Oliver LaGrone: Sculptor of “Mercy”

Black and white photo of an African American artist  in a studio covering a  figurative sculpture with plaster.
Works Progress Administration sculptor Oliver LaGrone casting “Mercy” for installation at the Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital for Crippled Children in Hot Springs (Truth or Consequences), NM, ca. 1936. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives 019936

Oliver LaGrone (1906-1995), younger brother of Hobart LaGrone, is a nationally-recognized artist, educator, and poet. After moving with his family from the Midwest to Albuquerque in the early 1930s, Oliver LaGrone quickly became involved in his community. In 1933, both Oliver and Hobart became members of the first African American Boy Scout troop in Albuquerque. Oliver was also the director and member, along with Hobart, of the Harmony Four, a quartet that regularly sang at the Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, where they were also members with their family.

Newspaper clipping with headline: Ex-Student Here Hailed As Sculptor
Albuquerque Tribune 21 February 1952

Oliver LaGrone began his studies at the University of New Mexico, and refined his skills in the fine arts. In 1936, the WPA hired Mr. LaGrone to create a sculpture for the future Carrie Tingley Hospital for Crippled Children in Hot Springs, NM. Upon graduating from UNM in 1938 with a Bachelor of Science degree, Mr. LaGrone met and married Irmah Cooke and moved to Michigan shortly thereafter, though he moved back to Albuquerque briefly in 1977.

Oliver LaGrone continued making sculptures throughout his life, while he worked as a representative for the American Federation of Labor (AF of L) in Detroit’s auto industry, while he worked as a teacher in Detroit public schools, and throughout his tenure as a faculty member at Pennsylvania State University.

Oliver LaGrone was also known for his activism and wrote poetry on Black history, identity, and the fight for civil rights in the United States. His sculptures can be seen at the Albuquerque Museum sculpture garden, the Schomberg Center at the New York Public Library, and Pennsylvania State University, among other locations.

Newspaper clipping with headline: Detroit Sculptor Ends Visit Here
Albuquerque Journal 31 December 1962

1st Weds Lecture – Royal A. Prentice: Pioneering Archaeologist in Eastern New Mexico

Photographer and former Rough Rider, Royal A. Prentice, 1950? 
Neg. 006017. Palace of the Governors Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum
Photographer and former Rough Rider, Royal A. Prentice was also an early volunteer who contributed valuable archeological information to the Museum of New Mexico.

The live presentation can be seen on YouTube and via Zoom.

Richard Ford, Allison Colborne, and Gary Hein have undertaken a study of Royal A. Prentice,  an early  volunteer who contributed valuable archaeological information to the Museum of New Mexico in the first three decades of the 20th century.  Although he published several useful research papers during those years in El Palaciothe quarterly magazine of the Museum of New Mexico, Prentice remains generally unknown today. The presentation will provide an overview of his life focusing on his archaeological research, stressing that the value of this work has earned him a well-deserved place in the history of New Mexico archaeology.  

Our speakers for this event are:

Richard I. Ford
 Arthur F. Thurnau, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Botany, 
 University of Michigan
Research Associate, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture 

Allison Colborne
Librarian, Laboratory of Anthropology
Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Gary Hein
 Volunteer, Office of Archaeological Studies and Rock Art 
Rock Art Council Member, Archaeological Society of New Mexico

This is the latest in the Friends of History monthly lecture series and is presented in collaboration with the Friends of Archaeology.

Several of Royal A. Prentice’s photographs are currently on exhibit in our Working on the Railroad Exhibition which remains open until October of 2021.

You can also visit the exhibition from home via the Virtual Version .

You can view all of Prentice’s photographs in our digital collections portal.

Friends of History is a volunteer support group for the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Its mission is to raise funds and public awareness for the Museum’s exhibitions and programs. Friends of History fulfills its mission by offering high quality public history programs, including the First Wednesday Lecture Series. For more information, or to join the Friends of History, go to friendsofhistorynm.org

Clara Belle Drisdale Williams: Trailblazing Educator

Black and white photo of a young African American woman, seated, wearing a white dress

Clara Belle Drisdale Williams [1885-1993] was the first African-American graduate of New Mexico State University. Many of her professors would not allow her inside the classroom, she had to take notes from the hallway; she was also not allowed to walk with her class to get her diploma. She married Jasper Williams in 1917; their three sons became physicians. She became a great teacher of black students by day, and by night she taught their parents, former slaves, home economics. In 1961, New Mexico State University named a street on its campus after Williams;

in 2005 the building of the English department was renamed Clara Belle Williams Hall. In 1980 Williams was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws degree by NMSU, which also apologized for the treatment she was subjected to as a student. She died at 108 years old.

More information on Clara Belle Drisdale Williams in articles on NMSU.edu

Mr. Hobart Lagrone: Instrumental figure in New Mexico’s drive to de-segregation

Did you know that the Albuquerque chapter of the NAACP was established in January 1915 – nine years after the national organization was founded in 1906?

Albuquerque Journal 4 May 1952

Though many notable Albuquerque residents served and continue to dedicate their time to the NAACP, we want to highlight Mr. Hobart LaGrone, a devoted member and former president of the both the local and state chapters of the NAACP throughout the 1950s and until his death in 1966. Under Mr. LaGrone’s leadership, the NAACP Albuquerque Branch welcomed nationally and internationally known African American scholars and artists, namely Dr. W.E.B DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche to speak in town regarding urgent sociopolitical matters. Mr. LaGrone (center) is pictured above in this Albuquerque Journal photo with Dr. Bunche (left of center) from his lecture on the United Nations in May 1952.

Albuquerque Journal 18 February 1953

A postman by day, Mr. LaGrone’s NAACP work shed light on discrimination and racial justice issues in Albuquerque and New Mexico more broadly. He attended GI Forum meetings, worked with state senators to end school segregation in New Mexico, and was instrumental in spearheading the Albuquerque Civil Rights Ordinance in 1952, to name a few key accomplishments. Just three years before his death, the city honored Mr. LaGrone for his dedication to civil rights causes.

Albuquerque Tribune 16 May 1963

Hobart LaGrone and his brother Oliver, a renowned artist, are two members of a dynamic family we’re currently researching at the museum, though we look forward to learning about more family members and their community in Albuquerque. Look for another post this week on the life and work of Oliver LaGrone.

Today in History

President Abraham Lincoln was born on this day in 1809.

The Library does not have any archival material from the 16th president*, so instead today we’re sharing the stories behind his namesakes in New Mexico.

Map of the Territory of New Mexico

Lincoln County was created by the territorial legislature in 1869 to honor the president. It was originally much larger than today (see pink county in the middle of the map). Chavez, Eddy and Otero Counties were carved out of it, reducing it to its current size today.

The town of Lincoln, formerly known as La Placita Del Rio Bonito, was one of the largest towns in the region that became Lincoln County. It was the county seat until the county offices were moved to Carrizozo in 1909. Lincoln county came to fame/ infamy with the Lincoln County Wars, 1878-1881.

Lincoln Forest Reserve, named for the town and county (both of which were named after the president, so we’re including it) was created in 1902, and renamed “Lincoln National Forest” in 1918.

For more information check out Lincoln Historic Site

*If you have something of President Lincoln’s and are interested in donating, please email us (historylibrary@state.nm.us)

Information from “Place Names of New Mexico” by Robert Julyan.

Book cover of “The Place Names of New Mexico” by Robert Julyan

Guided Virtual Tours Begin on Feb 10, 2021

In the interest of public health and safety due to Covid-19, in-person tours of the museum are not being offered at this time.   

Instead, docents are hosting custom virtual tours online   Each tour will last approximately 50 minutes and will be offered on the Zoom platform.   

Currently, tours are being scheduled to take place on: Wednesdays at 2 pm & Thursdays at 10 am Mountain Time

Visit our tour schedule to see the calendar of tours available and register to attend. 

Tours are free of charge, but registration is requested.   Upon registration, the online link to the selected tour will be sent by email along with instructions for joining the group. 

From the Collection:

NMHM/DCA 2016.045.001

Do any of you participate in sewing clubs or quilting bees?

This 1917-1918 undyed cotton muslin quilt was made by members of the Anniston So and Sew Club, as the center square reads. Constructed of 10” x 10” squares laid out in a diamond pattern, each square is embroidered with a club member’s name and date. Some squares have “Logan, NM” or “San Jon, NM” as well, noting the location of the So and Sew in Quay County. Both the seams where squares are joined and the squares themselves are embellished with multicolored embroidery. This piece is completely hand quilted and measures 71.5” x 85.5”.

NMHM/DCA 2016.045.001
NMHM/DCA 2016.045.001