"Such a library as ours would not only contain books and current periodicals,
but there would be...articles of historic, scientific, and artistic interest."
~ Frank C. Patten, Head Librarian of Rosenberg Library, 1904 - 1934
The Library accepted its first museum piece shortly after it opened in 1904. Since then, thousands of rare and interesting objects from around the world have been added to the collection. Displayed in these pages are the Library's "Treasures of the Month."
August 2013 "Treasure of the Month"
From left to right: Charlie Hinkfuss, Jack Harrison, J.L. Blewer, George Defferari,
George Walton, Carl Genter, Shag Astaff, and Ike O’Donnell pose after
conquering the Causeway (image courtesy of Galveston and Texas History Center)
It was December 3, 1911 at 10 o’clock in the morning when a group of six men got into two cars for a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Hardly the stuff of legends, but these men set out that fateful day to stare death in the face and make history.
Among them was George Defferari, a former prize fighter (who helped train the ‘Galveston Giant’ Jack Johnson for his first heavyweight championship bout in 1908), veteran of World War I and the Spanish American War and notorious adrenaline junkie. He hopped into the driver’s seat of the “big Interstate automobile” (as it was called by the Galveston Daily News) followed by Shag Astaff. Both cars were owned by George’s brother, Gus, who operated a motor delivery service on the island. Each vehicle was equipped with 35-horsepower engines that topped out at 40 miles per hour. Their tires boasted warranties of a thousand miles, and putting the top down required the strength of four men. The group’s goal was clear — they wanted to be the first people to successfully cross the Galveston Causeway in cars.
Driver Shag Astaff, passenger Ike O’Donnell and Charlie Hinkfuss in the back seat
pose for a triumphant photograph shortly after crossing the Causeway
(image courtesy of Galveston and Texas History Center)
Highway patrolman George Defferari
(1882 - 1935) (courtesy of
Galveston and Texas History Center)
Oil taken from the first barrel
produced in Dickinson, collected by George
Defferari in an empty aftershave bottle
(gift of Silas B. Ragsdale).
Undoubtedly the love of the open road played into George Defferari’s later decision to become one of the first Galveston County highway patrolmen. His position and outgoing personality meant that he was abreast of almost all local happenings including the 1934 discovery of oil in Dickinson, TX. Defferari happened to be nearby when the first well began to flow. He poured out what was left of his almond and benzoin aftershave lotion and captured a small sample of ‘black gold’ to mark the occasion. Soon after, Defferari gave the souvenir to Galveston’s newspaper editor Silas B. Ragsdale (whose 50-year career also included 25 years with Gulf Publishing). In March 1935 Ragsdale donated the bottle of oil to Rosenberg Library. Seventy-eight years later, this small piece of local history was displayed as the August Treasure of the Month.
The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, please contact the Museum Office at 409-763-8854 x 125.