The Albuquerque Historical Society provides a Speakers Bureau as a resource for high school history and social studies teachers as well as other organizations. Most topics are appropriate for a high school’s New Mexico history class. The teacher would need to prepare their students prior to the speaker’s presentation by having classroom discussion or student research on the topic.
Volunteer speakers will provide their presentation upon request. Communication and scheduling is directly between the requester and the speaker. The speaker does not receive an honorarium. The speaker will indicate what audio visual equipment is needed.
Teachers and others desiring a presentation should complete the on-line Speaker Request Form and select from the topics currently available as listed below.
Available Speaker Topics
- Dr. Randy Lovelace and the Astronauts – Loretta Hall (Bio)
In 1959, the staff of the Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque secretly administered physical examinations that Dr. Randy Lovelace had devised for NASA’s first astronaut candidates. This presentation describes why Dr. Lovelace was selected for that task, how he accomplished it, and what he subsequently challenged NASA to consider.
- New Mexico’s Contributions to Space Travel – Loretta Hall (Bio)
Enjoy a tour through time as author Loretta Hall describes crucial contributions to space travel made by scientists, engineers, and assorted adventurers in New Mexico, beginning with Robert Goddard’s arrival in Roswell in 1930. In subsequent decades, researchers working in our state refined rocketry and investigated potential impediments to human spaceflight, including cosmic radiation, prolonged weightlessness, acceleration and deceleration forces, confinement and isolation in a space capsule, and the ability to react appropriately to emergencies in space. As New Mexico approaches its centennial of supporting space exploration, its leadership in the commercialization of spaceflight at Spaceport America is a fitting continuation of this historic record.
- Juan de Onate – Dianne Layden (Bio)
- History of the Rudolfo Anaya – Bless Me, Ultima Landscape Park in Santa Rosa, New Mexico– Dianne Layden (Bio)
- The Downtown Albuquerque Walking Tour: For People Who Prefer to Sit – Roland Penttila (Bio)
Roland has created a PowerPoint slide show of the walking tour for people who can’t stand for two hours or walk the ¾ mile distance. It is all the knowledge the tour contains without the steps. It is a perfect alternative for those unable to get around. The presentation lasts about 90 minutes. The presentation tells about Central Avenue (previously Railroad Avenue) and the changes that occurred when the railroad came to town in 1880 all the way up to the present day. The history is supported with vintage photos of the buildings–many of which no longer exist.
- Albuquerque History: Questions and Answers – Roland Penttila (Bio)
In 2017, the Transit Department asked the historical society to prepare short questions and answers to various historical facts about Albuquerque. The Society came up with 90 pairs of questions and answers that are a fun walk-through of the City’s historical facts. See how many you can answer in this one hour presentation given by a Board Member of AHS.
- Christmas Revels: the 1919 New Mexico Mounted Police Raid on Santo Domingo Pueblo – Joe Sabatini (Bio)
Leo Crane was a Bureau of Indian Affairs official who wrote two books about his experiences in Arizona and New Mexico from 1911 to 1928. His “Christmas Revels” chapter in “Desert Drums” about a little-known incident in 1919 inspired me to seek additional information, leading to the discovery of the remarkable resources in the Institute for Pueblo Indian Studies at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. The attempt by state militiamen to seize cattle rustlers during the Christmas day dance almost resulted in their massacre. The incident was a precursor of the united Pueblos’ struggle to defeat the Bursum Bill and preserve their lands and way of life in the 1920s.
- J.R. Willis: Postcard Artist and Old Town Arts Entrepreneur – Joe Sabatini (Bio).
This illustrated presentation will review the life and career of artist John Roy “J.R.” Willis (1876-1960), a once-prominent Old Town Albuquerque artist. Born in rural Georgia, he had an early career as a cartoonist, movie set designer, animator and vaudeville performer. Coming to Gallup in 1917, he operated a camera store and photography gallery and helped start the Intertribal Indian Ceremonial. He published hundreds of beautiful but stereotypical postcards of Native Americans and the Southwest. He was a prolific painter, “New Mexico’s Aspen King” and an enterprising marketer. Moving to Albuquerque in 1931, he did historical murals at the Court Café and W.P.A. projects at Gallup High School and the Alamogordo Women’s Club. He built an adobe home and studio, “La Miradora”, just north of the Albuquerque Country Club, along with an artists’ compound which is still in use as the Casas de Sueños Bed & Breakfast.
- History of the Albuquerque Indian School – Joe Sabatini (Bio)
Joe Sabatini, volunteer at the Library/Archives of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, will discuss the origins of the Albuquerque Indian school and changing federal Indian education policies over the century the school was active. He will describe the many interactions between the school and the Albuquerque community, including cultural, athletic, religious and economic relationships. He will also discuss, from a political and neighborhood perspective, the history of the AIS property following the school’s closing in 1981. This part includes the deterioration of the campus, the creation of the Indian Pueblos Federal Development Corporation (IPFDC), the reaction of the neighborhood, and development agreements with the City of Albuquerque. He will conclude with the effort to save and repurpose the last remaining building on the historic campus.
- North Fourth Street; a Drive through Time – Joe Sabatini (Bio)
North Fourth Street is the main street in Albuquerque’s North Valley. Joe Sabatini will describe the century of Fourth Street’s evolution as a city street, a federal highway, a suburban commercial strip and a redeveloping urban transit corridor. This illustrated talk will present maps, postcards, photographs and Albuquerque Progress magazine issues to celebrate “the most beautiful ugly street in the world” on the occasion of New Mexico’s Statehood Centennial celebration.
- Olla Bearers and Indian Detours: New Mexico Indians as Tourist Attractions – Joe Sabatini (Bio)
We will explore how promoters created romantic and stereotyped images of Native American communities “little changed since Coronado first viewed them” to draw tourists to New Mexico. Through books, postcards, pamphlets, maps, pageants, and brochures, entrepreneurs like Charles Lummis, the Santa Fe Railway, the Fred Harvey Company, Erna Fergusson, J.R. Willis, Ward Hicks, and the State Tourist Bureau successfully promoted a growing industry, with mixed consequences for the “colorful” natives.
- The Motel in Albuquerque – Joe Sabatini (Bio)
The emergence and development of automobile-oriented lodging in Albuquerque follows national trends, but with our own special local flavor. Starting out as primitive campgrounds at the edge of town on newly-established national highway routes, these businesses re-invent themselves by adding services and amenities to attract increasing numbers of travelers. Over time, they call themselves camps, cabins, courts, motels, motor hotels and lodges. They flourish and decline as highway routes are realigned. Advertising postcards provide us with a wonderful portrait of Albuquerque’s motel businesses from 1920 to the present.
- Albuquerque and the Yazoo – Roger Zimmerman (Bio)
With the introduction of the railroad in 1880, downtown Albuquerque, or New Town Albuquerque, was located in what is called a “yazoo.” In geological terms, a yazoo means a depression that cannot drain properly because the adjacent river lies above it. The presence of the yazoo presented two problems: high ground water table and the threat of flooding. This presentation will describe: (1) the physical setting of downtown Albuquerque, (2) what the citizens did to mitigate the problems, and (3) how the presence of the yazoo influenced the founding of Albuquerque.
With the high ground water table, surface flow collected in thin ponds, which the Spaniards called “esteros.” The Esteros de Mejia covered much of the district from present Central Avenue south to the Barelas Bridge. Crops couldn’t grow in the regions of high water table, but the land was good for grazing.
New Town was in constant danger of a major flood because it was 50 ft below the river level at Alameda, where the Rio Grande makes its turn to the west. Citizens of New Town and the railroad created a tax that provided a protective dike in 1883 and did other things to reduce the threat through the years.
New Town planners also knew that there were eight major arroyos that were headquartered in the nearby Sandia Mountains, and that drainage from these could threaten the tracks and town site. This flooding was mitigated somewhat by the presence of the “Acequia Madre de los Barelas,” which ran essentially parallel to the new tracks on the east side. There was an overflow canal, which branched out from the acequia and was directed through the railroad roadbed to a ditch that flowed through the downtown area. This ditch was channeled into a tunnel under parts of downtown Albuquerque, between 2nd and 3rd Streets, in the early days.
In 1925, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District was instituted to help with ground water lowering and to greatly reduce potential flood threats to the middle valley. Major drainage ditches, laterals, and levees were constructed and the impacts of these are discussed.
While the yazoo presented problems to the settlers after the railroad came, the yazoo provided the early Spanish settlers with a valuable resource: water for cultivation of crops and economic development. An argument is made as to how this was the prime factor in creating the Villa de Alburquerque in 1706.
- Opera House in Gallup, NM Without Opera Being Sung – Roger Zimmerman (Bio)
This still-standing, two-story facility was constructed in 1895. The bottom floor contained a saloon and a café, and the second floor was a large hall with a high ceiling and an elevated stage. The facility became known as Kitchen’s Opera House. The hall was used for meetings, dances, theater, and boxing and wrestling events for nearly 60 years. Opera was never performed there. Meetings included high school commencements, church services, political events like the location of the speech of New Mexico’s first Governor, and Communist inspired union meetings that led to a major coal strike and eventual martial law in the 1930s. The saloon started as a nice facility and degenerated into a rough bar where there were many fights and shootings. It was open for over 70 years. The café was opened in the late 1890s and is still open to this day. The café was the headquarters for the Japanese-born community in Gallup during WWII, and its owner played a prominent role in helping keep those citizens out of internment camps.
- Son of an Indian Trader/Growing up on the Navajo Reservation – Roger Zimmerman (Bio)
I was born the year my parents took over the Mariano Lake Trading Post in McKinley County. They moved to the post not knowing the Navajo culture or language. Dad had been a trader at Zuni, but knew nothing about the Navajos. The post was located 9 miles from the nearest non-Indian neighbor. Drinking water had to be hauled 17 miles from Crownpoint, NM over a rough road that required a climb over a major pass. As an adult, I reflected on my 8 years at the post and realized that my parents had to earn the trust of the Indians, where communications were difficult and most of the people were uneducated in our culture. My parents learned to deal with isolation and I found that this experience had an impact on my life. I learned how traders provided necessary service to the surrounding community and stimulated the economy for the betterment of all. Finally, I learned how people survive in remote locations with harsh weather and where automobile travel was at best difficult and often prohibited.
- Rerouting Route 66 Through Tijeras Canyon – Roger Zimmerman (Bio)
Route 66 was the Mother Road of Flight for many travelers. It was the Main Street of America. It became part of the Federal Highway System in 1926 as an unpaved road going through Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Grants, and Gallup. The total distance was 506 miles. Late in 1926, Governor A. T. Hannett authorized the construction of the Santa-Rosa Short-cut in the last days of his administration. In the 1930s, a Laguna Short-cut was completed. The short-cuts, which were formally instituted as being part of Route 66 in 1937, eliminated Santa Fe, Bernalillo, and Los Lunas from being on the route, much to the consternation of tourist oriented businesses in those communities. The short-cuts saved 107 miles of travel over dirt, then gravel, and finally paved roads. The presentation discusses the political and social factors leading to the decision to create the Santa Rosa Short-cut, the actions leading to officially realigning Route 66 through Tijeras Canyon and towards Laguna, and the aftermath of what these decisions produced.
- Theoretical Texas Boundary in New Mexico – Roger Zimmerman (Bio)
The Republic of Texas claimed a western boundary in 1836 that included land east of the Rio Grande in what was considered the Territory of New Mexico by the Mexican government. Texas claims were without agreement of the government of Mexico or support of citizens living in the affected region. The Texas claims for boundaries were included in petitions for annexation with the US starting in 1836. President Andrew Jackson and the US Congress stalled the annexation petition and this continued until 1838, when the US and the Republic broke off annexation discussions. Finally in 1845, the US saw need to annex Texas and the Republic of Texas became the State of Texas. New Mexico residents did not get US citizenship rights when the State of Texas was formed because the boundaries were subject to the acceptance of these boundaries by adjoining governments, which did not happen with Mexico.
Boundary issues were drivers of the war between the US and Mexico, starting in 1846 and being concluded with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. General Kearny proclaimed New Mexico as part of the US in 1846. The region of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande was not formally accepted as part of the New Mexico Territory until the US Congress Compromise of 1850.
- Primary Documents at your Fingertips – Roger Zimmerman (Bio)
Primary documents are used to provide direct or firsthand evidence about a person or an event or happening. Principal sources of primary documents are newspaper articles, photographs, original documents, and oral histories. The Albuquerque Historical Society has established a source documents repository website for primary documents that cover historical events occurring since the initiation of statehood in 1912. This compilation has been proposed and developed with guidance from secondary school individuals as this was the target audience in the development of the project. In particular, APS teachers, librarians, and administrators were involved.
Part of the presentation will be on the development and implementation of this project and of the content. With guidance from the educators, the documents are separated into 11 topics, which include Statehood, New Mexico roles in WWI, WWII, Cold War, and New Deal. Entertainment, infrastructure, and noteworthy topics also exist. Recent monitoring of the use of the website indicates that the top three topics are: New Mexico role in the Cold War, New Mexico role in WWII, and Statehood (1912). Currently there are 168 documents in the Index with a distribution of: 100 documents, 48 photographs, 10 maps, 6 cartoons, and 4 drawings. All of these are free and are easily printed or downloaded. Top documents selected by website visitors were: Sam Berryman cartoon about Pancho Villa, a newspaper story about the creation of Los Alamos during WWII, and a newspaper article about Navajo Code Talkers in WWII.
The presentation will also introduce interesting documents and stories about these documents that illustrate our rich New Mexico history.
Volunteer to be a Speaker
If you are knowledgeable on a topic related to the history of Albuquerque and are willing to volunteer your time, please complete our Speaker Volunteer Application Form.