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Continuing Border Controversy at El Paso-Ciudad Juárez

Superb Plates & Maps

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72.     [BORDERLANDS]. UNITED STATES. PRESIDENT. CLEVELAND, Grover. Message from the President of the United States, Transmitting a report relative to the construction of certain dams in the Rio Grande. March 2, 1889.—Read and Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and ordered to be printed. To the Senate: I herewith transmit for the information of Congress a report from the Secretary of State [T.F. Bayard], with its accompanying correspondence, in regard to the construction of certain dams or wing-facings in the Rio Grande at Paso del Norte (Ciudad Juárez) opposite the city of El Paso, Texas. Grover Cleveland…. Washington: U.S. Senate, 50th Congress, 2d Session. Senate Executive Document No. 144, 1889. [1] 2-62 pp., 6 photolithograph plates on white clay-coated paper (views along the Rio Grande at El Paso-Ciudad Juárez), 3 lithograph maps (folding, with color). 8vo (23.8 x 15.7 cm), contemporary three-quarter rich red Mexican sheep over purple and black mottled boards, spine ruled and lettered in gilt, raised bands. Binding with light shelf wear and some voids to marbled paper on lower cover, first leaf lightly browned and with one short, clean tear at right blank margin, otherwise fine, the maps and plates excellent. Contemporary purple ink stamp on first page: Ignacio Garfias, Ingeniero, Ce. de Chavarroa No. 8. (Engineer Garfias was the Mexican directing engineer for the project.) Very scarce.

Plates (all with sheet size: 14.3 x 23 cm; image sizes vary; each with Moss. Eng. Co. N.Y. in print at lower left or right):

View No. 1.—Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso, Texas…. Excellent view looking downstream, from a point on the U.S. side, near the city limits of El Paso, a clutter of simple adobe dwellings, wooden bridge, railroad track.

View No. 2.—Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso, Texas. Two men stand by the river on the U.S. side, looking upstream at Dike 2, caving bank shown in foreground.

View No. 3—Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso, Texas. View looking across the river from a point on the U.S. side, opposite Dike 3 which has deposits in front of it.

View No. 4—Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso, Texas. View looking upstream from a point on the Mexican side near the base of Dike 5.

View No. 5—Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso, Texas. View looking across the river opposite and above Dike 5, showing the general appearance of Dike 5, truss railroad bridge in distance and houses on opposite shore.

View No. 6—Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso, Texas. View looking downstream from the Mexican side near the root of Dike 5 with top dressing of gravel, truss railroad bridge at center.


Plate 1 Rio Grande River at El Paso Texas Map showing the location of the river in 1855 and in 1885…. Neat line to neat line: 34.2 x 36.3 cm. Red outlining indicating river course in 1855.

Plate 2 Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso Texas Map which Accompanied the Original Project of the Mexican Engineer in 1886 Showing the Proposed Location of the works…. Neat line to neat line: 66.3 x 82 cm. Wonderful large-scale map by Engineer Garfias (the present copy of the book belonged to him), shading in pale green and tan, fascine works indicated in red, sketches of fascine work, compass rose.

Plate 3 Mexican Bank Protection at El Paso Texas Sketch Showing the Location of the Works as Actually Constructed…. Neat line to neat line: 44.1 x 91 cm. Another excellent large-scale map, now showing the completion of the project, with shading in pale green and fascine works indicated in red.

     First edition. Ellen C. Hedrick, List of References to Publications relating to Irrigation and Land Drainage (Washington: GPO, 1902) #1487: “Contains correspondence and documents in relation to action of Mexican authorities in constructing at Paso del Norte certain wing dams, and complaints caused thereby.” John H. Hickcox, United States Government Publications (Washington: W.H. Lowdermilk & Co., 1892), Vol. V, p. 171. This controversy arose because Mexico was strengthening its river banks opposite El Paso with a system of fascines. Concerns were aroused on the U.S. side that such activity would cause erosion of the banks on the opposite side. In one document reproduced here, the mayor of El Paso calls for the use of force if necessary to halt the activity. The report of the U.S. engineer sent to examine the works is somewhat noncommittal, although he says some unflattering things about his Mexican counterpart, Ignacio Garfias. This report is reflective of the numerous controversies that arose over the shifting channel of the Rio Grande and entailed difficulties interpreting the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which is reprinted in this report. See Handbook of Texas Online: Treaty of 1884.

     The maps and plates in this important report are superb, the former on large scale and superbly executed, and the latter equally interesting for being made from actual photographs taken during the survey. The plates are the work of Moss Engraving Company of New York, whose founder John Calvin Moss (1836-1892) invented the first commercially feasible photo-engraving process in 1863, which revolutionized printing. After a slow start, he ultimately became successful and was supplying work for numerous printers, and by 1875, according to one source, his sixty employees were doing the work of over one thousand wood engravers. His invention was the death of wood engraving for publication on a large scale, and marked the rise of photographic illustration, with its immediacy, as the primary illustration medium.


Sold. Hammer: $500.00; Price Realized: $600.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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