El Paso Museum of History
& Spanish Mission
510 N. Santa Fe St.
El Paso, Texas 79901

February 16, 2001

UPDATE: 06/16/07 
I recently heard from Jim Murphy the Development Director of the Museum and found out that the Museum has been moved from its old location to a brand new building that is much bigger and has more room to house the many items relating to, not only, El Paso but much of Texas history. I'm sure that the new museum not only has the items that were in the old museum but lots of new and interesting exhibits to see and enjoy. It's always nice to see that people are interested enough in their history not only to create a museum, but to update and keep expanding. The new museum is about 16 miles to the west of the old one.

While we were in El Paso, Texas, we stayed at an RV park on the southeast side of town which is located right next to the El Paso Museum of History. Considering the size of El Paso the Museum is rather small, but it is free and has some rather nice exhibits. Basically it traces the early beginnings of El Paso and its first residents. Some of the first residents were the Spanish people who reintroduced horses to the Southwest. They provided the Spanish soldier with speed and added weight in battle, but along with the vast herds of cattle and sheep made him dependent on finding water each day. For this reason, most expeditions followed rivers whenever possible.
Spanish horseman were influenced by two traditions - that of the Moors ("la Jineta"), and that of the European knights ("la brida"). A Spanish gentleman learned both styles. In the American Southwest, the two styles became blended and eventually produced the western, or cowboy way of working on horseback. This "jineta" style saddle shows Moorish influence in the shorter length of the stirrup leathers and the broad base of the stirrup.
In the
early stages of the American Revolution, Spain provided the United States with munitions and monetary support. In 1779, Spain officially declard war again Great Britain. Soldiers like this Granadero fought in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, preventing Britain from totally blockading the rebellious colonies. Their leader was General Bernard de Galvez, who had gained some of his military experience fighting the Apache in Chihuahua and Southwest Texas.
Shoe, boot, saddle, and harness makers all worked with leather, but their tools and techniques differed somewhat - The tools on the bench (or work table) are from a saddle maker's shop of the early 1900's. Western saddles are made on a wooden tree or framework, covered with rawhide and then layers of leather. The leather pieces in the window, and the "contraption", are used in making cowboy boots. El Paso produced some of its own leather until WWI - one of the last tanneries was located at Five Points. El Paso leather workers were
known throughout the region, particularly for their saddles, gun holsters, shoes, and cowboy boots. A number of these craftsmen invented new ways for making their products, and have patents recorded at the U.S. Patent Office.
VICTORIAN ROOM - Until the arrival of the railroad in 1881, most household furnishings in El Paso were either locally made or were freighted in by wagon. After 1881, virtually any item that could fit in a railroad car might be found here, and El Paso began to take on the look of a bustling western town.
The items in this room, with one exception, were shipped to El Paso in the 1880s and 1890s. The exception is the trunk, which was made locally by the El Paso Trunk Factory. El Paso became a distribution and transportation hub in the late 1800s, supplying mines and ranches in
West Texas, Chihuahua, and southern New Mexico, as well as catering to tourists and entertainment troupes on tour.
El Paso's Chinatown began in the 1880's. The earliest immigrants worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad laying track going east from California. As was common across the American West, most of them planned to earn money to send back to wives and families in China, primarily in Guangdong (Kwangtun) Province near Canton. Their stay was seen as a temporary one.Besides the railroad, the early Chinese residents were concentrated in thhe following occupations; hand laundries, restaurants (serving non-Chinese food), grocery stores, truck farming, servants and cooks. In fact, they monopolized the laundry business, and Chinese vegetable wagons made the rounds through town daily. Chinatown was concentrated along St. Louis (Mills) to Fourth St., and from Stanton to El Paso Streets. Later it would be concentrated south of Overland Street. An early visitor described El Paso in 1892:
"I remember the town was full of Chinamen. They wore their hair in queues and Chinese clothes... They wore long robes and would sit in the shady side of the house and smoke long pipes." The Chinese
community faced discrimination in many forms. Alarmed at the influx of Chinese labor, the U.S. government began a series of Oriental Exclusion Acts in 1882. These restrictions were not lifted until 1943. Chinese women were not allowed to immigrate, which led to a predominantly male community in El Paso and elsewhere. Smuggling of Chinese into the United States through Mexico became brisk. In fact, El Paso was the largest smuggling center on the border. The U.S. Border Patrol inspectors began work in 1924. Their major tasks were the illegal entry of alcohol and Chinese from Mexico. The size of the community began to dwindle by WWI, even with the legal entry of Chinese from Mexico fleeing from prejudice and problems during the Revolution. More families have arrived since the 1940s. Today the Chinese community in El Paso boasts people in all lines of work scattered throughout the city. However, many meet each year to celebrate Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival. MOON GUITAR-A band of Chinese instruments was attached to the McGinty Club Band at the turn of the century. In 1938, a Musical Association was created to preserve Chinese music. They practiced weekly at Quong Hing Wo's Chinese Merchandise Shop.

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