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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).


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