Guide to the Col. E. M. House Letters to Mary Louise Howze Needham, 1925-1934 MS 033
Edward Mandell House (1858-1938) was born in Houston on July 26, 1858, the last of seven children of Mary Elizabeth (Shearn) and Thomas William House. His father was one of the leading citizens of Texas, a wealthy merchant, banker, and landowner. Edward had a privileged youth: he spent six months in England in 1866, met many prominent people who visited the large family homes in Galveston and Houston. On August 4, 1881, he married Loulie Hunter. After a year in Europe the couple returned to Houston, and House supervised the family's extensive landholdings scattered througout Texas.
House was drawn into state politics through his friendship with James Stephen Hogg, who in 1892 faced a formidable challenge for renomination and reelection from conservative Democrats and Populists. House directed Hogg's campaign, established a network of contacts with influential local Democratic leaders, manipulated the electoral machinery, and bargained for the votes of African and Mexican Americans. Hogg triumphed in a bitter, three-way race and rewarded House on July 20, 1893, with the honorary title of "lieutenant colonel." The press soon shortened the title to "colonel."
By the turn of the century he was bored with his role in Texas politics and was restlessly searching for broader horizons. He sought further wealth, first by attempting to profit from the discovery of oil at the Spindletop oilfield in 1901 and 1902. With the backing of eastern financiers, he formed the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway Company. He also felt the pull of the East. For years he had spent the summers on Boston's North Shore, and gradually he began to winter in New York, severing most of his ties with Texas and only occasionally visiting the state. After 1904 he was never again involved in a gubernatorial campaign.
As a youth House had dreamed great dreams, yearning for a place on the national political stage, and when he met Woodrow Wilson on November 25, 1911, the two formed a close friendship that lasted for years.
The relationship between the two men deteriorated after Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke in the fall of 1919, and during the Republican party's ascendancy in the 1920s House ceased to exercise direct influence on public affairs. Until his death, however, he maintained close contact with important national and international figures. He took an interest in Franklin D. Roosevelt's nomination in 1932, but made no effort to resume the political influence he enjoyed under Wilson. House died on March 28, 1938, in New York City and was buried at Glenwood Cemetary in Houston.
This collection consists of four letters from Colonel House to his niece Mary Louise Howze. The earliest of these, dated June 13, 1925 and penned in a Paris hotel, offers his congratulations to Mary Louise on the occasion of her graduation from Rice Institute. The second is postmarked Manchester, Massachusetts and thanks Mary Louise for her diligence in sending family news to him. The third is postmarked Beverly Farms (Gloucester), Massachusetts; it offers love and good wishes to Mary Louise for her upcoming marriage. The last letter is a card in which House comments on his busy schedule and includes his wife Loulie in the closing sentiment.
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This material is open for research.
Permission to publish material from the Col. E. M. House Letters to Mary Louise Howze Needham, 1925-1934, must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
Col. E. M. House Letters to Mary Louise Howze Needham, 1925-1934 MS 33, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
Gift of Mary Louise Howze Needham, May 16, 1975.
Detailed Description of the Collection