Collections and Archives Overview

  • Experience history through the eyes of those who helped make it at the Garland County Historical Society archives.
  • Read journals, letters, and postcards.
  • Explore historic newspapers and magazines, city directories, business brochures, tourist guides, and phone books.
  • Discover old maps, photographs, prints, and drawings of past Garland County events and places.
  • Peruse scrapbooks assembled by clubs, organizations, and interesting people.
  • Learn through multimedia—slides, video interviews, audio tapes, DVDs, microfilm.
  • Examine objects and artifacts.
  • Appreciate the stories and photos of our Garland County veterans.

Our collections are an eclectic mix that includes thousands of photographs, newspaper clippings, letters, postcards, pamphlets, journals, hotel menus, society items such as dance cards and invitations, bathhouse souvenirs, diplomas and other items related to local schools, baseball souvenirs, political ephemera, obituaries and funeral home records, business invoices, gambling memorabilia, surveyors’ equipment and notes, scores of maps, military documents and pictures, legal documents, and much, much more. Hundreds of original newspapers are filed and inventoried. Many others are available for viewing on microfilm only. The library shelves hold hundreds of volumes of information related to the county and its immediate neighbors.

The society also holds a number of archival collections, both personal (pertaining to individuals or families) and business (the records of organizations). Personal archival collections include the papers of the late Marcus Phillips, a local historian with a special interest in the history of local roads and townships. His hand-drawn maps of early townships are invaluable, particularly because many of these have been inundated by the various lakes in the county. His material on Indian lore, based in large part on non-traditional sources, gives insight into how “white” Americans viewed Native Americans in the late 1800s. The Rector-Hain-Alcorn family collection contains scrapbooks, photographs, and other items that chronicle events in the lives of various family members.

Perhaps the most impressive business archive is the collection entitled “Records of the Hot Springs, Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, 1896-1974.” Comprised of more than 55 linear feet, this voluminous collection documents the myriad activities and projects of the Businessmen’s League and the local Chamber of Commerce, from bass tournaments and annual Miss Arkansas Beauty Pageants to visits by Presidents, governors, and other political figures. You can trace the history of local businesses through the correspondence and membership records contained in this archive, or use the chamber’s many news articles to follow nearly a century of business growth and change.

Other significant organizational collections include the “Business Records of the Como Hotel, 1923 –(1923-1926)-1930s,” the “Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society Scrapbook Collection, 1961-2002,” and the ledgers of the 1904-1915 Arkansas State Fairs held at Oaklawn Race Track.

Other collections include the early records of the local Masonic lodge, papers of the Arkansas Association of University Women/Hot Springs and Hot Springs Village Branch, and a number of scrapbooks detailing the activities of such social and/or cultural organizations as the Lotus Club (founded in 1896), the Music Club, and the Poets’ Roundtable.

So find out what you could have had at the Waverly Hotel on New Year’s Day 1899 (haunch of black bear with prunes, anyone?). Or see a grinning Al Capone wearing a sombrero while he perches on a burro at Happy Hollow Amusement Park. Explore our past by exploring the Garland County Historical Society archives.