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Pan American Round Table founded in San Antonio
October 16, 1916

On this day in 1916, Florence Griswold assembled a group of women at a luncheon at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, where they organized the Pan American Round Table. The group was formed "to provide mutual knowledge and understanding and friendship among the peoples of the Western Hemisphere, and to foster all movements affecting the women and children of the Americas." The Round Table movement was still going strong at the end of the century, with branches in Texas, five other states, Washington, D.C., and a number of Latin American countries. Local chapters sponsor various projects focused on education: libraries, awards and scholarships, revolving college loan funds for Latino students, and classes in art, music, and dance for schoolchildren.

On Texas soil, presidents meet for the first time
October 16, 1909

On this day in 1909, presidents William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz met in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, the first meeting in history between a president of the United States and a president of Mexico. The local press described the meeting as the "Most Eventful Diplomatic Event in the History of the Two Nations." An El Paso historian has added that it was a "veritable pageant of military splendor, social brilliance, courtly formality, official protocol, and patriotic fervor." The proceedings for the meeting were planned in the greatest detail by the United States Department of State and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to matters of protocol, the two governments made the most elaborate arrangements for the protection and safety of the two presidents. Significantly, the area in dispute in south El Paso known as the Chamizal was declared neutral territory, the flags of neither nation to be displayed during the meeting. Because both presidents were bilingual there was no need for interpreters, and no one else attended the meeting. Although official reports of the meeting stated that nothing of political or diplomatic significance was discussed, some have suggested that the basis was laid there for the treaty of arbitration that the two nations signed a year later.

Attempt to kidnap alleged Union spy fails
October 16, 1861

On this day in 1861, six men attempted to kidnap Anton Wulff, a German-born merchant in Presidio del Norte whom Lt. Col. John R. Baylor had declared to be a Union spy. The attempt, which failed, resulted in the deaths of two Confederates and one Mexican. Wulff, born in Hamburg in 1822, settled in San Antonio in 1848. He eventually opened businesses in Fredericksburg, Laredo, Coke County, and Presidio del Norte. In 1857, possibly because of rising anti-German and pro-secession sentiment in San Antonio, Wulff moved his family and business to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande at Presidio del Norte, where he supplied both United States and Confederate garrisons at Fort Davis with hay and corn. Baylor, commanding the Second Texas Mounted Rifles at Fort Bliss, called Wulff a spy and ordered that he be enticed into Texas and arrested. After the botched kidnapping attempt, Wulff moved to Monterrey and in 1863 took his family to Hamburg, where they remained until near the end of the Civil War. They returned to San Antonio, where Wulff built his famous "castle" on King William Street in 1870. Wulff died in 1894.