- Title: Morrison and Fourmy’s Revised Map of the City of Houston
- Author: E. Alsteaten
- Date: 1882
- Medium: Engraving
- Condition: Very Good Plus - light wear/ discoloring and minor separations along issued folds, areas of surface dirt, tear in lower left corner, slight paper loss in margins at folds
- Inches: 32 x 35 1/4 [Paper]
- Centimeters: 81.28 x 89.54 [Paper]
- Product ID: 316065
An “Unobtainable” Historic Artifact
An exceedingly rare map of the city of Houston, Texas published by the Morrison & Fourmy Directory Co., a Houston-based publishing company active through the turn of the twentieth century. Operating out of the Beatty Building at Main Street and Walker Avenue in Downtown Houston (demolished in 2007), Morrison & Fourmy issued directories for cities throughout the state of Texas. These booklets included information regarding a city’s various schools, churches, businesses, banks, government buildings, attractions, streets, properties, and other elements of note.
Map is divided into wards and labeled based on property ownership. Depicts Buffalo Bayou, as well as White Oak Bayou, though it is not labeled. To the far left along the bayou appears “Glenwood,” denoting historic Glenwood cemetery founded 1872. Delineates various railroad lines running in and out of the city and marks the locations of industrial plants concentrated near present-day Downtown such as ‘Water Wks,’ ‘Houston Cotton Press,’ ‘Central Ice Factory,’ and ‘Steam Mill.’ The map also labels sites around the city such as hospitals, schools, cemeteries, gardens, depots, and churches. A line along the bottom margin reads ‘Corporation Limits,’ and near the bottom left corner lies the city’s fairgrounds.
Interestingly, Houston did not pave its first street until the summer of 1882, the year of this map’s publication. For 45 years, Houstonians had dealt with the city’s muddy terrain; after many failed attempts to tackle this persistent issue using wooden planks and wagonloads of shell from nearby Galveston, property owners gave $10,000 to pave two blocks of Main Street with limestone squares laid on gravel. Additionally, merchants paid $500 each to have gravel spread on 15 blocks of Congress and Franklin. Nevertheless, by the next winter the relentless mud had once again oozed up over the limestone squares.
A Harper’s magazine article of the era describes the city’s marketplace:
“…the German farmers come in from distances of 20 miles and more hauling their produce in wagons…Nearby on the sidewalk a Chinese peddler displays his wears …This thin faced Italian had a wagon laden with game, all killed close by…The respectable looking colored man and women sell cold food - fried catfish to tender chicken, hard-boiled eggs and heaps of golden corn bread and roasted potatoes…The butchers are nearly all Germans with a Frenchman and an American or two.
In and out of the buildings they surge for all of Houston is here…laughing, teasing, talking, quarreling, gesticulating, bargaining, staring, keeping appointments and making new ones, being proper or improper, polite or rude as the case may be. “
The people described above were all Houstonians; however, it is not quite clear just which among them were ‘Americans’ by Harper’s definition. The diversity of 1880’s Houston has carried through to the present, and continues to define the city, today one of the most diverse in the United States.
The map depicts the city of Houston almost fifty years after its founding and shortly before a period of immense commercial growth: following the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900, Houston would begin to supersede Galveston as the state’s foremost commercial center. Additionally, the discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901 spurred the rapid development of the Texas petroleum industry.
Rarity: One recorded example, Houston Public Library. We handled this map in 2007, placing it in a world class Texas collection, and are pleased to be able to return it to the market for the next generation to appreciate. Due to the infrequency with which it has come to market in the past, as well as the fact that the only known example is held institutionally, this is a rare opportunity to obtain the unobtainable. Offered here for the first time in 14 years, and unlikely to return to the market any time soon.
Reference: Johnston, Marguerite; Houston, The Unknown City, Texas A&M University Press, 1991.