Dorothy Sloan -- Books

Copyright 2000- by Dorothy Sloan-Rare Books Inc. for all materials on this site. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.


October 26, 2007

Photographic Promotional to Sell Galveston Wharves

54. [GALVESTON]. VERKIN PHOTO COMPANY. Galveston Prints [cover title]. 8 pp. (typescript) + 40 black and white, professional, labelled photographs (each 19.2 x 24.1 cm), with discrete number in lower corner, 1 printed uncolored folded map: Port of Galveston, Texas Terminal Facilities, Cotton Compresses and Warehouses, April 1932 (neat line to neat line: 24.1 x 72.5 cm). N.p., n.d. (ca. 1939). Contemporary brown leatherette notebook ring binder lettered in gilt on upper cover (26 x 22 cm). Spine partially perished and repaired with masking tape, moderate shelf wear, name effaced from upper cover; contents very good. All contents except map in modern plastic sleeves.

            Apparently a promotional and informational piece assembled as part of the effort to sell the Galveston city wharves to the city itself. The sale was consummated on November 29, 1940. The wharves had been privately owned before that time and had suffered chronic financial difficulties, despite their prodigious size and the amount of materials and goods that flowed through them. The typescript pages give a brief overview of the facilities, including weather patterns, specialized railroad service to the piers and warehouses, and various docking and loading facilities, including the fabled Elevator B, which could load three ships simultaneously at the rate of 200,000 bushels an hour. Also included are tables giving statistics such as square footage and construction details of the covered wharves and the piers.

            The excellent photographs show many of those features, including certain piers, rail facilities, various cargoes (e.g. “paper products,” “zinc spelter,” “carbon black,” “flour”), Elevator B, and loads being placed on ships. The final image is of the fireboat City of Galveston. Each image has a small typed label at bottom, often extolling the port’s advantages (e.g., “Galveston is perhaps the most important flour port on the Gulf of Mexico. This ship is loading flour for Holland”). Some of the photographs have some interest for labor history since they show workers, especially African Americans, at their tasks. The African Americans are, of course, generally shown as common laborers, although in one view one is shown operating a forklift and in another driving a tractor. The history of labor and unionization at the Galveston Wharves is an especially interesting one, because both African American and Anglo workers often belonged to bi-racial unions. The photo labelled A-27 contains an interesting gaffe since it shows the photographer’s shadow in the image area. The beautifully detailed map shows the area between 2nd and 57th Streets from Avenue J north to the Galveston Channel.

            All the photos are marked with the embossed stamp of the Verkin Photo Company, founded by Paul Verkin, a German immigrant. Although he was joined in the business by three of his sons, all but Paul Roland had left the company by this time and Verkin himself had died in 1928. It seems likely, therefore, that all these images were taken by Paul. Verkin Photo was one of the major commercial photography firms serving Galveston and the surrounding area, and collections of its work are held by the University of Texas-Austin, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and the Rosenberg Library in Galveston.

            Overall, this is an excellent written and photographic summary of an important Texas port at the end of the Great Depression and on the eve of World War II. ($300-600)

Sold. Hammer: $300.00; Price Realized: $352.50

Auction 21 Abstracts

Click images or links labeled Enlarge to enlarge. Links labeled Zoom open zoomable images.

Auction 21 | DSRB Home | e-mail: