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In Memoriam Lonn Taylor

Illustration: Stephanie Dalton, Texas Highways Magazine Illustration: Stephanie Dalton, Texas Highways Magazine

The Briscoe Center was saddened by news of the passing of Lonn Taylor, who died last month at his home in West Texas at the age of 79. Taylor was an author, historian, and curator who worked with the Briscoe Center on many projects over the years.

“Lonn Taylor was Winedale’s first curator. His knowledge of Texas furniture and decorative arts was unmatched,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “I’m proud of the work we did together through exhibits, books, and at Winedale in order to cultivate public interest in Texas history.”

Taylor was born in South Carolina in 1940. As a young child his family moved to the Philippines, before relocating to Fort Worth in the 1950s where Taylor completed high school. After graduating from Texas Christian University in 1961 he moved to New York City, enrolling in a graduate program in Southeast Asian studies. Taylor returned to Texas in 1962 in order to attend a summer class in Austin. Shortly after, he abandoned his academic studies and worked the next few years as a speech writer, exhibit curator and journalist. The following year, Miss Ima Hogg bought the Winedale property outside of Round Top, Texas, and began to populate the site with historic buildings, furniture, and decorative arts. Between 1965 and 1969 Taylor did graduate work at UT in history, museology, and historic preservation. During that time, Hogg donated Winedale and its collections to the University of Texas. Taylor became Winedale’s first curator in 1970.

While at Winedale, Taylor, along with David B. Warren, completed Texas Furniture: The Cabinetmakers and Their Work, 1840–1880 (1975, The University of Texas Press). Taylor later served as a curator for the Dallas Historical Society and the American Folklife Center and directed the New Mexico Furniture History Project at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. In 1984 he joined the staff of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, where he served for 18 years, conducting research, directing, and curating exhibits.

In 1995, Winedale became a division of the Center for American History (named for Governor Dolph Briscoe in 2008). In 2013, Taylor curated the center’s exhibit Texas Furniture from the Ima Hogg Winedale Collection at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Approximately 40 pieces of furniture, as well as other highlights from the center’s Winedale collection, were displayed. The exhibit offered visitors a rare opportunity to see pieces from the most significant collection of 19th-century Texas furniture in existence. The same year, the center published volume II of Taylor and Warren’s Texas Furniture.

The Briscoe Center is home to the Lonn Taylor Papers, which include research notes, surveys, reports, articles, drafts, conference papers, and correspondence. Together, those papers document the work of 19th-century Texas artisans in textiles, cabinetmaking, woodworking, leather work, and other crafts. Of particular note are research files and surveys generated for Taylor’s books on furniture-making. The collection also includes his personal papers and juvenilia.

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