Past Treasure of the Month – November 2019
During the month of November, Rosenberg Library exhibited an award ribbon presented to Maco Stewart, Jr. in November 1906. Stewart competed in Galveston’s First Annual Horse Show sponsored by the Women’s Health Protective Association that year.
During the late 19th century, Galveston was a city rich with tropical foliage and lush gardens. Tragically, the 1900 Storm destroyed the island’s landscape with homes, businesses, and human lives. Several months after the storm, a group of sixty-six local women joined forces to establish the Women’s Health Protective Association. The W.H.P.A. led the efforts to clean up the city and replace the trees and plants that were lost during the devastating hurricane.
The W.H.P.A. operated its own nursery on land donated by a local businessman, J.C. League. Oak trees, palm trees, oleanders, and shrubs were replanted throughout the city. According to W.H.P.A. records, by 1912 the group had planted 10,000 oak trees and 2,500 oleanders on the island.
The group also worked to pass local sanitation ordinances and advocated for the regulation of dairies and grocery stores to ensure that residents were not exposed to contaminated foods. Other projects included the construction of safe playgrounds for children and improved drainage systems to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.
Funding for these projects came from member dues, private donations, and fundraising events. One such event was the W.H.P.A.’s First Annual Horse Show held on November 10, 1906. Mrs. Waters S. Davis came up with the idea of an equestrian fundraiser after attending similar events in other cities. Isabella Dyer Kopperl served as the event chairwoman, and the W.H.P.A. secured the city’s newly opened baseball park at 41st and Avenue Q as the venue.
The one-day event consisted of a variety of contests which began during the morning and lasted throughout the afternoon. These included pony rides for children, separate horse riding competitions for men and women, unhitching events, driving team races, and a high jump contest. The grand finale included an automobile race — a remarkable event, considering that cars were still a relatively new invention. A special luncheon featured oysters, sandwiches, potato salad, pickles, cheese, and ice cream. In addition to the equestrian events, there was a garden show with prizes awarded for best flower, best fruit, and best vegetable grown in Galveston.
The First Annual Horse Show was deemed “a grand success” by the Galveston Daily News. The W.H.P.A. raised more than $1,000 — roughly equivalent to $28,000 today — and all proceeds went toward civic beautification projects.