Waco surgeon’s generous gift was seed for Texas Collection

The Texas Collection in an undated photo. (Baylor University)

WACO, Texas (KWTX) The largest collection of Texana in the state is in Waco and Baylor University’s Texas Collection is considered to be the place where people go to investigate all things Texas.

In 1923 several hundred items from the personal collection of Waco physician Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth provided the seed for the collection, which now includes almost 2 million photographs, 200,000 printed volumes, 13,000 audio and video pieces, 17,000 maps, 2,500 archival collections and 3,000 current serial subscription files, the collection’s website says.

The Texas Collection is one of three specialty libraries on the Baylor University campus, and is housed in the Carroll Science Building near Waco Hall.

Collection director John Wilson said it is appropriate that Texas’ oldest university be the place where Texas keeps in treasures.

There are other repositories of Texas memorabilia, one at the University of Texas, in Austin, one at the University of Texas at Arlington and, of course, the Bob Bullock Museum in Austin, but none eclipses the collection at Baylor, Wilson said.

Aynesworth, born in Florence Feb. 9, 1873, earned an undergraduate degree from Baylor University in 1894 where he attended class with famous alumni such as Tom Connally and Pat M. Neff.

He went on to earn his MD at the University of Texas and while studying in Galveston worked as an intern at John Sealey Hospital.

After graduation he did post-graduate study at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin and then moved to Johns Hopkins University for continued research.

On December 31, 1902 he married Maude Brian and the two came to Waco where Aynesworth set up his general medicine and surgery practice, primarily at Providence Hospital.

Aynesworth served on several city boards and commissions, including the Waco school board (1907–17) and board of health (1903–13), was a member of the McLennan County Medical Society (president, 1939), Texas State Medical Association, American Medical Association, American Board of Surgery, West Texas Archaeological and Paleontological Society, Texas Academy of Science, Texas State Historical Association, and a founder of the Philosophical Society of Texas.

He was a charter member of the Texas Surgical Society (president, 1927) and was elected a fellow of both the Southern Surgical Association and the American College of Surgeons.

He was a Baptist and Mason.

Aynesworth in 1933 received an honorary LL.D. from Baylor and the same year was appointed a Regent of the University of Texas.

He served UT Regents from 1933 to 1944 on the complaints and grievances committee, the medical branch committee, the library committee, the College of Mines (now the University of Texas at El Paso) committee, and the board of lease of university lands.

He died in Waco on Oct. 30, 1944 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

When Aynesworth made his initial gift to the university the 1,000-or-so items were collected and housed in a single room of the Carroll Science Building.

"Because of the pride I have in the preservation of the noble heritage bequeathed to us by the daring and scholarly builders of Texas and because of the devotion I bear to Baylor, the oldest university on Texas soil, I cheerfully donate this collection with the hope that the coming years may reveal a saner culture and happier life because of the spread of knowledge of the history of our great state,” Aynesworth said

The collection stayed there until 1939 when it was moved to occupy an entire wing on the second floor of Pat Neff Hall.

The Texas Collection grew over the next 15 years until the Pat Neff Hall space was no longer large enough to house all the items that were included in the collection, so in 1955 the Texas Collection moved back to the Carroll Science Building where it occupied the whole 3rd floor.

Up until 1968 the same building also housed the university’s general library collection but then the new Moody Memorial Library was completed that year, all of the general collection was moved out, which left the entire Carroll Science Building to the collection.

The collection moved one more time, in 1993, to the basement of Roxy Grove Hall, so the Carroll Science Building could undergo a total remodel.

The collection moved back to the science building after the renovation and has remained there since.

Baylor students, faculty, staff and the public all are invited to use the materials contained in the Texas Collection, but the stacks are not open.

Anyone who desires to do research there need only notify one of the library employees, who will find the materials requested and make them available in the reading room.

Probably 50 percent of the people who use the collection have no connection to Baylor,” Wilson said.

The collection, which contains more than 200,000 volumes is strong in Texas history, genealogy, popular literature, Baptists and their institutions, religious denominations, and Texas cookery, a university website says.

Printed materials come in a variety of formats including books, periodicals, vertical files, microforms, and audiovisual materials.

It also is a regional depository for Texas state documents and receives publications from state agencies routinely.

The Texas Collection also is a depository in the Regional Historical Records Depository program and provides these microfilmed county records for both in-house use and Inter-library loan patrons.

“The Texas Collection preserves and makes accessible manuscript collections about the diverse lives of Texans—their faith, politics, struggles, and triumphs,” a university website says.

“This rich history includes diaries, letters, photographs, and other materials on all things Texas and strengths include early Texas, Baptist and missionary history, the Civil War, World War I and World War II, Branch Davidians, and the Central Texas region.”

From the university’s website on the collection’s 90th anniversary: “Aynesworth personified much of what it meant to be a well-rounded citizen during the early half of the twentieth century. In addition to working hard at his profession and maintaining his civic involvement, Aynesworth gave of his time and finances to preserve the history of his day.

“The Aynesworth papers serve as a testament to his emphases on the importance of family, the medical profession, and the preservation of history.

“We at The Texas Collection are celebrating our 90th anniversary (in 2013) in large part because of the generosity of Dr. Aynesworth.

“As John K. Strecker wrote in 1926, “Baylor historians of the future will owe a deep debt of gratitude to Doctor Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth, eminent surgeon, bibliophile and founder of Baylor’s greater Texas history collection.”

The collection also is a huge repository of photographs and videos, from Daguerreotypes to digital video and photos that includes more than 2 million individual items.

Collections of several prominent central Texas photographers are also represented, such as Fred Gildersleeve, who has several thousand photos included in the collection.

Former Waco Congressman W.R. “Bob” Poage donated the funds to set aside the Frances C. Poage Map Room, in honor of his late wife, which today contains more than 17,000 maps.

In 2013 the collection celebrated its 90th anniversary and during an event remembered Aynesworth who continued, along with his wife, to donate books, papers and funds until his death.

Wilson, who has worked at Baylor for 30 years, became the director of the Texas Collection inn 2010 and just recently was named interim dean of campus libraries, which includes the main library and three special collections.

Wilson said most area residents “probably (don’t) realize what the collection holds.

But some of the collection soon will be available online when the staff completes the first of several digitization projects designed to display several old Waco newspapers that were published between the 1850s and 1923, when the copyright law went into effect.

The new collections should be ready for public use by October, Wilson said.

It’s a big task, but only “Part of the joy and pain of it all,” Wilson said.

The oldest items in the collection are an early geography volume from the 16th Century and a copy of the Second letter of Cortez with a map “that belonged to the King of Spain,” Wilson said.

The collection has not remained static, Wilson said.

“We continue to purchase items,” and staff at the collection regularly peruse auction notices and estate sales looking for Texana to add to the stacks.

“Our print collection is absolutely incredible,” and “We’re constantly buying to fill gaps in the collection,” Wilson said.