Cowboy boots and computers. Salsa and Texas-shaped tortilla chips. Jalapeño jelly and prickly pear wine. Ancient stone tools and artificial hearts. What do these all have in common? Texas! “Made in Texas” opens July 2 at the Institute of Texan Cultures. The new exhibit puts the accomplishments of the Lone Star State on display.
Texas products and ideas have carved out a huge place in American culture and beyond. In 1885, Waco pharmacist Charles Alderton took a turn at the soda fountain, concocting a mix of syrups that became known as Dr Pepper. The popular Texas beverage made its nationwide debut in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St. Louis, where 20 million Americans also got introduced to hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream cones.
Texas food traditions, heavily influenced by Mexico, arrived on the national stage in the 1890s, when brands including Gebhardt and Mexene began mass producing chili powder. And while the Fritos corn chip was born in San Antonio in 1932, the nation would have to wait until 1947 for Pace Picante Sauce.
Some might say Texas’ reach has extended beyond the confines of Earth. Aside from Brooks Air Force Base serving as a major developer of the first space suit and other implements of space exploration, NASA’s space treadmill and waste disposal system were invented by Henry Whitmore, a former Air Force researcher who ran Whitmore Enterprises, just south of Bexar County. The Whitmore’s Treadmill, used for exercising in space, was used on nearly every shuttle flight during the 1980s. The waste collection device was used on only one flight in 1985, after which Whitmore lost the contract to a competitor.
Texas has made its presence known in virtual worlds as well, and is home to some of computer gaming’s forefathers. Richard Garriott, better known to gamers as Lord British, grew up outside of Houston and attended the University of Texas at Austin. Garriott created Ultima, a seminal computer role-playing game franchise. Since debuting in 1980, Ultima continued through nine games, three spin-off franchises and an early generation Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG, a term Garriott is credited with coining in 1997).
In addition to food and technology, Made in Texas features music, art and fashion. The museum will rotate artifacts through the exhibit as the year progresses, adding to the already impressive roster of Texan innovations and discoveries. Made in Texas will continue through September 29, 2013.
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.