Other Views of Fort Worth

Other Views from 1876

Where is Fort Worth?

Above: D. D. Morse (active 1870s). Fort Worth, Tarrant Co. Texas, 1876. Toned lithograph, 14.4 x 19 in. Published by Chas. Shober & Co. Props. Chicago Lith.Co. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Will F. Collins.

Fort Worth in 1876

Artist D. D. Morse arrived at a propitious moment in the history of Fort Worth. In April 1876, when he drew this classic bird’s-eye view from the northwest, the village, buffeted by the effects of the Civil War and economic depression, was struggling for its very existence.[1] Established in 1849 as one of a series of military posts in the frontier defense system, the settlement had suffered the abandonment of the troops in 1853 and three years later survived a bitter election with Birdville to become the county seat.[2] As the Civil War came to a conclusion, the population of the city had decreased by perhaps 85 percent to fewer than 1,000 and was slow to recover, especially as the effects of the Panic of 1873 played out. But the arrival of the cattle drives, beginning as early as 1866, and the railroad a decade later heralded better things for the city, and Morse’s birds-eye view foretells by some three months the arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway’s Engine No. 20 on July 19, which proved to be a turning-point in the city’s fortunes. Within a few weeks a tent city was erected in the vacant blocks south of downtown and more than fifty new businesses had opened.[3]

Morse depicted the city from the northwest, showing it sitting on the bluff overlooking the Trinity River. Some of the original buildings of the old fort may still be standing among those immediately to the north and west of the courthouse. Fort Worth Democrat editor Buckley B. Paddock called it “a perfect picture of Fort Worth and its surroundings…that should be in every office, business and private house in town.”[4] Paddock apparently followed his own advice, purchasing copies of the print for distribution to those outside the city. The many empty lots and platted streets illustrate the confidence that the city fathers had in the future growth and development of the area.