A Legendary Rarity: 1872 Map for the Texas Cattle Trails
The Best and Shortest Cattle Route from Texas
318. [MAP]. KANSAS PACIFIC RAILWAY COMPANY. [Pictorial title at lower left] Kansas Pacific Railway [illustration of longhorn’s head with preceding phrase of title on ribbon between steer’s horns] The Best and Shortest Cattle Route from Texas. 1872 [in a rectangle suspended from ring in its nose]; [above neat line at lower center] Levison & Blythe. N.p. [St. Louis, Missouri], 1872. Lithograph map on thin onion-skin paper showing Texas and parts of Indian Territory, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico; delineating cattle trails colored in red from Texas to Kansas (commencing at the Gulf of Mexico at Corpus Christi and terminating at New Abilene, Ellsworth, Brookville, Salina, Solomon, and Abilene) and railroad line with red arrows at top of map, neat line to neat line: 48.3 x 35 cm.; overall sheet size: 51 x 37.2 cm. Professionally removed from lower printed original wrapper (16.4 x 10.1 cm), text on recto within border and commencing: Kansas Pacific Railway, the Great Popular Texas Stock Route…. [signed in type at end] Edmund S. Bowen Gen’l Sup’t. Or, T.F. Oakes, Gen’l Freight Agt., Kansas City, Mo. [verso of lower wrapper with text commencing] <Extract from the Drover, Jan. 4, 1872.> Peculiar Advantages of the Kansas Pacific. Parties who drive cattle to the Kansas Pacific Railway, have an outlet to New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California, and the benefit of the large demand for cattle to supply the Government posts in those States and Territories, and in the States of Kansas and Nebraska…. [concluding] The Drover is never (as in Southern Kansas, where the grasses winter-kill), compelled to sacrifice his cattle from inability to winter. Wrapper with edge chipping and small tears (no loss of text, but some tears intruding into line border), lower right corner wanting (costing small piece of border), light soiling. The map is folded as issued. Lower left blank margin creased and lightly soiled, one back panel darkened, and a few minor rubs to red ink indicating trails, a few inconsequential spots. Overall the map is very fine and crisp, excellent condition. A legendary rarity.
Early unspecified edition, showing only a few trails in Texas and the main trail from Red River Station to the Kansas railhead, the word “Route” in the map title instead of “Trail,” and lithographed by Levison and Blythe (operated in St. Louis, Missouri, in the vicinity of Second and Vine Streets and were active from about 1870 to the turn of the century). We thus speculate that the map here was never a part of Weston’s Guide but possibly a separately issued pocket map. This map made its first appearance in 1871 and was last published in 1875 (discounting twentieth century facsimiles). The edition for 1875 is one of the Fifty Texas Rarities (44). Baughman, Kansas in Maps, p. 80. Neither of Modelski’s works on railroad maps mentions the map, but on the other hand, the map is not specifically a railroad map. However, the map and guides are among the few publications on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. The map is within the time-frame of Wheat’s Mapping the Transmississippi West, but maybe he did not know the map, or if he did, not deem it proper for inclusion. As the cartouche would indicate, we are now far removed from seventeenth-century putti and sea monsters. We do not recall ever seeing a cartouche quite like this one.
The map and guides were likely printed in enormous numbers as promotionals, and variations in printing and accompanying text abound. The cartobibliographical sequence has never been properly sorted out, partially because so few copies of any of the variations are known. The following information on sequence of editions should not be considered definitive.
Adams, Herd 1255 lists an 1871 printing of the map with “Route” in title rather than “Trail,” publisher and place unspecified, and without accompanying text but with a table of distances printed on the other side of the sheet. Adams rates the 1871 printing as “excessively rare.” OCLC locates no copies. We know of a copy in private hands.
The map appeared in 1872 in William Weston’s Guide to the Kansas Pacific Railway… (Kansas City, Missouri: Bulletin Steam, 1872; [1-5], 6-208 pp., plates, portraits, 2 folding maps). Adams (2496) rates Weston’s general guide to the Kansas Pacific route and the towns and lands along the route as “exceedingly rare” and notes two later issues. The last copy at auction was Thomas W. Streeter’s copy in 1968 (Lot 2028, fetched $650). Adams notes two other issues of Weston’s guide, “one of 204 pages and the other of 216 pages.” The map in Streeter’s copy of the Weston’s guide is entitled The Best and Shortest Cattle Route from Texas, as in the 1871 edition and the present copy, and bears the imprint Levison & Blythe. Howes W204. Merrill, Aristocrats of the Cow Country, pp. 10-11 & 26: “As the era of mass trail driving opened, W. Weston published his Guide…. While it was railroad promotional literature, it also furnished valuable information on The Best and Shortest Route from Texas to Abilene, (Kansas). The 16 x 20 folded map was especially useful, showing the cattle trail from such points as Goliad, Hallettsville, Blanco, Lampasas, Comanche, Weatherford, etc., through Red River Station northward over the Washita, Canadian, Salt Fork, and Arkansas Crossings to New Abilene with the cut-offs to Ellsworth, Salina, and other towns. Exceedingly rare.” Reese, Six Score 113: “The map is one of the first depictions of the Texas trails.” Wisconsin Historical Society and the Huntington Library have copies of the Weston Guide.
In 1873 the map appeared in a 15-page pamphlet which focused on the cattle trail rather than the entire Kansas Pacific route and was entitled: Guide Map of the Best and Shortest Cattle Trail to the Kansas Pacific Railway: With a Concise and Accurate Description of the Route; Showing Distance, Streams, Crossings, Camping Grounds, Wood and Water, Supply Stores, etc., etc., from the Red River Crossing to Ellis, Ellsworth, Brockville, Salina, Solomon and Abilene. The title of the map in the 1873 pamphlet in wraps is Kansas Pacific Railway The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas (“Trail” substituted for “Route”), and it bears the Levison & Blythe imprint. Adams (1256) notes that Thomas W. Streeter has a copy, and indeed, there was a copy in the Streeter Sale (Lot 2364, fetched $450, last copy at auction). Streeter commented on the 1873 guide and map: “This little map and guide to the ‘Great Texas Cattle Trail’ though issued gratuitously has become one of the great prizes for collectors, and substantial sums have been paid even for the later issue of the map and guide, dated 1875. The map shows various cattle routes from points in Texas to Camp Concho, where the L.B. Harris Trail begins, and to Red River Station, which is shown as the beginning of the Ellsworth Trail. Provenance: Dienst, 1929.”
Next is the 1874 Guide Map and the Best and Shortest Cattle Trail to the Kansas Pacific Railway… (Kansas City: Millett and Hudson, Steam Printers, Book Binders and Engravers, 1874; -21  p., wrappers). In the 1874 edition, the map is entitled The Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texas (“Trail substituted for “Route”) and the imprint on the map now is K.C. Lith Co. Kansas City Mo. Adams (1257) rates the 1874 edition as “very rare” and goes on to say: “These little guide books showing the best route to the Kansas market were issued for the benefit of the trail drivers. The 1874 edition is the most common, though it, too, is exceedingly rare. It is the first illustrated edition, and its illustrations were taken from Joseph McCoy’s Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade, published the same year, the illustrations being tipped in.” There are several facsimiles of the 1874 edition, and Yale has an original 1874, as does the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. The back wrapper for the 1874 edition is similar to that of the wrapper with the present copy of the map, but the type has been reset with various changes, including bold letters along the side and top margins: CATTLE DROVERS. NOTE LOCATION OF K.P. DEAD LINE. AND GOVERN YOURSELVES ACCORDINGLY.
Princeton has a copy of the 1875 edition from the collection of Philip Ashton Rollins. The title is Guide Map of the Best and Shortest Cattle Trail to the Kansas Pacific Railway, and the imprint is [Kansas City, Missouri]: Kansas Pacific Railway Co., 1875, and Princeton designates 21 leaves and a folding map. The map has been changed slightly, now having “Texan” instead of “Texas” in the title, i.e., The Map of the Best and Shortest Cattle Trail from Texan, but the imprint on the map remains: K.C. Lith Co. Kansas City Mo. Graff 2275: “About the time this guide map was issued, Texas began to assume its preëminence as a source of American food, particularly of beef. Moving cattle from grazing lands in Texas to rail transportation terminals was an annual job. The map indicates some of the popular trails from Texas to Kansas.” Rader 2139. The University of Texas at San Antonio has a copy of the 1875 edition (John Peace Collection).
This rare little treasure is one of the most elusive and colorful maps of Texas, documenting a brief moment in history that continues to capture the imagination of people all over the world. Because of extensive treatment of cowboys and cattle drives in fiction, film, and fashion, the cowboy became an international iconic image of the American West. Cattle drives, a major activity from 1866 and as late as 1895, involved cowboys on horseback moving ten million head of cattle long distances from Texas to railheads in Kansas for shipments to stockyards in Chicago and points east. Why this grueling, dangerous, dirty endeavor should be glamorized is something of a mystery, since driving cattle from one place to another certainly is an ancient pastime not specific to Texas and a fixture of the Spanish Southwest and Mexico beginning in the 1540s. During the American Revolution, Bernardo de Gálvez helped the colonists by driving cattle from Texas to Florida (see Item 204 herein). In 1790 young David Crockett assisted a four-hundred-mile trail drive. Perhaps the differences with the Texas trail drives were the long distances over a vast, forbidding landscape beset with perils; the fact that cowboys were herding wily, feral longhorns with horn spreads of six to seven feet and over, rather than gentle cattle; and the partially mythological cowboy code of machismo, Victorian social values, six-shooters, and relentlessly Darwinian challenges on the frontiers of civilization. However, no stereotype could possibly fit the wide range of men (and a few women) who participated in those cattle drives.
The present map is a rare survival documenting trail drives. The Kansas Pacific Railway began issuing its Guide Map of the Great Texas Cattle Trail gratuitously in 1871 and promoters used them to lure drovers from the shipping centers of rival railroads to Ellsworth, Kansas. The most important aspect of the guides was the map, which expanded to indicate new trails, towns, etc. A comparison of our 1872 map with the 1875 versions shows that, among other things, the original trail from Corpus Christi to Kansas was augmented with the trail from Fort Sumner to Colorado. By the time the map ceased publication around 1875, the Texas portion of the map had grown into a vast cobweb of converging trails meeting at Red River Station, where they were all consolidated into the Chisholm Trail for the trip to the Kansas depots. On the present map, the competition to drive the herds to Ellsworth is obvious, as Abilene is shown far to the northeast reached by a barren stretch of ground.
This map is apparently the brainchild of Englishman William Weston (1844-1920), an erstwhile mining engineer who just happened to be in the area at the time railroad heads were competing for the cattle trade. All these maps and their subsequent printed guides were distributed gratis in Texas by the railroad’s agents and others, in this case in the service of the good citizens of Ellsworth, Kansas, who were trying to depict their rail head as the most convenient of all, with easy access to markets both east and west. The timing of the 1871 map is significant, because in that year over half a million cattle were driven into Kansas, causing a market glut. By the time the last of these maps was published in 1875, the number of cattle driven to Kansas was just over 150,000. All these maps, therefore, document an ephemeral period in Texas and Western history wherein the cowboy and the cattle drive were vaulted into the national imagination.
We conclude with a little anecdote from Charles P. Everitt’s, Adventures of a Treasure Hunter: A Rare Bookman in Search of History (Boston: Little, Brown, 1951, pp. 204-205). Everitt refers to the guide as from the 1880s, but we are certain he meant the Kansas Pacific Railroad guides to the Texas Cattle Trail discussed in this entry.
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Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2009