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TABLE OF CONTENTS


Overview

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Arrangement of the Collection

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Edna Collins collection, 1940s, 1955, bulk 1943-1944,

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Edna Collins:

An Inventory of the Edna Collins Collection at the Texas State Archives, 1940s, 1955, bulk 1943-1944



Overview

Creator: Collins, Edna Gertrude, 1885-1968
Title: Edna Collins collection
Dates: 1940s, 1955
Dates: bulk 1943-1944
Abstract: Edna Gertrude Collins (1885-1968) was an Austin-area painter and educator. The Edna Collins collection consists of 40 photographs, watercolors, and pencil drawings that primarily document the decoration of several theaters and recreation halls on the grounds of Camp Swift. Texas during the Second World War by Collins and a team of civilians and German prisoners of war (POWs). Also prominent in the collection are five commemorative Christmas cards hand-illustrated by the POWs and presented to Collins in 1943. Dates covered are 1940s, 1955, with the bulk dating 1943-1944. Subjects covered include depictions of rural culture in both west Texas and northern Mexico, as well as life as a POW at Camp Swift.
Quantity: 40 items
Language: These materials are written in English and German.
Repository: Texas State Archives

Biographical Sketch

Edna Gertrude Collins (1885-1968) was an Austin-area painter and educator. Born in Toronto, Canada on April 9, 1885, Collins spent her early childhood in Canada and Germany. In 1901, she immigrated to the United States, settling in Austin to study art at the studio of artist Robert Jerome Hill. Over the next few years, she would also study with the Art Students League of New York City as well as at the Sophie Newcomb College of New Orleans. After two years in Europe, Collins returned to Austin, where she painted and taught for the remainder of her career, save for a brief period in Dallas (1927-1929). Collins was involved in the larger art community, serving as secretary of the Austin Art League and writing articles for Art Digest and Texas Outlook. Her murals in particular were prominently displayed in locations across Austin, including the State Capitol, the Paramount Theatre, the Engineers Club, and the Pioneer Drive-In.

In 1943, Collins was commissioned to decorate a recreation hall at Camp Swift in Bastrop County by Colonel Lawrence A. Kurtz, the post's commanding officer. Camp Swift was a temporary training and transshipment post built in 1942 with 2,750 buildings designed to accommodate 44,000 troops, the largest of its kind in Texas. The camp also housed approximately 3,865 German prisoners of war (POWs). Collins designed the various murals and illustrations for the recreation room and was assisted in the painting by local artist and art teacher Ann Stubbs (1904-1991) and Ernest R. Hardin (1902-1987), a University of Texas professor of speech and artist. Kurtz was pleased enough with the finished room that he then commissioned Collins to decorate one of the Camp's six theaters. Realizing that she and Stubbs would be unable to complete the work on their own, Collins contacted Kurtz and requested the assistance of a unit of POWs, preferably those with applicable art experience. Kurtz initially detailed five POWs to help: Hans Halecker, Walter Hoffmeister, George Schindler (former teacher at the Leipzig Academy of Art), Hans Volkmar, and Ludwig von Urhan (former architect and painter). All five POWs worked with Collins during the remainder of her work on Camp Swift, save for Volkmar, who was quickly replaced by Warner Kirshes for unknown reasons. The principal theme of the theater murals was a stylized depiction of Mexican village life, complete with outdoor markets, milling villagers, and a cantina. Work on the theater neared completion by Christmas 1943, when the POWs presented a set of handmade Christmas cards to Collins.

Work on a second theater began thereafter. Collins planned a series of murals depicting everyday life along the West Texas frontier, and enlisted the help of George Brown, an art class pupil and native West Texan, to bring authenticity to the design. As she worked on Theater 2, Collins delegated the design of a second recreation hall to George Schindler, with the assistance of Stubbs and the remainder of the POWs. Both projects were completed in 1944, and Schindler began design plans for a third theater under Collins' supervision. The conclusion of the war put a stop to further work, however, and Camp Swift was gradually closed down beginning in 1945.

Following her work at Camp Swift, Collins continued to remain active in the Austin-area artist community, and had a one-woman exhibition in 1952. In 1968, Collins died while visiting her sister, Rosina Guest West, in Berkeley, California.

(Sources include: Powers, John E. "Collins, Edna Gertrude."Texas painters, sculptors and graphic artists : a biographical dictionary of artists in Texas before 1942. Austin, Tex.: Woodmont Books, c2000; Collins, Edna. "Decorating Theaters at Camp Swift, Texas, During 1943-1944," Edna Collins literary effort, 1943-1944. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.)

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

Edna Gertrude Collins (1885-1968) was an Austin-area painter and educator. This collection consists of 40 watercolors, pencil drawings and photographs, the bulk of which document the decoration of entertainment facilities in Camp Swift, Texas by Austin artist Edna Collins and her assistants. Dates covered are 1940s, 1955, with the bulk dating 1943-1944. The pencil drawings and bulk of the watercolors are preparatory and detail studies outlining plans for murals and other assorted ornamentation for two theatres and two recreation rooms decorated by Collins and her varying team of civilians and German prisoners of war (POWs). The bulk of the designs concern murals and assorted decorative flourishes for Theater 1 (scenes of Mexican village life) and Theater 2 (scenes of West Texas ranch life). Also included are three watercolor designs for a potential third theater most likely created by POW George Schindler, the plans for which were never initiated due to the end of the war in Europe. Additionally, there are five commemorative watercolor Christmas cards created and given to Collins in 1943 by the five POWs most involved in the project: Hans Halecker, Walter Hoffmeister, Warner Kirshes, George Schindler, and Ludwig von Urhan. The final watercolor is a picture painted by Collins in 1955 of a cottage on the grounds of Austin's Pease Mansion (also known as Woodlawn), which was Collins' home at the time. The bulk of the photographs are images of the decorated theaters and recreation rooms taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Also included are two pictures of Camp Swift's POW cemetery, designed by the POWs themselves, and a small portrait of Hans Halecker.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The physical arrangement of these records is of unclear origin. The collection may be arranged as received, or a clerk of the Texas State Library may have re-arranged the items according to a criteria that does not correspond to a known archival standard. Items are not grouped by subject, creator, or format, and are separated into differing locations without regard to item number sequence. Archives staff elected to retain arrangement due to small size of collection and need to maintain link with previous citations. The records are in two groups: photographs, and watercolor and pencil works.

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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.

Restrictions on Use

The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).

Technical Requirements

Researchers are required to wear gloves provided by the Archives when reviewing photographic materials.

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Index Terms

The terms listed here were used to catalog the records. The terms can be used to find similar or related records.
Personal Names:
Brown, George.
Halecker, Hans.
Hoffmeister, Walter.
Kirshes, Warner.
Schindler, George.
Stubbs, Ann.
Von Urhan, Ludwig.
Corporate Names:
Pease Mansion (Austin, Tex.)
United States. Army. Signal Corps.
Subjects:
Mural painting and decoration--Texas--Camp Swift.
Mexico, North--Social life and customs--Pictorial works.
Prisoners of War, German.
Prisoners of War--Texas--Camp Swift.
Texas--Social life and customs--Pictorial works.
Places:
Austin (Tex.)
Camp Swift (Tex.)
Document Types:
Christmas cards--Texas--1943.
Detail studies--Texas--Camp Swift--1943-1944.
Photographs--Texas--Camp Swift--1940s.
Preparatory studies--Texas--Camp Swift--1943-1944.
Watercolors--Texas--Camp Swift--1943-1944, 1955.

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Related Material

The following materials are offered as possible sources of further information on the agencies and subjects covered by the records. The listing is not exhaustive.

Texas State Archives
Edna Collins Literary Effort, 1943-1944, 1 item. [Contains the narrative manuscript, Decorating Theaters at Camp Swift, Texas, During 1943-1944]
Austin History Center
Collins Family Papers, 1842-1963, undated, 3.5 linear ft.
Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
Camp Swift Oral History Project Records, 2004-2006, 1.5 ft.
A Guide to the Council of Texas Archeologists Archive of Texas Archeology, Part 3, 77 ft. [Contains An Archaeological Inventory of Camp Swift, Bastrop County, Texas]

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

(Identify the item and cite the series), Edna Collins collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Accession Information

Accession number: 1961/029

These records were donated to the Archives Division of the Texas State Library by Edna Collins on February 23, 1962.

Processing Information

Preliminary inventory and notes by John Anderson, January 1985

EAD finding aid prepared by Jonathan King, May 2013

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Detailed Description of the Collection

 

Edna Collins collection, 1940s, 1955, bulk 1943-1944,
40 items

Photographs, 1940s
Box Photo
PP0104 1961/029-1 Portrait of German POW Hans Halecker, 1943 or 1944
1961/029-3 German POW cemetery at Camp Swift, 1940s
1961/029-4 German POW cemetery at Camp Swift, 1940s
1961/029-6 Recreation hall at Camp Swift, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-14 Left wall murals of Theater 1, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-15 Center panel of left wall murals of Theater 1, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-16 Theater 1 from left rear corner, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-19 Smoking room of Theater 1, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-20 Smoking room of Theater 1, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-22 Center panel, right wall murals of Theater 1, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-23 Right wall murals of Theater 1 from left rear, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-24 Right wall murals of Theater 1 from left rear taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
1961/029-25 Left wall murals of Theater 2 from right rear, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
[recto includes subject summary of visible murals]
1961/029-27 Front of Theater 2 from rear, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
[recto includes subject summary of visible murals]
1961/029-28 Right wall murals of Theater 2 from left rear, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
[recto includes subject summary of visible murals]
1961/029-31 Smoking room, Theater 2, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1940s
Watercolor and pencil works, 1940s, 1955
Oversize Work
PPB011 1961/029-2 Cottage at the Pease place done during the time I lived there, 1955
[watercolor painting by Edna Collins]
1961/029-8 Ideas for Rec Hall #2, probably 1944
[pencil drawing by George Schindler]
1961/029-9 Ideas for Rec Hall #2, 1944
[pencil drawing by George Schindler]
1961/029-10 Recreation Hall #2, probably 1944
[watercolor and pencil study]
1961/029-11 Detail for Ceiling in foyer in Rec. Hall, probably 1944
[watercolor and pencil study of details for Recreation Hall #2]
1961/029-21 Stage End and Wing [and] Projection Wall, probably 1943
[two pencil and watercolor studies for Theatre #1, by Edna Collins]
1961/029-30 Sketch by George Brown for 2nd panel Theatre #2, probably 1944
[watercolor study]
1961/029-39 Pencil and watercolor study of a wagon train mural, probably 1943 or 1944
Box Work
PP0104 1961/029-5 Design for Ceiling of Entrance, probably 1943 or 1944
[pencil and watercolor study]
1961/029-7 Sketch for mural - Rec. Hall #1, probably 1943
[watercolor study by Edna Collins]
1961/029-12 Rec. Hall #2, probably 1944
[watercolor study of tile decoration around window for Rec Hall #2 by Ann Stubbs]
Oversize Work
PPH005 1961/029-13 Theatre #1 Center Panel, probably 1943
[pencil and watercolor study]
1961/029-18 Water-color Drawing by Mrs Stubbs for 2nd panel left wall – Theatre #1, probably 1943
1961/029-26 Sketch by George Brown for Left wall – Theatre #2, probably 1944
1961/029-29 Sketch for right wall [mural]. Theatre #2 – by George Brown, probably 1944
1961/029-32 Design made by P.W.’s for a 3rd Theatre, probably 1944
[pencil and watercolor study, probably by George Schindler]
1961/029-33 Design for Theatre #3, probably 1944
[pencil and watercolor study, probably by George Schindler]
1961/029-34 Christmas card illustrated by Walter Hoffmeister, 1943
[watercolor card written in German]
1961/029-35 Christmas card illustrated by Hans Halecker, 1943
[watercolor card written in German]
1961/029-36 Christmas card illustrated by Warner Kirshes, 1943
[watercolor card written in German]
1961/029-37 Christmas card illustrated by Ludwig Von Urhan, 1943
[watercolor card written in German]
1961/029-38 Christmas card illustrated by George Schindler, 1943
[watercolor card written in German]
1961/029-38A Unfolded paper envelope for the Christmas cards, 1943
[decorated with watercolors and written in German]
[Included with note: Christmas cards made for me by our 'Detail.' Others, in a somewhat different mood, were presented to Mrs. Stubbs, but she does not wish to give them at this time.]
Drawer Work
E-125 1961/029-17 Sketch for Proscenium [Mural] Theatre #1, probably 1943
[pencil and watercolor study by Edna Collins]

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