This 1936 home movie captures the McFaddin and Ward families at home and on vacation. First, Mamie McFaddin Ward visits the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. Her brothers, W. P. H. McFaddin Jr. and J. L. C. McFaddin, are most likely also featured. Back home in Beaumont, Mamie and her family enjoy yard games at the McFaddin-Ward House and fishing and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. Later, they venture to the Grand Canyon. While in Arizona, the Wards also visit a native Pueblo village. Finally, the McFaddin and Ward families attend a wedding.
William Perry Herring McFaddin (1856 - 1935) was a prominent cattle rancher and businessman from Beaumont. With his father—William McFaddin, himself a cattleman a veteran of the Army of the Republic of Texas—McFaddin founded the McFaddin Ranch of Beaumont in the 1870s. Under his leadership, the family ranch grew to include approximately 120,000 acres in Jefferson County and 48,000 acres in Knox and King counties. In the 1890s, McFaddin sold large portions of the Jefferson County ranch to Arthur Edward Stilwell to form the townsite of Port Arthur. It was also McFaddin land that Anthony Lucas leased to drill the Lucas Gusher, the discovery well of the Spindletop oilfield.
With his father and business partners Obadiah Kyle and Valentine Weiss, McFaddin also established companies in commercial real estate, rice farming and milling, canals and irrigation, and cattle feeding and meatpacking. He also served as vice president of the First National Bank of Beaumont, vice president of the Beatty Oil Company, and a director for both the J. M. Guffey Petroleum Company and the Beaumont Board of Trade and Oil Exchange.
McFaddin married Emma Janes of Beaumont, with whom he had three children: Diana, W. Valentine, and Skipwith. Following her death, he married Ida Regina Caldwell, with whom he bore three more children: Mamie, W. P. H. Jr., and James Lewis Caldwell.
The McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont was built in 1905-06, in the Beaux-Arts Colonial Revival style. At 12,800 square feet, the oil-wealthy McFaddins lived in this grand house for nearly 75 years, before it was eventually opened to the public as a museum in 1986. With few substantive changes made to the home or its decor since 1950, much of the McFaddin-Ward House's furnishings remain intact for the public to view.
Further information on the McFaddin-Ward House and its history can be found at the house museum's website.
The Texas Centennial was a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of Texas independence from Mexico. Events all over the state commemorated the milestone, such as the Texas Frontier Centennial in Fort Worth and Galveston's Mardi Gras. Several existing buildings were commissioned for the centennial, including the Texas Memorial Museum, The Sam Houston Memorial Museum, The Panhandle-Plains Memorial Museum, and the Alamo Museum, among others. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio all vied for the chance to host the main exposition, but Dallas won due to its financial commitment.
The Centennial Exposition in Dallas was heralded as the first World's Fair held in the Southwest. It ran from June 6 to November 29, 1936, and again from June 12 to October 31, 1937. The festival's most visited attraction was the "Cavalcade of Texas," a pageant of Texas history. Another draw was the Hall of Negro Life, which was the first acknowledgment of black culture at any World's Fair. In the midst of moralistic and educational efforts, the midway also served as a space for drinking, gambling, and strippers, a sure way to make money at the height of the Great Depression. One of the most appealing parts of the exposition was the nightly lightshow where 24 multicolored searchlights that could be seen from miles away.
Famous visitors included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Gene Autry. The exposition served as a filming location for The Big Show, a 1936 western in which Gene Autry played himself. Over 6 million people attended the fair, and while that was below the projected figures, organizers were ultimately pleased with the boost to the economy and the recognition it brought Dallas.