with railroad maintenance and repair, all provided employ-
ment for Laredo’s increasing population, which had jumped
from 3,521 in 1880 to 11,319 a decade later.”
Any reader with an interest in bird’s-eye views will want
to take a look at the marvelous exhibit of such views by Ron
Tyler at the web site of the Amon Carter Museum:
=1892&extra_info=. Dr. Tyler comments:
The railroads brought prosperity and new settlers to
Laredo when they arrived in 1881, and the city grew
from an 1880 population of 3,521 to 11,319 in 1890. But
instead of focusing on the railroads, as many other
bird’s-eye-view artists had done, Henry Wellge empha-
sized the results of the railroads, which had turned
Laredo into a growing city and the gateway to Mexico.
The Texas Mexican Railway linked Laredo with Corpus
Christi, and the International and Great Northern
linked it with San Antonio. The Mexican National,
which established shops and a roundhouse in Laredo,
linked the city and the rest of the country, via the first
international bridge, to Mexico City and made Laredo
the gateway to Mexico.
Wellge documented the city’s expansion from the
southeast, especially in terms of downtown buildings
such as the new Webb County Courthouse and the com-
bination city hall and market house. Most of the struc-
tures in the city were modest one-story buildings, but
the new prosperity had spurred a building boom. This
growth was reflected in increased property values,
scarce hotel rooms, and high demand for building mate-
rials, such as lumber and bricks. The arrival of the rail-
roads also provided a market for the local coal, found
near the upriver village of Minera, which had been
known for decades but now could be profitably mined.
As Wellge showed, miners floated the coal down the
river on barges when possible, but developers built the
Rio Grande and Pecos Railway in 1882–83 to link the
mines with the city. When the RG&P collapsed, the Rio
Grande and Eagle Pass Railway took it over. Wellge
suggested the location of the mines on the horizon, in
the upper left-hand corner of the print.
The community itself had also undergone dramatic
change in the decade since the railroads arrived. Steam-
boat traffic on the Rio Grande had begun to diminish as
irrigation took so much water from the river that boats
often ran aground. The railroads were more reliable,
bringing thousands of newcomers into the community.
Laredo remained a predominantly Mexican city, but the
arrival of large numbers of Anglo-Americans led to the
development of a separate Anglo culture and society, and
the change was apparent by the turn of the century.
Henry Wellge, the German-born artist who settled in Mil-
waukee in 1878, “ranks with the most prolific of the city view
artists of America” (Reps).