Postcard image sheds light on mysterious Alamo table

I was reading an old column (August 22, 2020) about the origin of the Alamo table. If the mystery of the table has not been solved, I have a postcard showing the table, its location, and the name of the table.

The postcard I have from the Alamo table is the cover of an accordion-style booklet that doesn’t have the typical reverse sides of separate postcards. It contains 10 postcards printed on both sides for a total of 20 postcards. The back of the Alamo (map) table was a postcard showing a herd of elk in Brackenridge Park.

I am enclosing the entire cover of the booklet, which shows the Alamo table with space for a 2 cent stamp. Also attached is a copy of the flap of the postcard, which indicates the publisher but no date.

—Tim Palomera III

Your postcard’s caption – “Bridal Breakfast Table at Otto Koehler Park” – revealed the mystery of the Alamo-patterned picnic table, first investigated here in 2020 when a reader sent one a family photo. San Antonio city parks experts, the Alamo and the concrete sculpture have wiped the slate clean while admiring the table’s distinctive folk-arty character. Thanks to the postcard’s identification with Otto Koehler Park, we now know when it was created, where it was, who commissioned it, who made it, and why it was born…but not what happened to erase it so completely from municipal memory.

Back when this town had at least two daily newspapers and a much smaller population, very little escaped its reporters, including the origins of the Alamo table. This “rustic seat and table with a replica of the Alamo at each end”, as described by the San Antonio Light, September 19, 1916, was “a new feature provided for the Otto Koehler park”, then quite new itself , donated the previous year by Emma Koehler in memory of her husband, Otto, a wealthy brewer who was shot in 1914 in murky circumstances. His gift of just under 11 acres of land stipulated that beer could be sold there every day except Sunday – the opposite of the adjacent Brackenridge Park at the time.

Visitors to the park may have been drinking Pearl beer – the products of the Koehlers – at the table in question for the duration of it. According to some photos available, its tray and its files were made of wood. According to the Light, “the supports of the table and the two seats facing it are concrete, and those (supports) below are those fashioned like the front of the Alamo”.

The craftsman credited was Joseph Wilkens, a city employee. As such, it has come a long way; the San Antonio Freie Presse für Texas, a German-language newspaper, September 5, 1883, notes that Wilkens had been proposed and announced as a new policeman. In city directories he is listed as a city worker; and in the 1910 U.S. Census he is a caretaker at Cassiano Park. If he was a sculptor, it was as a hobby or sideline.

The Alamo table was commissioned and probably designed by Ray Lambert. He was a former stonecutter who became commissioner of San Antonio Parks in 1915 and developed a vision for Brackenridge Park – an aggregation of donated and purchased land that included a disused quarry – which took advantage of its natural and unspoilt qualities. and developed it as the location for a municipal zoo. The Light says that Lambert considered the new table “one of the most attractive features of the park” and that he “plans to have more built.” The others — who knows if any were built? – could have represented other Spanish colonial missions. “They are older than the California missions and are better examples of architecture,” Lambert said. “It always seemed to me that we didn’t display them enough, and I would venture to say that there are thousands of visitors who come here every year and never see any of the missions to save the Alamo.”

Ok, but why the first of (perhaps) many “bridal breakfast tables”? The benches look like they can comfortably accommodate six people. No offense to Wilkens’ skills, but it doesn’t sound like a particularly accommodating spot for a morning wedding reception or honeymoon breakfast. So “bridal” – related to marriage – could have been a typo or misspelling of “bridle” – as in “bridle path”, a path for riding.

Part of Lambert’s vision for Brackenridge Park included 9 miles winding through the “almost pristine beauty” of the park’s rocky setting, which “attracted ever-increasing numbers of early morning riders,” as reported by the Light, July 6. 1925 “To ride quietly on horseback and watch nature closely…is a restful diversion for many businessmen before they leave for office.

Some prominent names are mentioned – Chittim, Gage, Halff, Kampmann, Negley and others – and perhaps some of the regular runners were sent by wives or servants with a packed breakfast at the end of the trail . Perhaps Luther Bynum “LB” Clegg, director of the San Antonio Printing Co., or some of his associates or clients were among them, which might explain why the Alamo table would be considered important enough to make the cover of the ” Park”. Booklet “Scenes of San Antonio”.

From the turn of the last century to the mid-1920s, this growing business was known as on the postcard booklet, becoming the Clegg Co. and branching out from lithography, printing and engraving to furniture and office supplies. (This was later the Marshall Clegg Co., until it was sold in 2000.) As printers, the company produced brochures, calendars, checks and stock certificates, as well than commercial and social paper mills. According to Southwest Texans, a biographical reference published in 1952 and provided by the library of the Conservation Society of San Antonio, the Clegg Co. eventually printed telephone directories for over 85 towns in southern Texas.

The name San Antonio Printing Co. indicates that the postcard booklet was published no later than 1927, based on city directory references and company advertising. The company produced booklets before that, based on its 1924 publication of “The Romance of San Antonio’s Water Supply and Distribution”, by Bert J. McLean, a 24-page paperback with some illustrations of park scenes , as noted by Gregg Eckhardt, environmental scientist and curator of the Edwards Aquifer website,

If San Antonio Printing was like most postcard publishers, it based its products on existing photos as much if not more than on new ones commissioned for the project. The tinted image of the Alamo table on the cover appears to be from a more detailed photograph in the Witte Museum’s collection, said Lewis Fisher, author of the upcoming “Brackenridge Park: San Antonio’s Acclaimed Urban Park” and “San Antonio’s Historic Plazas.” , Parks and River Walk.”

He confirms the location of the photo in Koehler Park, suggesting that “the row of boulders along one side of the causeway towards the upper right center could be at the edge of the river, which curves sharply to the left at what looks like a bridge”. The original Koehler Pavilion may be “hidden by the dense trees towards the upper right corner. Thus, the table may have been on the site of the present (miniature) station and also at the northeast corner of the Lambert tourist camp opened in Koehler Park in 1919, which could have used picnic tables.

The elk postcard on the back of the Alamo table card matches the moment.

Along with a herd of bison and other animals, the elk was a project of Lambert’s predecessor, Ludwig Mahncke, who started a menagerie in Brackenridge Park that became the foundation of a municipal zoo. The elk and buffalo herds were purchased from the Goodnight Ranch in the Panhandle and arrived in 1902. The elk did almost too well here; thanks to their successful breeding and the cost of feeding them, the city began selling them in the 1910s, and the rest were moved to an enclosure at the San Antonio Zoo in the late 1920s.

Since the Alamo table appears a little dilapidated in the photo and postcard images, in which the main supports appear to be resting, its construction may have been faulty and the table may have been removed at the end of the 1920s, which would explain the relative scarcity of photos. Anyone with more information on this chart or similar charts can contact this column.

[email protected] | Twitter: @sahistorycolumn | Facebook: San Antonio History Column