Rare Texas Railroad Promotional: Corpus Christi & Rio Grande
Superb Borderlands Map lithographed by Julius Bien
147. CORPUS CHRISTI AND RIO GRANDE RAILWAY COMPANY. The Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Railway Company. A Description of the New Railway across Southwestern Texas, from Corpus Christi, on the Gulf of Mexico, to Laredo, on the Rio Grande River; With a Copy of the Charter, Franchises, and a Brief Description of the Products and Resources of Texas, and the Mineral Wealth of Northern and Eastern Mexico. Philadelphia: Wm. F. Murphy’s Sons, Printers and Stationers, 509 Chestnut St., 1874. [1-5] 6-24 pp., tipped in at front, as issued, folded lithograph map on bank note paper, showing southwest Texas and northern Mexico with relief shown by hachure, drainage, and major cities and towns; railroad route in original red watercolor between Corpus Christi and Laredo; Mexico with original pale green tinting: Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Railway Company [lower right below neat line] Lith. by J. Bien N.Y. [inset map at lower left] Corpus Christi Channel; neat line to neat line: 36.6 x 61 cm; overall sheet size: 39.7 x 64 cm. 12mo (19 x 11.6 cm), original dark brown embossed pebble cloth, gilt lettered on upper cover. Binding: Small pieces missing from spinal extremities, corners slightly bumped, minor shelf wear, and a few light stains. Map superb. Text: Very mild foxing to endpapers, else fine. Very rare. Copies located at Yale and the Center for American History (University of Texas at Austin).
First edition. Map: Modelski, Railroad Maps of the United States 393 (citing the map and noting it appears in their copy of An Act to Incorporate the Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Railway Company and to Aid in the Construction of the Same. Passed May 24th, 1873). Not in CBC or other standard sources.
This railroad promotional seeks support and investors for the proposed railroad that was to run from Corpus Christi to Laredo. Among the advantages mentioned are the fact that Corpus Christi is the only real seaport for two hundred miles in either direction, that the line will tap into the mineral wealth of northern Mexico for export through the port, and that the line will open West Texas to development, which will again enrich the investors. The authors are so confident that they predict a double track will soon be required to handle the high volume of rail traffic they anticipate. Despite this glowing report, the railroad was never built because of financial difficulties. There were also enormous objections to the project from the wagon carting industry. Eventually, after wagon carting suffered a huge decline, interest was revived and the Corpus Christi, San Diego, and Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Company was chartered in 1875 and actually laid some track. The entire enterprise was eventually incorporated into the Mexican National Railway. See Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads, p. 473 (in the article “Texas Mexico Railway Company”).
The three factors that, according to the text, provided the impetus for this project were the return of Texas to the Union after her experience as “one of the Southern Disloyal States in our recent civil war,” the “changed and settled state of affairs [which] restored confidence in the stability of our Government,” and the completion of a ship channel at Corpus Christi, which is shown on the map inset (not to be confused with the modern ship channel). One cannot help but note a slight tone of bias toward Texas in statements like the following:
Mexico is not neglected either:
The promoters and directors included such prominent men as Richard King (of King Ranch fame), zealous Texas railroad promoter Uriah Lott, and Galveston banker and merchant William Perry Doddridge, adviser and friend to Richard King and executor of his will. Cattle barons Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy long supported and financed construction of a railroad from Corpus Christi to Laredo, which would allow them to get their cattle to market more efficiently.
The handsome, finely executed, and rare Borderlands map was lithographed by Julius Bien (1826-1909), well known for his chromolithographs from Audubon’s copper plates. “Bien will always be remembered chiefly as the first great scientific cartographer in the United States” (Peters, America on Stone, p. 94). For more on Julius Bien and his New York publishing company, Bien & Company, see Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, revised edition, Vol. I, p. 137. The map was probably based on the survey work of Richard H. Savage, soldier-surveyor John James Dix, Jr. (1826-1910), and outstanding Texas surveyor and engineer Felix A. von Blücher (1819-1879). These three men are listed as the Engineer Corps for the Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Railway Company, respectively as Chief Engineer, Assistant and Consulting Engineer, and First Assistant Engineer.
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