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August 2005

Texas bird’s-eye views

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This website displays a collection of late nineteenth century bird’s-eye views of Texan cities and towns. The views were originally published as colour lithographs, full of the detail of buildings and other human artefacts set in a grand landscape.

The subjects are settlements established or expanded since the coming of the railroad. With their orderly gridded streets, heroic railway viaducts, belching smokestacks and rows of neat houses the views exude the settlers’ pride in their achievements.

I am reminded of the pattern of development of parts of Queensland in the same period. The port city of Galveston seems like Rockampton, while there are inland Texan analogs for Emerald, Barcaldine and Longreach.

Fort Worth, 1891

Henry Wellge (1850-1917). “Perspective Map of Fort Worth, Tex. 1891”. Lithograph, 17.25 x 33.4 in. Published by the American Publishing Co. Cor.South Ferry Sts. Milwaukee. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth. [Image and caption from the Amon Carter Museum website].

The website goes with an upcoming exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. It presents the views beautifully, with well-written text about the towns, the views and the artists who created them. Navigation and design are clear and logical.

Best of all, you can zoom deeply into each image, and move the enlarged image around. This is all very neatly done, using Macromedia Flash. You’ll need a fast connection to get the best from this website.

Fort Worth, 1891, enlarged detail

A small detail of the 1891 Fort Worth view above, shown at the maximum zoom setting.

See also: The Library of Congress panoramic map collection which covers the whole country, not just Texas. The web interface is clumsier, but the range and quality are amazing.


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