Treasure of the Month
“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.”
During the month of June, Rosenberg Library will display a photographic portrait of Frederick W. Schmidt, proprietor of a late 19th century recreational venue known as Schmidt’s Garden. Located on 20th Street between Avenues O and P, Schmidt’s Garden featured a dance hall and saloon and was one Galveston’s most popular attractions during the 1870s and 1880s.
Born in Germany in 1812, Frederick William Schmidt was among the first residents to settle in the City of Galveston after its incorporation in 1839. At the age of 21, he left his homeland to immigrate to the United States. After landing in Charleston, South Carolina in 1833, he eventually settled in Mobile, Alabama where he operated a business for several years. Schmidt arrived in Galveston in 1841 and established one of the island’s first butcher shops. After his marriage to Charlotte Beissner around 1843, Schmidt purchased a large property in an undeveloped section of the island near the Gulf at 20th Street between Avenue O and Avenue P. He raised his own cattle and hogs and became prominent in Galveston’s business and civic circles.Over time, Schmidt began developing the family property into Schmidt’s Garden, an outdoor event venue and summer resort. He added a dancing pavilion, a saloon, tables and benches, as well as refreshment stands to the lushly landscaped grounds. During the 1870s and 1880s, numerous events and celebrations took place at Schmidt’s Garden. In addition to military and fundraising events, Maifest (a traditional German spring festival) and July 4th were celebrated annually at Schmidt’s Garden.
Between 1872 and 1887, Galveston’s African American residents celebrated Emancipation Day (now known as Juneteenth) at Schmidt’s Garden on June 19th. The annual program included a parade through the city streets which concluded at Schmidt’s Garden. There, speeches were made and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was read aloud. Afterwards festivalgoers enjoyed a picnic, music, and an evening dance. Emancipation Day grew from an estimated 1,000 attendees in 1872 to 3,000 by 1887. That year’s event also included a game between the Galveston Tidal Waves and the Dallas Black Stockings, two early African-American baseball teams in Texas.
After Frederick Schmidt’s death, the Schmidt children began to divide the property and sell off lots. New homes were constructed in the site after the 1900 Storm. In 1911, the grand Hotel Galvez was built one block south of where Schmidt’s Garden once stood.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, 9:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, please contact the Museum Office at (409) 763 – 8854 ext. 125.