first female Chief of police, Elizabeth Watson, was brought on in 1992.

Going into the 21st century, the APD has struggled in its relations with minority groups. Despite the growth in diversity on the police force, reports of police brutality, racially-motived shootings, and other incidents of prejudice have plagued the department and continue to do so today. Activist groups born of these tragic events have brought attention to such problems, and both the city and the police department itself have been collecting data and compiling reports in an attempt to reduce this grave issue and help mend fences with affected ethnic groups.

Sources

History of the Austin Police Department, The Police: A Summary of the last Thirteen Years of APD History, Louie W. White’s A Pictorial History of Black Policemen Who Have Served in the Austin Police Department, 1871-1982 the Black Heritage, the Austin City Charter, A Digest of the General Ordinances of the City of Austin, and various Reports of the Mayor of Austin.

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Scope and Contents

The Austin Police Department Records consist of reports, minutes, correspondence, ledgers, legal documents, administrative records, film reels, and photographs from 1876 to 2004, with the bulk of these materials dating from the early- to mid-20th century. These materials depict the daily occurrences of the police department, from police dispatch calls and traffic reports to records of arrest and prison registers. The collection is organized into nine series, mostly determined by departmental division: office of the chief of police, patrol division, traffic/highway enforcement division, court, investigations, professional standards, operational support, administrative/organizational, and photographs.

The materials documenting the Office of the Chief of Police consist of a letter written by Chief R. D. Thorp in 1953, and two reels of film, one a tribute to Chief Thorp, the other a dedication of the R. D. Thorp little league field. The Patrol Division materials document the police department’s involvement in animal control, foot/car patrolling, and lake patrolling, and consist of dog and stock pound records and boat permits, and a 1950s film reel of police officers directing traffic. A 1964 16 mm film reel concerning the murder of a police officer can be found in the Investigations series.

The Traffic/Highway Enforcement Division series makes up a large portion of the collection and consists of annual and monthly summaries of accident reports dating from 1933 to 1980. Additionally, there are parking citation summary reports for 1980. The Court series contains minutes from corporation court proceedings from 1904-1909 and 1930-1933, and a jurors book containing names of jurors and their payment for corporation court cases from 1910-1943.

A pre-screening packet and recruitment brochure from 2004 and an undated film reel showing the dedication of a pistol range for the Austin Police Department are contained in Professional Standards series. Additionally, an oath to serve as a humane officer and special policeman by W. C. Russell dated January 19, 1931, is included.

The Operational Support materials make up the bulk of the collection and consist of the department’s arrest records, dispatch records, and reports of quarantine. The records of arrest date from 1876-1935 and 1955. A ledger containing classifications of arrests dates from 1910-1912 and lists crime/violation type, the number of people convicted, and the numbers for the cases of not guilty, dismissed, and pending. The prison registers date from 1886-1955. The police call logs date from 1883-1951. Of note is documentation of homicides related to the Servant Girl Annihilator murders in the ledger that dates from 1883 December 10-1886 February 12. There is also a 1942 ledger documenting air raid wardens as well as reports of quarantine for smallpox dating from November to December 1885.

The Administrative/Organizational series contains financial records and general departmental reports. The financial items consist of warrant receipt books dating from 1886-1898 and records of collected fines from 1911-1912. The departmental reports consist of bulletins that contain daily summaries of traffic issues and criminal investigations including wanted persons, burglaries, thefts, stolen cars, and other violations. The bulletins date from June 1951 to July 1952.

The Photographs document different departments and activities of the Austin Police Department, as well as the construction of the current police headquarters, war loan and war bond ceremonies, and more. Of particular interest are photos of the construction of the University of Texas Tower. A detailed inventory of the photographs can be found here.

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged into nine series:


  • Office of the Chief of Police
    • Chief of Police
  • Patrol Division
    • Animal
    • Foot/Car Patrol
    • Parks & Lakes
  • Investigations
    • Homicide
  • Traffic/Highway Enforcement Division
    • Reports
  • Court
    • Corporation Court
  • Professional Standards
    • Recruitment
  • Operational Support
    • Booking/Jail
    • Dispatch/911
    • Safety/Health
  • Administrative/Organizational
    • Financial Services
    • Records
  • Photographs

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Open to all users

Advance notice is required for any audiovisual materials that do not have an access copy already created. Turnaround time for requested access copies will be no less than one week and is determined by the number of items requested and their duration.

Use Restrictions

The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.

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Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Adams, Nathan.
Ainsworth, Miller.
Akers, Mavrick.
Clark, Nancy.
Collins, Rip.
Eggeling, Alvin.
Garrison, James.
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973.
Laws, R. Beverly, 1912-.
Littlepage, James N.
Maddox, F. M.
Miles, R. A.
Miller, Tom.
Moore, Naomi.
Morris, W. J.
Russell, W. C.
Seaholm, Walter.
Stevenson, Coke.
Taylor, Robert.
Thorp, R. D.
Valentine, R. J.
Voight, Ed.
Walker, Fred L.
Wheless, Hewitt T.
Subjects (Organizations)
Austin (Tex.). Police Department.
Subjects
Crime--Texas--Austin.
Municipal government--Texas--Austin.
Police--Texas--Austin.
Public welfare--Texas--Austin.
Places
Austin (Tex.)--Politics and government.
Document Types
Administrative records.
Black-and-white photographs.
Correspondence.
Film reels.
Ledgers.
Legal documents.
Minutes.
Agendas.
Black-and-white photographs.
Reports.

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Related Material

The Austin History Center has a large number of materials related to the Austin Police Department, which can be found in the Austin Police Department Subject Guide.

Archives & Manuscripts


Austin Files


  • AF Subject - Office of the Police Monitor C4080 (3)
  • AF Subject - Police Department P5100

Periodicals


  • Austin Crime Watch Neighbor
  • Community Policing Journal
  • Headquarters Beat
  • The Shield
  • Westrock News

General Collection


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Separated Material

Materials related to the Public Works Department were separated to AR.1991.014 and Board of Public Works separated to AR.2018.053. See handwritten notes on original collection inventory for additional details.

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Administrative Information

Custodial History

AR.P.001 was originally named the Laws Collection after the person who donated the materials who retired from the City in 1978 a Deputy Chief of Police. Along with Austin Police records the collection originally contained materials related to the Public Works Department (moved to AR.1991.014) and Board of Public Works (moved to AR.2018.053) that were moved to the existing city department collections and AR.P.001 was renamed Austin (Tex.). Austin Police Department Records. The original guide to the collection has been retained, ask Reading Room staff for access if interested.

Preferred Citation

Austin (Tex.). Austin Police Department Records (AR.P.001). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor #: DO/1977/115

Donation Date: 1977

Processing Information

Original collection arranged by Tim Wilder in 1992. Additions integrated and finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults with Toni Cirilli in 2019.

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Other Finding Aid

The original collection inventory contains handwritten notes detailing how the arrangement changed.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

Office of the Chief of Police, 1953, undated

Chief of Police, 1953, undated
Box Folder
2 3 Chief Thorp letter, 1953
Location Item
Inner Vault Reel 003 R. D. Thorp little league field dedication, undated
1 film reel; 16 mm; silent, black and white
Reel 005 Tribute to R. D. Thorp, undated
1 film reel; 35 mm; silent, black and white

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Patrol Division, 1910-1950, undated

Animal, 1910-1950
Box
56 Dog pound records, 1942-1950
Stock pound, 1943-1947
Location
Oversize Volumes Pound records, 1910
Foot/Car Patrol, 1911-1936, undated
Box
56 Mileage record of police cars 1933-1936
Location
Oversize Volumes Hourly officer reports, July, 1911
Location Item
Inner Vault 001 Police officers directing traffic, undated
1 film reel; 16 mm; silent, color
Parks & Lakes, undated
Box
56 Boat permit records, undated

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Investigations, 1964

Homicide, 1964
Location Item
Inner Vault 002 Officer Carpenter murder, 1964
1 film reel; 16 mm; silent, black and white

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Traffic/Highway Enforcement Division, 1933-1980

Reports, 1933-1980
Box Folder
1 1 Accident reports, 1933
2 Accident reports, 1934
3 Accident reports, 1935
4 Accident reports, 1936
5 Accident reports, 1937
6 Accident reports, 1938
7 Accident reports, 1939
8 Accident reports, 1940
9 Accident reports, 1941
Box
13 Accident reports, 1941 November-1947 June
Box Folder
1 10 Accident reports, 1942
11 Accident reports, 1943
12 Accident reports, 1944
13 Accident reports, 1945
14 Accident reports, 1946
15 Accident reports, 1947
Box
14 Accident reports, 1947 July-1948 May
Box Folder
1 16 Accident reports, 1948
Box
15 Accident reports, 1948 June-1948 December
Box Folder
1 17 Accident reports, 1949
Box
16 Accident reports, 1949 January-1949 October
Box
17 Accident reports, 1949 November-1950 May
Box Folder
1 18 Accident reports, 1950
Box
18 Accident reports, 1950 November-1951 May
Box Folder
2 1 Accident reports, 1951
2 Accident reports, 1952
3 Accident reports, 1953
4 Accident reports, 1954
5 Accident reports, 1955
6 Accident reports, 1956
7 Accident reports, 1957
8 Accident reports, 1958
9 Accident reports, 1959
Box Folder
3 1 Accident reports, 1960
2 Accident reports, 1961
3 Accident reports 1962
4 Accident reports, 1963
5 Accident reports, 1964
6 Accident reports, 1965
7 Accident reports, 1966
8 Accident reports, 1967
9 Accident reports, 1968
10 Accident reports, 1969
11 Accident reports, 1970
Box Folder
4 1 Accident reports, 1971
2 Accident reports, 1972
3 Yearly accident reports, 1973
4 Monthly accident reports, 1973
5 Yearly accident reports, 1974
6 Monthly accident reports, 1974
7 Yearly accident reports, 1975
8 Monthly accident reports, 1975
9 Yearly accident reports, 1976
10 Monthly accident reports, 1976
Box Folder
5 1 Yearly accident reports, 1977
2 Monthly accident reports, 1977
3 Yearly accident reports, 1978
4 Monthly accident reports, 1978
5 Yearly accident reports, 1979
6 Monthly accident reports, 1979
7 Yearly accident reports, 1980
8 Parking citation reports, 1980

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Court, 1904-1943

Corporation Court, 1904-1943
Box
5 Jurors book, 1910-1943, undated
Location
Oversize Volumes Corporation court minutes, 1904 December-1906 July
Corporation court minutes, 1906 July-1907 June
Corporation court minutes, 1907 June-1908 August
Corporation court minutes, 1908 August-1909 August
Corporation court minutes, 1930 November-1933 November

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Professional Standards, 1931-2004, undated

Recruitment, 1931-2004
Box Folder
5 9 Recruitment packet, 2004
10 Police oath, 1931
Location Item
Inner Vault 004 Austin Police Department pistol range dedication, undated
1 film reel; 16 mm; silent, color, black and white

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Operational Support, 1876-1955

Booking/Jail, 1876-1955
Location
Oversize Volumes Record of arrests, 1876 January-1879 January
Record of arrests, 1879 October-1885 May
Record of arrests, 1885 June-1891 May
Record of arrests, 1891 June-1898 August
Record of arrests, 1898 September-1905 August
Record of arrests, 1906 September-1910 December
Record of arrests, 1911 January-1914 December
Record of arrests, 1915 January-1919 August
Record of arrests, 1919 August-1924 March
Record of arrests, 1924 March-1928 February
Record of arrests, 1928 March-1930 October
Record of arrests, 1933 November-1935 December
Box
12 Record of arrests, 1955
Location
Oversize Volumes Classification of arrests, 1910-1912
Record of prisoners, 1884 September-1886 February
Record of prisoners, 1886 April-1890 July
Record of prisoners, 1896 May-1902 September
Prison register, 1886 May-1888 June
Prison register, 1888 June-1892 November
Prison register, 1892 November-1889 May
Prison register, 1890 August-1896 April
Prison register, 1899 May-1909 July
Prison register, 1909 July-1909 August
Prison register, 1926 May-1932 January
Prison register, 1932 January-1935 June
Prison register, 1935 July-1937 June
Prison register, 1937 July-1939 June
Prison register, 1939 June-1941 January
Prison register, 1941 January-1942 September
Prison register, 1942 September-1945 January
Prison register, 1945 January-1946 December
Prison register, 1946 December-1948 June
Prison register, 1948 June-1949 December
Prison register, 1949 December-1952 July
Prison register, 1952 July-1955 February
Dispatch/911, 1883-1951
Box
18 Police calls, 1883 January 1-1883 December 13
Box Folder
19 1 Police calls, 1883 December 10-1886 February 12
2 Police calls, 1886 December 1-1887 August 31
3 Police calls, 1887 September 9-1887 October 13
Police calls & reports of quarantine, 1883 December 13-1884 October 11; 1885 November 23 - December
Location
Oversize Volumes Police calls, 1890-1893
Box
19 Police calls, 1893 March 1-1896 February 29
Box
61 Police calls, 1894 May 1-1896 February 29
Box
20 Police calls, 1896 March 2-1906 January 7
Box
21 Police calls, 1906 January 10-1908 October 17
Box
22 Police calls, 1908 November 3-1911 October 6
Box
23 Police calls, 1911 October 6-1914 January 21
Box
24 Police calls, 1914 January 27-1917 December 31
Box
25 Police calls, 1918 January 2-1921 March 9
Box
26 Police calls, 1921 March 8-1922 May 29
Box
27 Police calls, 1922 June 1-1924 June 24
Box
28 Police calls, 1924 June 25-1925 December 12
Box
29 Police calls, 1925 December 12-1927 June 4
Box
30 Police calls, 1927 June 3-1928 July 5
Box
31 Police calls, 1928 December 1-1930 February 23
Box
32 Police calls, 1930 February 24-1931 April 19
Box
33 Police calls, 1931 April 19-1932 June 10
Box
34 Police calls, 1932 June 11-1933 March 26
Box
35 Police calls, 1933 March 27-1934 March 12
Box
36 Police calls, 1934 March 13-1934 September 2
Box
37 Police calls, 1934 September 3-1935 June 5
Box
38 Police calls, 1935 June 6-1936 May 28
Box
39 Police calls, 1936 May 28-1936 December 12
Box
40 Police calls, 1936 December 12-1937 June 20
Box
41 Police calls, 1937 June 20-1938 April 24
Box
42 Police calls, 1938 April 25-1939 March 14
Box
43 Police calls, 1939 March 15-1940 January 2
Box
44 Police calls, 1940 January 3-1940 September 18
Box
45 Police calls, 1940 September 18-1941 July 4
Box
46 Police calls, 1941 July 5-1942 May 5
Box
47 Police calls, 1942 May 5-1943 April 25
Box
48 Police calls, 1943 April 26-1944 March 17
Box
49 Police calls, 1944 March 17-1945 February 3
Box
50 Police calls, 1945 February 3-1945 December 4
Box
51 Police calls, 1945 December 5-1947 March 28
Box
52 Police calls, 1947 March 28-1948 March 19
Box
53 Police calls, 1948 March 19-1948 June 28
Box
54 Police calls, 1948 June 28-1948 October 15
Box
55 Police calls, 1948 October 16-1949 March 26
Box
6 Police calls, 1949 March 26-1949 July 9
Box
7 Police calls, 1949 July 9-1949 October 21
Box
8 Police calls, 1949 October 21-1950 January 31
Box
9 Police calls, 1950 January 31-1950 May 23
Box
10 Police calls, 1950 May 23-1950 September 12
Box
11 Police calls, 1950 September 12-1951 January 16
Box
12 Police calls, 1951 January 16-1951 May 21
Box
5 Air raid wardens ledger, 1942
Safety/Health, 1885
Box
19 Reports of quarantine for smallpox, 1885 November-1885 December

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Administrative/Organizational, 1886-1952

Financial Services, 1886-1912
Location
Oversize Volumes Warrant receipt book, 1886-1894
Warrant receipt book, 1894-1898
Fines collected, 1911-1912
Records, 1918-1952
Box Folder
57 1 Police bulletins, 1951 June-1951 September
2 Police bulletins, 1951 July-1952 October
3 Police bulletins, 1951 October-1952 July

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Photos 1899-1972, undated

A detailed inventory of the photos can be found here.
Box
58 APD Photos, 1899-1972, undated
Photos of interest include Chief R. D. "Boss" Thorp; Chief R. A. Miles; Mayor Tom Miller; Sheriff Rip Collins; R. B. Laws; Chief James N. Littlepage; Chief W. J. Morris; Mayor F. M. Maddox; and the construction of the Austin police station.
1 Chief R. D. "Boss" Thorp photos, 1935-1944, undated (#006-022)
2 Chief R. A. Miles photos, 1955-1969, undated (#023-044)
3 Construction of police station photos, 1937-1940 (#045-067)
4 Police pistol range dedication photos, 1930s (#068-099)
5 Police training photos, 1941-1944, undated (#100-122)
6 Motorcycle patrol photos, 1938-1946, 1920s-1930s, undated (#123-149)
7 Foot/Car & mounted patrol photos, 1899-1992, undated (#150-161)
8 Car accident photos, undated (#162-170)
9 Crime scene photos, 1944-1972, undated (#171-178)
10 Austin police officers photos, 1930s-1970s, undated (#179-225)
11 Police dispatch photos, undated (#226-229)
12 Police department secretaries photos, 1962-1972, undated (#230-273)
Box
59 APD Photos, 1939-1968, undated
Photos of interest include the Rainey student protest of 1944; Armistice Day parade in 1944; the construction of the UT tower; and then-Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson at the 3rd War Bond Rally in 1943.
1 Third war bond rally - Austin, TX photos, 1943 August 26 (#306-309)
2 Rainey student protest photos, 1944 November 3 (#310-315)
3 Armistice Day & Shriner parades photos, 1944 November 10-11 (#316-322)
4 Austin scenes photos, 1939-1941, undated (#323-335)
5 The University of Texas at Austin photos, 1934-1940, undated (#336-345)
6 Other city services photos, 1907-1961, undated (#274-305)
7 Unidentified portraits, 1944-1968, undated (#346-353)
Box
60 7th War Loan Opening Ceremony and shooting range BBQ, 1945 May 15-1945 December
Persons of interest include Chief R. D. "Boss" Thorp; then-Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson; Mayor Tom Miller; Governor Coke Stevenson; and Walter Seaholm.
1 7th War loan opening ceremony and shooting range BBQ (1), 1945 May 15-1945 December (#354-397)
2 7th War loan opening ceremony and shooting range BBQ (2), 1945 May 15-1945 December (#398-436)

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