TABLE OF CONTENTS
Thompson Family Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
The collection focuses on May Agatha Thompson (née Trammell), who was born on December 4, 1858 to James H. Trammell and Martha (Mattie) Trammell (née Gibson). May was married to Charles Malcolm Thompson (born 1858) until his death in 1898. Charles Malcolm Thompson worked for his father, John Thompson, as a cotton merchant. During their marriage May Thompson regularly corresponded with both her husband and her sister, Evelyn Conyngton, who died in 1893. May Thompson's sister, Evelyn (often, Eva) married Thomas Conyngton on December 23, 1891. The sisters also had one brother, James Harris Trammell, who died in 1860.
May Agatha Thompson (1858-1952) and Charles Malcolm Thompson (1858-1898) had six children: Robert Lee Wilkins Thompson (1884-1953), Mary Paula Thompson (1886–1918), John K. Thompson (1887-1952), Charles Malcolm Thompson (1891–1957), Evelyn C. Thompson (1892–1967), and William Arthur Phillip Thompson (1897–). The eldest, Robert Lee Wilkins Thompson, became an attorney and married Olive Beatrice Buchanan Odom on August 16, 1924 in Dallas, TX. Though Robert Thompson did not live in Austin, he contributed to the finances of his mother and sister Evelyn, co-owning the family house and providing some annual income. Following her husband's death in 1898, May remained single and resided in the home she co-owned with her children in Austin at 1703 West Avenue. She lived with her mother, Martha Trammell, and daughter, Evelyn C. Thompson. May Agatha Thompson passed away in 1952 at age 93.
The eldest daughter, Mary Paula Thompson, attended the University of Texas at Austin and had aspirations to become a secretary and earn a wage. In early 1918, she travelled to the East Coast, with numerous letters of introduction, looking for work as a secretary. She became ill while visiting New York City during the influenza outbreak of 1918 and died almost immediately. John K. Thompson worked for the State of Texas Department of Agriculture before leaving his position to apply for the Commanding Officers Camp in Fort Worth following his call into military service on September 15, 1918. John fought in World War I, along with his younger brother. Following his return from the war, John married Helen Leota MacPharson (1905-1999) and returned to the Department of Agriculture with a brief appointment to the Federal Horticultural Board in 1927. Charles (Chas.) Malcolm Thompson (1891-1957) worked for Western Union Telegraph Company. He married Marie Glass and had two children, Helen Marie Thompson and Charles Malcolm Thompson Jr. Evelyn C. Thompson did not work, and lived with her mother and grandmother in the family house in Austin, TX. She loved animals, and, as a pet owner, filed and kept pedigree and general care information for her beloved dogs and cats. She resided in Austin for 60 years and was a long-term member of St. David's Episcopal Church as well as the Austin District Music Teachers Association. The youngest child, William Arthur Phillip Thompson, was an officer in the military, attending school in Annapolis when World War I broke out. He was stationed primarily in the United States during World War I, and trained on the USS North Dakota before actively serving in the U.S. Navy. During World War II he served overseas in France. William married Helen Reed in 1931 and had two children, William Arthur Phillip Thompson Jr. (born 1934) and John Reed (born 1936). Helen earned her Ph. D. and was psychologist. The couple lived in New York City where William worked on Wall Street at E. H. Rollins & Sons and ultimately moved to Connecticut after World War II.
John Thompson was the father of Charles Malcolm Thompson, and May Thompson's father-in-law. Marguerite Thompson was the niece of Martha Trammell and cousin of May Thompson. H.P. Thompson worked as a cartographer and produced a sought-after map entitled, The Official Railroad and County Wall Map of Texas.
Emily Crow Downum (née Russell) was the cousin of May Thompson. Emily Downum became estranged from her husband around 1921 after he was accused of murder, prompting her to seek work to support herself and her children. Among other jobs, she supported herself as a music teacher, primarily in violin and piano.
The Thompson Family Papers feature the personal documents of the extended Thompson family. The collection is notable less because of the prominence or fame of the contributors, and more because of the extensive documentation it provides of an historical period that includes World War I and II, the influenza outbreak in New York City in 1918, the financial implications of the Spanish-American war, the passing of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote, and social and cultural conditions during the Great Depression from the perspectives of those who experienced life in Texas at that time. Materials in the collection also shed light on social and living conditions in other areas of the United States, such as New York City in the early twentieth century.
The Thompson Family Papers span from 1837 to 1967, with the majority of the materials created in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The collection represents three generations of the Thompson family, beginning with Martha Trammell (née Gibson) and ending with her grandchildren, Charles Malcolm Thompson Jr., Robert Lee Wilkins Thompson, Mary Paula Thompson, John Kosciusko Thompson, Evelyn Conyngton Thompson, and William Arthur Phillip Thompson. The members of the Thompson family corresponded frequently with one another and often included great detail about their personal and professional lives in their letters. Consequently, the majority of the collection is comprised of correspondence; however, it also includes: financial records; ephemera such as holiday/announcement cards, business cards, and travel tickets; family photographs; personal notes; some business records; real estate records; and a handful of legal documents such as a last will and testament and life insurance policy.
The Martha Trammell (née Gibson) series spans from 1886 to 1921 and includes personal correspondence, postcards, genealogical information, bills and receipts relating to household purchases, as well as her teaching certificate and will. Martha lived in Henderson, Texas for much of her life, and the majority of her correspondence relates to everyday family matters such as visitors, family news, health, and holiday plans. However, it also includes elements of greater historical note such as the death of her niece, Mary, from influenza, and the murder of her nephew, Douglass Crow, in May 1921.
The Evelyn Conyngton (née Trammell) series spans from 1879-1893. It is the smallest series in this collection and consists of three letters and some ephemera including the wedding announcement of Evelyn and her husband Charles.
The May Agatha Thompson (née Trammell) series spans from 1891-1950 and is the largest series in the Thompson Family Papers. This series contains personal correspondence (1891-1936), event invitations, greeting/holiday cards, household expense records, a hand-drafted manuscript of her last will and testament, real-estate records, an official copy of her life insurance policy, as well as ephemera such as weight loss products that were marketed to overweight women in the first few decades of the twentieth century. The topics covered in her correspondence mainly concern family news and gossip, although wider political events are occasionally noted. Letters addressed to her husband concerning the market for cotton during the Spanish-American War are included with the correspondence. Also included are letters from her cousin, W.J. Crow, a Cherokee and editor and proprietor of The Grove Sun, a local paper in Delaware District, OK. The financial and logistical aspects of owning and running a household as a single, widowed woman are documented extensively in this collection as she sought to support both her mother and daughter through the period of the Great Depression. Documents pertaining to her attempts to gain support from the US Army as the dependent of her youngest son show the struggle to remain financially solvent without a steady income.
The Charles Malcolm Thompson series spans from 1883-1898. The collection consists solely of letters received and financial records such as a checkbook, a bound accounts book, and several bills and receipts. The majority of the letters in this collection are from Charles’ father, John Thompson (of John Thompson and Co.), a cotton merchant. Charles worked for his father and many of the letters discuss the fluctuating state of the cotton market; however, they also detail personal information and general family news. Also included is a note Charles wrote to Mr.
The Robert Lee Wilkins Thompson series spans from 1902-1953 and consists primarily of personal letters that he sent to his mother. Also included in this collection are documents pertaining to his work with the Railroad Commission of Texas (1909, undated), financial records (1908-1953), ephemera such as greeting/announcement cards and newspaper clippings (1928-1949, undated), as well as some of his early notes, compositions, and quizzes from school (undated). Much of his correspondence discusses general family news and his life in Monroe, Louisiana and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Many of his letters dated 1935-1939 include financial discussions about the difficulty of supporting May during the Great Depression. As a attorney, there is some correspondence discussing the legal cases he was involved in during that time.
The Mary Paula Thompson series spans from 1906-1918 and includes a file of letters from friends, family, and colleagues, written about her sudden death from influenza in 1918. The letters in this series document Mary Paula’s career in Washington, D.C. before her death. This series also includes several letters of condolence and remembrance, as well as several certificates related to her academic achievements and a handful of financial records in the form of bills and receipts.
The John Kosciusko Thompson series spans from 1899-1945 and primarily consists of letters addressed to his mother (1899-1945, undated), letters received (1912-1936), financial records in the form of bills and receipts, real-estate records, academic diplomas and certificates. During the late 1920s and early 1930s his letters describe his experiences inspecting crops throughout Texas while working for State of Texas Department of Agriculture. His series also includes government correspondence which take the form of letters of recommendation to the United States Military service.
The Helen Leota Thompson (née MacPharson) series spans from 1929-1936 and includes letters she sent (1929-1936, undated) and letters received (1933). There is a small amount of ephemera in Helen Leota’s series in the form of a "Farm and Home Hints" leaflet (1931) and a newsletter from the Sabine Valley Pecan Nurseries in Jasper, TX (undated). Her correspondence details everyday family life, her career as a teacher and relays news about her husband, John regarding his health problems and work. Helen Leota also documents her experience as a soldier’s wife and her husband’s experience fighting in Europe. There is also an exchange with May and Evelyn in which she speaks about her perception of the Jewish community and her opinions on Hitler’s ideology (1938).
The Charles Malcolm Thompson series spans from 1899-1956 and contains letters sent (1889-1956, undated), letters received (1916, undated), and holiday greeting cards sent to his mother and grandmother. Many of the documents in this collection are typed copies and telegram receipts. The majority of his letters are addressed to his mother and his brothers, and discuss family news as well as his life in Dallas. One series of letters in particular document Helen Marie's attempts to join the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (1935). There are also letters written to his sister Evelyn after their mother's death regarding her financial situation and her assumption the family would continue to support her.
The Marie Thompson (née Glass) series spans from 1913-1956 and consists of personal correspondence (1913-1957, undated). The majority of these correspondence are undated letters to "Grandmother Trammell" and her mother-in-law Mrs. Thompson and detail family news. This series also includes the telegram sent to Evelyn sharing the news of Charles Malcolm’s death and burial arrangements (1957).
The Evelyn Conyngton Thompson series spans from 1893-1969 and includes personal letters sent (1905-1957, undated), letters received (1907-1967, undated), bills and receipts for household goods and services (1944-1961), greeting cards from friends and family, as well as extensive pedigree documentation of her Scottish Terriers and Persian cats from the American Kennel Club (1926-1928) and American Cat Association (1931). The majority of Evelyn’s letters pertain to family news and shed light on the experience of running a household in the early twentieth century. Many of her communications with her siblings demonstrate the difficulty of sharing financial responsibility for supporting a parent. She was also in regular correspondence with dog breeders regrading Scottish Terriers.
The William Arthur Phillip Thompson series spans from 1904-1932 and is largely comprised of correspondence, but also includes bills and receipts for household goods (1915 - 1926), and greeting cards (1914-1920). William Arthur Phillip served in both world wars and his personal letters detail his days at Annapolis and his experience as a soldier in World War I (1905-1919, undated) and World War II (1930-1950; undated), as well as general family news.
The Helen Thompson (née Reed) series spans from 1913-1961 and includes personal letters sent (1931-1961, undated) and letters received (1913-1918). Most these letters are addressed to May and Evelyn and discuss family news and life in New York City. The correspondence in this series also documents Helen and William’s financial support of William’s mother and grandmother.
The Other Thompson Family Members series spans from 1886-1960 and included materials related to John M. Thompson, Maguerite Thompson, H. P. Thompson and Emily Crow Downum. The John M. Thompson and Company subseries spans from 1883-1897 and includes professional correspondence about John’s work as a cotton merchant, including details about filling orders for cotton and the fluctuating market (1892-1899). This subseries also includes the businesses’ financial documentation in the form of a tax receipt (1897), checks (1886), a balance book (1883), and an accounts book (1886-1891). The Marguerite Thompson subseries spans from 1902-1923 and is comprised of personal letters detailing her life in Houston. Finally, the Emily Crow Downum (née Russell) subseries spans from 1914-1960 and is comprised of personal letters to family and acquaintances and a few pressed leaves. Her letters detail family news and other everyday matters.
The Genealogical Materials series spans from 1902 through the 1950s. This collection is primarily comprised of notes (author unknown) detailing the family history as far back as the Revolutionary War. The letters contained within this series are addressed to May from individuals who are either themselves distant relatives, or who can attest to the actions and involvement of distant relatives in historically significant events such as the Revolutionary War. Also of note in this series is a family tree (circa 1950), which tracks the extended family lineage as far back as 1803.
The Photographic Materials series is comprised of 61 cabinet card and black-and-white images that are either undated or dated 1934 and 16 nitrate negatives. The photograps depict landscapes captured on family holidays as well as portraits of family members and other unidentified individuals. Roughly half of the photographs are attributable to Helen Leota Thompson (née MacPharson) and feature descriptions on the verso and appear to be travel photographs including McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. There are also photographs of flooding in Houston, Texas in the early 1900s. The negatives feature the Austin Dam; family portraits; individual portraits; and house exteriors.
The Other Family Documents series spans 1854-1960 and is comprised of materials which cannot be attributed with certainty to any of the above named family members. Nevertheless, it is a large series and consists of correspondence (1875-1961), financial and property documents (1889-1956), and personal papers (1854-1959). One letter is dated December 1918 and details a soldier's experience of the end of World War I and has been individually foldered to set it apart from other family correspondence. This series also includes notes-to-self, academic records, and family recipes and home remedies.
The Ephemera and Memorabilia series spans 1911-1960 and primarily consists of clippings (1911-1960, undated) and materials such as pencil sketches, advertisements, and stamps.
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Thompson Family Papers (AR.I.007). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1970/066
Donation Date: 1970, 1971
The Thompson Family Papers were donated to the Austin History Center in two accessions. First, the donor gave the center permission to assess and remove a large number of documents from what had been the Thomson Family home until its sale three years prior. The initial documents were appraised and acquired by the Austin History Center in September of 1970. One year later, in 1971, additional materials, primarily in the form of letters produced by May Agatha Thompson and Robert Lee Wilkins Thompson, were incorporated into the existing collection.
Final processing and finding aid by Olivia Cannon and Courtney Burtraw in 2016. Finding aid updated by LaToya Devezin and Molly Hults in 2017.