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The Texas Collection Turns 85 - Part I
No part of this exhibit may be reproduced in any form without the permission of The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
In 1923, Waco physician Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth presented to Baylor University several hundred items from his personal collection of materials on Texas history. At that time, he expressed the hope that his gift would stimulate the growth of a premier research collection for the university. A second donation, made shortly afterward, brought his gift to approximately one thousand items overall. These materials, along with other Texas-related holdings of the Baylor University Library, were housed in a single room of the Carroll Library Building.
Originally called the Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth Texas History Collection (or, more frequently, the Aynesworth Collection) the new library immediately began to add materials through a fund established by its founding donor. Dr. Aynesworth continued to contribute relevant materials from his own collection until his death in 1944.
Recognizing that the prominent linkage of the library with himself might discourage gifts by other potential donors, Dr. Aynesworth agreed after several years to shorten its name to the Texas History Collection. Still later, as the scope of the library's holdings broadened beyond purely historical materials, its name was once again amended to The Texas Collection. In the meantime, however, the library had received another significant boost to its holdings through Baylor's participation in a once-in-a-lifetime collection building opportunity known as the McGregor Plan.
Michigan philanthropist Tracy W. McGregor, an avid bibliophile, believed that university libraries represented the best hope for the survival of ancient and rare volumes. Accordingly, he placed into his will a provision that would assist certain smaller and less affluent schools, unable to compete against the resources of larger and better funded institutions, to continue in his tradition of collecting. Baylor was one of those schools, and, soon after McGregor's death in 1936, The Texas Collection began to manage the university's participation in the program.
In keeping with the terms of McGregor's will, his agents scoured the United States and Europe to acquire rare and worthwhile older books. Whenever a sufficient quantity of them had been gathered, participating schools received lists of the available titles, with prices that represented one-half of their cost.
The schools paid the halved prices, while Mc Gregor's estate supplied the remainder. Because the appraised values of the books in these Depression years were almost incredibly low by modern standards, it became possible for a smaller university such as Baylor to accumulate a very respectable holding of rare materials at prices that almost anyone could afford. The program operated from 1937 until the outbreak of World War II in the early 1940's.
By this means Baylor was able to acquire hundreds of publications which now form a surprisingly varied and valuable trove of resources for research. While due emphasis was given to the addition of hard-to-find materials about Texas, many of the works acquired in this way focus upon other, more general subjects. Because of a provision of McGregor's will, which required that all of the materials acquired through his program be maintained together, The Texas Collection remains today the repository for all of the books acquired by Baylor through the McGregor Plan.