On this day in 1877 the Elissa, an iron-hulled, three-masted barque built at the Clyde River shipyard of Alexander Hall and Company of Aberdeen, Scotland, was launched. After a long and varied career the vessel was purchased in 1974 by the Galveston Historical Foundation as a restoration project to complement the Strand Historic District, the Victorian market center of the city. The restored nineteenth-century full-rigged sailing ship is now berthed at Pier 21 in Galveston, just off the Strand, and is visited by 60,000 to 70,000 tourists a year.
On this day in 1891, the Pan American Railway was chartered by a group of Boston investors to connect Victoria, Texas, with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The residents of Victoria, anxious to have an independent rail outlet to compete with the Southern Pacific-controlled lines radiating from the city, offered a $150,000 bonus to the company. By August 1892 the line had been completed from Victoria to the Guadalupe River, a distance of ten miles, but funds were not available to bridge the river. Victoria refused to pay any installment on the bonus until additional mileage had been constructed. No regular trains were ever operated on the Pan American, and the track was soon abandoned.
On this day in 1986, photographer E. O. Goldbeck died. The San Antonio native, born in 1892, decided to pursue a career in photography in 1901 after he captured a candid shot of President McKinley in a San Antonio parade. Within weeks he had purchased his own camera and was taking and selling impromptu portraits of his classmates and teachers. After graduating from Main Avenue High School in 1910, he traveled extensively, purchased his first Cirkut camera, and began experimenting with the panoramic format. Known as the "unofficial photographer of America's military," Goldbeck pushed the limits of his craft by working with ever larger groups in striking designs. For his largest group shot, in which 21,765 men were arranged to represent the Air Force insignia, he spent more than six weeks building a 200-foot tower and making blueprints of the formation and attire of his subjects. The photograph was subsequently featured in Life magazine and became the most frequently reproduced of his prints. In 1967 Goldbeck discovered that many of his early negatives had deteriorated in storage. He subsequently donated 60,000 of his negatives and more than 10,000 vintage prints to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas.