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Very Rare 1890 Promotional Map of Houston & Vicinity

Boom Gone Bust!

<p>[HOUSTON, TEXAS]. THOMAS, BRIGHT & CO. Three maps on one sheet</p>

[MAP]. [HOUSTON, TEXAS]. THOMAS, BRIGHT & CO. (publisher) & Rand, McNally & Co. (printer). Three maps on one sheet: [1] [Title at upper right] Map Showing the advantages of the City of Houston as a Commercial, Manufacturing, and Distributing Center and as a Deep-Water Port for the Coast of Texas. Population of Houston, 51,462. June, 1890; [2] [Large title and text at lower left, the word “Map” embellished by a 12-point buck] Map of the Houston Belt and Magnolia Park Railway and Connection. With Deep Water at Port Houston. June, 1890. Thomas, Bright & Co. Formerly Harrel & Thomas and J.H. Bright. Real Estate and General Agents. Headquarters for Investors. Special Attention given to paying taxes on lands anywhere in Texas. Sell and Exchange Real Estate in all Parts of Texas and the United States. Houston the Hub City. Texas the Empire State. Houston Population of Houston in 1880, 22,000; 1890, 51,000. Houston Office, 59 Main St. Denver Office, 1755 Curtis St. [3] [Inset map of Gulf of Mexico at lower center] Map Showing the Relation of the City of Houston, Texas, To the trade of the Gulf of Mexico, West Indies, and the Caribbean Sea. Houston on Tidewater, Buffalo River; fifty miles from the Gulf, Railway Center; eleven lines of Railway, and also Water Route to Gulf of Mexico.... [above lower border at right] Rand, McNally & Co., Engravers Chicago. Chicago, 1890. Lithograph with three maps and text: South Texas and the Gulf of Mexico; street map of Houston, Port of Houston, and Harrisburg; and regional map of U.S. (Denton and Little Rock, Gulf of Mexico, Mexico to northern South America, and the Caribbean to St. Thomas and Trinidad); patterned border: 56.2 x 76 cm; overall sheet size: 61 x 81.5 cm. Lightly creased where formerly folded, a few minor splits neatly repaired on verso (no losses), otherwise very fine, with light contemporary note marking “Western Boundary.” No copies on OCLC, but a few locations shown for a smaller, less complex promotional map of Houston by Thomas, Bright & Co. published the same year.

First printing of a lively promotional for Houston and a failed project, the Houston Belt and Magnolia Park Railway. Handbook of Texas Online:

The Houston Belt and Magnolia Park Railway Company was chartered on April 2, 1889, to build a line from a point on Buffalo Bayou between the mouth of Brays Bayou and Long Reach to Houston. The capital was $150,000, and the office was in Houston. Members of the first board of directors were John Thomas Brady, J. Waldo, T.W. House, S.K. Dick, T.D. Cobbs, R.B. Morris, and Charles H. Milby, all of Harris County. The company built six miles of track from Fannin Street eastward on Commerce Avenue in Houston to Brady, at Constitution Bend on Buffalo Bayou. Freight traffic did not develop as anticipated, and the principal business was the carrying of passengers to and from the Magnolia Amusement Park. The line went into receivership on November 3, 1891, and was sold for taxes and costs for $190.50 on April 26, 1893. The property was conveyed to the Houston Land and Trust Company. During 1895 the company was used by the Galveston, La Porte and Houston Railway as an entrance into Houston. On November 1, 1898, under court order, the property was sold to Herbert F. Fuller for $9,100 who conveyed it to the Houston, Oaklawn and Magnolia Park Railway Company on May 16, 1899.

The railroad failed but Magnolia Park, founded by one of the railroad’s directors, John Thomas Brady, was laid out in 1890 on a 1,374-acre site on Harrisburg road across Bray’s Bayou from Harrisburg and seven miles downstream from Houston. It was named for the 3,750 magnolia trees that developers planted there.

The three excellent maps and the boosterism language of the text are classic urban puffery for the largest city in Texas, and the fourth largest city in the U.S. The first ten items in the text entitled “Houston Has” are railroads and railroad offices. Among the boasts are a $50,000 jail and a $100,000 operative house. Other boasts, and good ones, are: “Deep Water Connection for Steamers,” “The largest Cotton Receipts of any interior Cotton Market,” “The best location for...the West,” “The Finest Water Works Plant in the South and West, having a capacity for Supplying, with Artesian Water, a city of 500,000 population,” etc.

James Henry Bright (1856 Tennessee-1941 Houston) arrived in Texas in 1876 and subsequently worked for E.H. Cushing in Houston in the book and stationery business. In 1890 he established his own real estate business, which despite this failed beginning ultimately became one of the most successful real estate businesses in Houston. Among his activities were serving as president of the East Texas Good Roads Association, working with the National Education Association (served as Superintendant of Port Arthur Schools in 1905), etc. He was an early member of the Automobile Club of Houston and was granted a patent for a folding bow for vehicle tops. 


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