Other Views of Dallas

Other Views from 1872

Where is Dallas?

Above: Herman Brosius (active 1870s). Bird’s Eye View of the City of Dallas Texas 1872, 1872. Lithograph (hand-colored), 15.8 x 22.9 in. Lithographer unknown. Dallas Historical Society.

Dallas in 1872

When William H. Patchen, Herman Brosius’ agent, arrived in Dallas in December 1872, he had with him a copy of the newly printed view of Jefferson by Brosius as well as a sketch of Dallas that Brosius had just finished. He had, too, a proposal that if the local citizens would subscribe for a sufficient number of copies, he would produce a colored lithograph of Dallas similar to the one of Jefferson.[1]

Brosius depicted Dallas from the southwest just before its first commercial boom. John Neely Bryan had founded the city as a trading post on the Trinity River, orienting the streets to a bend in the river at the site of a limestone ledge at what was supposedly the head of navigation. The Trinity never proved navigable—a fact that Brosius emphasizes by showing two people in a small rowboat rather than steamboats, as in the Jefferson view—but Bryan’s site was the best crossing for miles and was on the route of a planned Republic of Texas road from Austin to the Red River.[2] The village grew slowly as settlers occupied the area and agricultural production increased. Beginning in the 1850s, it was an important stop for cattle drovers on the Shawnee Trail, but by 1870 cattle traffic had declined because of the “excessive taxes” that the tribes in Indian Territory charged to pass through their land and shifted west, to the Chisholm Trail that ran through Fort Worth.[3] By 1872, when Brosius depicted the city, the courthouse was unfinished in the block surrounded by Main, Commerce, Jefferson, and Houston streets. The city had a steam flour mill (18 on map), two foundries, three planning mills, fifteen to twenty lumberyards, two soap factories, and one brewery (21). The Town Branch of Mill Creek is shown in the foreground. Lawyer John M. McCoy, a recent arrival from Indiana, found it easy to express exuberance about the developing city to his parents. Writing on July 7, 1872, in anticipation of the arrival of the Houston and Texas Central Railway the following week, he bragged: “Talk about your Baltimores, New York and Philadelphia and leave Dallas out of the ring if you dare. Baltimore is no more of a ‘Hub,’ New York is no more of a ‘Street’ and [a] Philadelphia lawyer isn’t any sharper in his own estimation than Dallas. Dallas, the Hub Dallas, the crescent of the southwest, Dallas the bright spot of the Lone Star, Dallas the coming City of Texas, the center of the grand Eldorado of the South.” When Brosius’ bird’s-eye view was published, McCoy sent a copy to his fianc