Hill College Texas Heritage Museum opens new exhibit New & Interesting Donations Spanning over 160 Years from Several Countries

  Jessyca Brown
  Wednesday, April 24, 2024 12:40 PM
  Texas Heritage Museum

Hillsboro, TX

The Texas Heritage Museum at Hill College presents New & Interesting Donations Spanning over 160 Years from Several Countries, showcasing a selection of more than 20 artifacts from the United States and countries around the world that the museum has received in the last two years.

“One of the most interesting artifacts in this exhibit came from Great Britain and is one of three British Royal Air Force (RAF) dolls from the parachute invasion over Waco, Texas, 83 years ago, on March 15, 1941,” said Texas Heritage Museum Executive Director & Chief Curator John Versluis.

The British American Ambulance Corp raised funds in the United States and built ambulance airplanes, referred to as air ambulances, that were sent to Great Britain during World War II (WWII). The planes were urgently needed in badly bombed areas and British factories were too busy making war planes and supplies for the war effort and had no time to build their own. Over 100 American air ambulances were sent to Great Britain for during the war.

On March 15, 1941, three British RAF parachute dolls were dropped over Waco by the Waco Chapter of the British War Relief Society as a publicity stunt. These three dolls were dropped from an air ambulance of the British American Ambulance Corp, which landed in Waco in connection with the arrival of the (thumbs up) mortar ambulances on a tour of the United States to raise awareness for the need of these planes for Britain. Dr. Luther Courtney, an English professor from Baylor University, spearheaded the Waco efforts to raise funds for both ground and air ambulances for Great Britain. 

A concert was held the evening of March 15 in conjunction with the parachute drop; over $1,000 was raised (the equivalent of $20,000 today) for the cause. The concert featured Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe, an American baritone who was one of the first African American artists to gain regular employment on Broadway. His performance in Showboat on Broadway became his best-known role and he popularized Ole Man River, a song from the musical in 1927. Bledsoe passed away on July 19, 1943. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Waco.  

Of the three British RAF parachute dolls that were dropped over Waco, only one was ever recovered. The doll found was by a 10-year-old girl named LaVerne Dorris at 621 Dallas Street the same day it was dropped. She gave the doll to L. T. Murray, then the mayor of Waco, who gave it to Dr. Courtney for the Baylor Museum. 

Other examples of artifacts include a Boomerang from WWII, used by some Aboriginal Australians for hunting; and a Cannon Elevating Screw circa 1860’s found at Fort Velasco on the Texas Brazos River. 

New & Interesting Donations Spanning over 160 Years from Several Countries runs through mid-August.


Visitor Information

The Texas Heritage Museum is located at 112 Lamar Drive, Hillsboro, Texas, 76645. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Historical Research Center is open by appointment only. Please call 254.659.7750 for appointments. For more information about the museum or to become a member, visit hillcollege.edu/museum.

The Texas Heritage Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

[photo credit: British RAF doll with Army Airforce memorabilia.]