1936 San José Tile Centennial Table
1936 Texas Centennial Table donated by Susan Frost now on view
SAN MARCOS, Texas—In 1936, a company initially known as Mexican Arts and Crafts executed at least six copies of a round tile table designed by Harvey P. Smith, the preservation architect in charge of restoring the Governor’s Palace and San Antonio missions during the Great Depression. Founded by entrepreneur Ethel Wilson Harris in 1931, Mexican Arts and Crafts, Incorporated, employed local artisans and tile-makers to craft under her direction the colored “San José” tiles that are today popularly identified with San Antonio.
The table was recently donated to the Wittliff by Susan Toomey Frost, the San Antonio art, artifact, book, and antiquities collector who also gifted her comprehensive collection of work by photographer Hugo Brehme and a significant archive of materials by Luis Márquez.
Frost describes the table in her book Colors on Clay: The San José Tile Workshops of San Antonio (Trinity University Press, 2009):
“Smith’s design depicts the six flags that have flown over Texas—Spain, France, Mexico, Texas, the Confederate States, and United States. He also included six heroes of Texas history—Stephen F. Austin, James Bowie, David Crockett, Sam Houston, Ben Milam, and William B. Travis—as well as a cowboy and longhorn…. Four of the five missions, nestled in a landscape of cactus, pecan, oak, and palm trees, surround an outline of the state of Texas in sky blue, with a Lone Star shining in the center. Iron artisan Theo Voss created the wrought iron frames for the 55 tiles. The table is 42 inches in diameter and 30 inches high.”
In honor of Texas’s one-hundred-and-seventy-fifth anniversary, the 1936 Texas Centennial Table is on display in the Wittliff Collections’ main photographic exhibition area.