Past Treasure of the Month – December 2017
December 1940. The gown was handmade by Hattie Williams, a Galveston dressmaker.
This month Rosenberg Library celebrated one of the island’s oldest institutions — the Galveston Artillery Club — which was established 177 years ago. During December, the Library exhibited a lace ball gown worn to the Artillery Club’s 100th Anniversary celebration which took place on December 2, 1940. It was a gift of Alicia Tate, a lifelong Galveston resident who was employed as a librarian for Galveston Independent School District for more than 40 years. Tate passed away in 1996.
History of the Galveston Artillery Club
Galveston was incorporated in 1839, just a few years after the pivotal Texas Revolution. Relations with Mexico remained tense, and residents of Galveston recognized the city’s vulnerability to a military blockade or invasion from its southern neighbor. In an effort to combat this threat, a group of local volunteers organized the Galveston Artillery Company. Few of these men were formally trained soldiers; rather, most were prominent businessmen. However, these individuals were committed to protecting the city and its harbor. An organizational charter and constitution were drafted, and officers were elected. Membership was limited to adult males with the ability to purchase their own uniforms and weapons as well as to pay a 50-cent initiation fee. Monthly dues totaled 25 cents, and attendance at regular meetings was required.
The Artillery Company’s activities slowed during the Civil War, as many of its members left the area to join the Confederate Army. Over time, the organization evolved from a military company into a strictly social club, and its name changed from the Galveston Artillery Company to the Galveston Artillery Club.
The Galveston Artillery Club remains an exclusive social organization nearly 180 years after its founding. Its clubhouse at 31st Street and Avenue O offers fine dining, bar service, and recreational facilities as a welcome respite for its members.
100th Anniversary Celebration in 1940
Since 1840, the Galveston Artillery Company has hosted an annual ball. The year 1940 marked the 100th anniversary of the Galveston Artillery Club, and an elaborate gala was held at the Hollywood Dinner Club in early December. In contrast to previous years, there were no new debutantes presented. Instead, the planning committee chose to honor all women who had made formal debuts in years prior to 1925. The oldest debutante in attendance had been presented in 1872.
The Hollywood Dinner Club was decorated in a rich color scheme of burgundy, emerald green, and gray with gold accents. A 14-piece orchestra with two vocalists provided the evening’s entertainment. Elaborate floral arrangements were placed around the venue and a large block of ice with a floral arrangement frozen inside of it made a stunning centerpiece. The 50-foot banquet table included a lavish spread of oxtail soup, creamed oysters, whole salmon, roast turkey, tenderloin of beef, and assorted salads. After dinner, guests enjoyed a six-tiered embossed white cake and received miniature cakes in custom boxes to take home.
According to a review of the event in Galveston Daily News, the 100th Artillery Ball was “the most brilliant party of many seasons.”