Dot Thornton Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Mary Fitzhugh Thornton, known as Dot, was born April 11, 1882 in Kansas City, Missouri to Mary Anna (Mollie) and Edwin C. Thornton. Mary Anna's father John Henry Fitzhugh came to Texas from Kentucky reportedly at the suggestion of Sam Houston in the early 1860s. John Henry Fitzhugh was the great grandson of Patrick Henry. After the Civil War broke out John Henry decided to remain in Austin because there was nothing to return to in Kentucky. Mary Anna lived in Austin until her late teens when she went to Indianapolis, Indiana where she met and eventually married Edwin C. Thornton. Edwin died while the family was living in Atlanta, Georgia and when she was nine Dot and her mother moved back to Austin, Texas to be with thier extended family. One of Dot's many relatives was William Winston Fontaine, another Austin resident descended from Patrick Henry.
Dot is most well known for being a founding member of the Austin Free Kindergarten Association (the official name of the organization was Free Kindergarten Association of Austin, Texas). The Association started the first free kindergarten in 1913 at 501 East First Street (the school moved to 502 East First after the 1915 flood) with Dot as the manager and teacher. When the Austin Public School system took over teaching kindergarten in 1917 Dot continued as a kindergarten teacher at the Palm School until the kindergarten program was dismantled in 1931 because of the Great Depression. While at the Palm School she started a kindergarten orchestra that performed at a variety of local events including a performance for John Phillip Sousa. There are indications that she continued teaching at the Palm School after the kindergarten program was dismantled but in what capacity is unknown.
Dot was a member of the Austin Teachers Association and served as president in 1962. In additon she was active in the creation of an emergency loan fund for teachers and started the professional library for teachers.
Dot and Ima Hogg were close friends. In their youth both women belonged to the "H. S. Club" along with other Austin socialites such as Ethel Robinson, Bessie De Lashmutt, May Bess Orr, Bess Archer, Vivian Brenizer and Minnie Rose. Ima and Dot traveled to Europe together on the Queen Mary in 1938.
Dot died in 1971 in Austin, Texas.
The materials in this collection document the personal life and interests of Dot Thornton as well as her professional life as a school teacher. The Personal series (1859-1969) is further divided into six subseries: Biographical; Photographs-Family and Friends; Travel; Hogg Family; Scrapbooks and Photo Album; and Assorted Materials.
The Biographical subseries consists of the marriage certificate of Mary A. Fitzhugh and Edwin C. Thornton (Dot's parents) dated November 30th, 1877 and Edwin Thornton's diploma from Chickering Classical and Scientific Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio dated 1868. The Family and Friends Photographs subseries (1874-1966, unknown) contains pictures of family members including her parents, cousin Paul Thornton, and Dr. Patrick Henry Fitzhugh; Dot from childhood to adulthood; friends such as Vivian Brenizer, May Bess Orr, Ima Hogg, Ethel Robinson, Bessie Archer, and Mary Kauffman; as well as a number of unidentified photographs. The Travel subseries (1928-1939) consists of Dot's passports; travel journals from her trips to Europe in 1929 with the Students Travel Club and in 1938 with Ima Hogg; a sampling of souvenirs from both European trips; and travel photographs. The Hogg Family subseries (1883, 1912-1969, undated)includes newspaper clippings and event programs featuring Ima Hogg and her brother Will Hogg as well as photographs of Hogg family members and Bayou Bend, the Hogg family home. The Photo Album and Scrapbooks subseries (1859-1939) includes 2 scrapbooks and one photo album that contain a wide range of materials types including newspaper and magazine clippings, correspondence, writings, photographs, event programs and tickets, genealogy charts, and travel ephemera. The bulk of first scrapbook documents the genealogy of the Henry/Aylett/Fitzhugh family and the Thornton family. Also included are writings by Edwin Thornton, programs for recitals arranged by Dot's mother Mrs. Thornton, additional travel ephemera, family photographs, and clippings about and correspondence from the Hogg family. The second scrapbook includes similar materials to the first with the addition of materials pertaining to Dot's professional career including photographs of the Palm School Orchestra and clippings about historic preservation in Austin. The photo album includes pictures of family members, H. S. Club girls and a trip to West Point. Interestingly photographs that appear in the book Ima Hogg: First Lady of Texas of "the girls" provided to the author by Ima Hogg's personal secretary are from the same series of photographs that appear in Dot's photo album under the heading H. S. Club. The Assorted Materials subseries (1893, 1946-1967, undated) includes a limited amount of correspondence, Austin event flyers and Christmas cards from Walter Long
The Professional series (1913-1927, 1947, undated) contains information about Dot's involvement with the Austin Classroom Teachers Association; correspondence from a parent thanking Dot for taking interest in their child; cartoons from the Austin newspaper that feature Dot and acknowledge her reputation at a dedicated teacher; photographs of schools and school children including the Palm School Orchestra and the minute book of the Free Kindergarten Association of Austin, Texas (commonly known as Austin Free Kindergarten Association) for the years 1913-1918. The Free Kindergarten Association minute book includes the Constitution and Bylaws, a membership list and a few pieces of correspondence including a letter from Mayor Woodridge offering "free sewerage service" to the school.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users. The scrapbooks are in poor condition, extreme care needs to be taken when viewing these materials.
Restrictions on Use
Dot Thornton donated 3 scrapbooks in 1961. Additional materials were donated by a family friend in 2003.
Dot Thornton Papers (AR.1994.006). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1961/028, DO/2003/105
Donation Date: 1961, 2003
Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults/2011.
Travel ephemera and souvenirs were sampled.
Detailed Description of the Collection