Cattle Rustling in South Texas, 1882
Exceedingly Rare Oversize Illustrated Broadside on Linen
75. [BRANDS & BRAND BOOKS]. GUADALUPE AND SAN ANTONIO RIVERS STOCK ASSOCIATION. $150.00 Reward! The Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers Stock Association, by resolution adopted at their regular meeting, held at Yorktown, August 5, 1882, will pay a Reward of One Hundred and Fifty Dollars for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person guilty of the theft of any live stock belonging to the members of the Association. The names of person giving such information will not be exposed without their consent. J.R. Hamilton, President G. & S.A.R.S.A. [Cuero]: Printed at the Cuero Star Office, . Large broadside in five columns illustrated with 101 woodcuts of horses and cattle with brands; 51.5 x 31 cm (sheet size), printed on linen. Two old stains at upper left corners and one at lower center where item was mounted (all scarcely affecting image), remains of modern paper mounts at top verso, very light waterstain down both vertical sides; otherwise a fine copy of a rare survival. We trace no sales records or locations.
Not in Adams Herd or Guns. This amazingly detailed broadside gives the names of sixty-two ranchers in roughly alphabetical order and shows 101 brands (some ranchers have multiple brands) for cattle and horses, including brands for two women, Mrs. L.B. Wright (Yorktown) and Mrs. L. Nichols. The effort required to produce this advertisement must have been substantial. Not only is it printed on cloth (so that it could be folded up and easily transported and would last longer than paper), but it also required 101 individual woodcuts to complete, although only three different styles are used (a single one for horses and two different ones for cattle, depending on whether the brand was applied to the left or right side of the animal). Clearly, these are stock cuts that would have been readily available, but the labor of carving individual brands into each one represents a real investment in a carver’s skills. The result is a handsome, eye-catching item that would have been of real use to those interested in assisting the ranchers in recovering their stolen or strayed livestock. The Cuero Star began publication in June, 1873.
Cattlemen’s associations such as this one were instrumental in reducing losses to rustlers in nineteenth-century Texas, where it was fairly easy to round up cows and dispose of them illegally, branded or not. The Cuero region had a particular problem with this type of crime, and most of the names listed are either from Cuero or Yorktown. To prevent others from being gulled by glib rustlers, some of the ranchers note, “I have no agents.” V. Weldon (Cuero) adds a small plea to his entry: “I have lost both horses and cattle, and will pay liberally for information leading to their recovery. I have no agents.” M.L. Mathis (Charco, Goliad County) is even more blunt: “I will pay $150.00 reward, in addition to the reward offered by the association, for the arrest and conviction of any parties stealing stock in above brands.” At the time, De Witt County was enjoying a revival of its livestock industry. Following the ranching declines of the Civil War, the area benefited from the subsequent boom known as the Beef Bonanza, which was drawing to a close when this advertisement was printed. There were growing opportunities at the time for those who wished to make money by theft. The town of Cuero was the location of a Chisholm Trail southern terminus.
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Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2009