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October 26, 2007

“Velasco, the Liverpool of the Trans-Mississippi”

17. [BIRD’S-EYE VIEW]. BRAZOS RIVER CHANNEL & DOCK COMPANY. [Title panel below] Velasco the First & Only Deep Water Port on the Coast of Texas. The Commercial Hope of the Trans-Mississippi. Louis Giraud C. E. & D.; [upper right] Map of the United States, Mexico and Central America, Showing the City of Velasco, at the Mouth of the Brazos River, and its Position with Reference to the Most Important Cities and Transportation Routes. (27.5 x 30.5 cm); [2 views at upper center: Victorian hotel and crowd scene + bucolic river scene with boat] [above] The “Velasco.” Velasco, Texas | Eugene T. Heiner Arch’t., Houston, Texas (17.7 x 23 cm) [below] Site of Velasco, July 1st 1891 (10 x 23 cm); [bird’s-eye view of region showing the mouth of the Brazos, ships, and town plans of Velasco, Quintana, and Surfside] View of the Jetties at the Mouth of the Brazos River, Texas and of the City of Velasco and Surroundings. (57 x 32 cm); [lower left] Map of the City of Velasco, Brazoria Co. Texas. (29.1 x 40.5 cm); [lower left above neat line] Aug. Gast Bank Note & Litho. Company, Map Publishers, St. Louis; verso with 27 panels containing promotional and statistical text, printed in red and blue, one panel of which is map: Agricultural Map of Brazos Valley Wheat, Cotton, Cattle, Corn, Iron, Coal, Timber, Sugar, Railroads, Rivers, Deep Water. (19.9 x 9.1 cm). [St. Louis, ca. 1892]. Lithograph with original color. Neat line to neat line: 57 x 86 cm; overall sheet size: 60.5 x 91.7 cm. Creased where formerly folded, a few minor losses at folds, overall fine, with strong color. Very rare, large, and colorful promotional of Velasco.

            First edition. Not in Reps, Day, or other sources. The sister towns of Velasco and Quintana at the mouth of the Brazos River were the gateway through which Austin’s first colonists entered Texas in 1821. During the next fourteen years, more than 25,000 settlers entered Texas through Velasco. After the battle of San Jacinto, Velasco briefly served as temporary capital of the Republic of Texas. Velasco has been called the “Boston harbor of the Texas Revolution.” In 1875, a hurricane destroyed Velasco and the town site was virtually abandoned. In 1891, a new town site was laid out a few miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico, and the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury opened the new port of Velasco. The present imprint was part of the campaign to promote Velasco’s deepwater port, which ran to a depth of 17-1/2 feet. By 1892, over a million dollars worth of lots had been sold. The town and region flourished, with railroad connections and a busy shipping center, quickly increasing to a population of 3,000 by 1900, when the catastrophic Galveston hurricane destroyed the town yet again. Eventually Velasco was incorporated with Freeport in 1957.

            This extravagant, unusual lithograph was prepared by August Gast, the St. Louis firm that produced so many late nineteenth-century maps of Texas, including the General Land Office County maps. Gast was also responsible for the lithographs in M. Whilldin’s, A Description of Western Texas, Published by the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railway Company, the Sunset Route (Galveston: Printed at the “News” Steam Book & Job Office, 1876). The bird’s-eye view of the region is rather mannered in an appealing way, the two scenic views are quite lovely and well done, and the plat map of Velasco is simple and skillful. The designer, apparently Louis Giraud, did not restrain himself on the lettering, which is quite varied and imaginative. According to The Law of Texas Now in Force... (compiled by William Alexander and published by Joseph A. Nagle at Austin in 1877), Louis Giraud was living in Bexar County in 1877 and served as a notary public. He was City Engineer in San Antonio from 1877 to 1879.

            The text on verso is an orgy of late nineteenth-century U.S. boosterism, with glowing descriptions of what is and what is to be. Velasco is referred to, among other things, as “The Liverpool of the Trans-Mississippi.” This phrase sums up the general tenor of the promotional: “The Trans-Mississippi’s Outlet to the World, the First and Only Deep Water Port West of the Mouth of the Mississippi River, the Only Harbor on the Texas, Private Capital and Energy vs. Government Money. No appropriations needed; none asked for; none wanted. No lighterage; no dangers; no delays. Pilotage and other port charges at Velasco 50 percent less than any other Gulf Port. For further particulars, address: The Brazos River Channel & Dock Co., Velasco, Texas.” ($1,500-3,000)

Sold. Hammer: $2,600.00; Price Realized: $3,055.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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