A colossal and unrecorded wall map of Dallas Texas, issued at a seminal moment in the development of the modern city.
Dallas was one of the great American boom towns of the late 19th century, developing rapidly from a small frontier outpost into Texas’ most dynamic city. This map was issued in 1911, shortly after the Great Flood of 1908 and the year after the completion of George Kessler’s initial plan for managing the city’s growth. It measures approximately seven and one half feet square and, along with its predecessor, Murphy & Bolanz’ map of 1891, is the only large-format map of the city published before World War I.
Centered on the Downtown area flanking Commerce Street, the map depicts in immense detail everything within a five-mile radius, with the distances indicated by concentric circles. Flowing northwest to southeast and dominating the whole is the Trinity River, which did so much to shape the city’s development. The city limits as they then stood are delineated by a heavy, meandering dotted line, which encompasses among other things the recently-annexed areas of East Dallas (1890) and Oak Cliff (1904). The street plan and street names are naturally shown, as are many details of the city’s emerging infrastructure of railroad and streetcar lines, viaducts and bridges. Of particular historical value is the delineation of property lines, both the small lots in town and in outlying subdivisions, as well as the boundaries of larger, undeveloped parcels. Many of the latter are identified by the name of their owner, such as the “Lagow League” east of the city, granted by the Republic of Texas to one Thomas Lagow in appreciation for his service during the 1836 Revolution.
Some areas of particular interest include the subdivisions, just outside the northern city limits, of Armstrong’s Highland Park I and Highland Park II and, just to the north and west across Turtle Creek, the so-called “Golf Ground,” today’s Dallas Golf Club. The area now occupied by SMU and the George W. Bush Presidential Library is labeled “J. Stokes Survey.” The race track and exposition buildings of Fair Park, site of the State Fair, are shown in great detail two miles east of Downtown.
Unmanaged growth, the Great Flood of 1908, and the Kessler Plan
The map reveals clearly the implications of the city’s breakneck and unplanned growth. Private landowners subdivided their parcels, improving them as necessary with roads and other services, all without regard for the whole. Over time these developments morphed and grew, eventually meeting and fusing, often at odd angles, yielding a crazy-quilt street plan. Also evident is the double-edged sword of the Trinity River: Though the river was a key element of the city’s early prosperity, it was also prone to flooding, and the proximity of Downtown, low-lying West Dallas, and numerous rail links were a recipe for disaster.
Disaster came in 1908, when the Trinity crested at over 52 feet—still a record today—submerging Downtown and much of West Dallas, overflowing the sewer system, wreaking havoc on the rail network, and displacing some 4-5000 people. A year later, the Dallas Chamber of Commerce established the City Plan and Improvement League (later called the Kessler Plan Association) and hired Kessler to draft a design for a long-range plan for managed growth and civic improvements.
Kessler drew up his plan to solve many of the city’s problems, including the uncontrollable flooding of the Trinity River, the dangerous railroad crossings, and narrow, crooked downtown streets, and the construction of a Central Boulevard. The plan was not implemented at the time because it was not believed to be practical, but it became increasingly clear that changes were needed. Kessler returned in 1918 to act as consulting engineer for the Dallas Property Owners’ Association and in 1919 began working for the Metropolitan Development Association of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. He remained in Dallas until January 3, 1922, when he returned to St. Louis. Although Kessler died in Indianapolis, Indiana, March 20, 1923, the Trinity River was improved and the levee system was completed in the 1930s. The Central Expressway was first opened to traffic in 1950, decades after Kessler called for its construction.
The firm of Murphy & Bolanz and Theodore Schauseil (1838-1920)
The map was published by the Murphy & Bolanz Company of Dallas. Established somewhere between 1874 and 1887 (I have seen varying dates), Murphy & Bolanz was one of the early Dallas real estate development firms, and also its primary map publishing house in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies. The Dallas Public Library houses the Murphy & Bolanz collection, consisting largely of manuscript real estate maps of Dallas and surrounding communities.
Murphy & Bolanz’s star draftsman was Theodore Schauseil, who one of the more interesting career arcs of any 19th-century mapmaker I have encountered. Indeed, when he died in 1920, the Gainesville Register remarked that “There closed a chapter of human endeavor which compares with the most thrilling epochs of pioneer history” (quoted by Melugin).
A native of Saxony and son of a nobleman, Schauseil studied at Eisenach University and pursued more advanced scientific studies in Jena (Melugin claims, somewhat more vaguely, that he also pursued archaeological studies in France, North Africa and Turkey.) Along the way he became multilingual (German, Latin, Greek, English and possibly some Oriental languages) and an “expert swordsman”—not uncommon for the German nobility–and at one point was imprisoned for dueling.
In 1858 he emigrated to America and at some point was joined by his father and perhaps other family members. He (or they) tried settling in various locales in the Midwest before heading West. From here the limited and somewhat contradictory sources make it hard to piece together a sequence, but the following summary at least conveys the flavor of his adventures:
“Mr. Schauseil’s eventful life is: Lived among and hobnobbed with German nobility; fought Indians; was saved from death by torture by Indians; carried dispatches; fought one duel and offered to take Senator Mason’s place in a duel to which that gentleman was challenged in 1898 by Marquis de Alta Villa, of Spain.” (Past History and Present Stage of Development of Texas, p. 162)
For our purposes, the most important information is that by 1870 or so Schauseil was in Texas, eventually made it to the Dallas area, and in the 1880s took a job as a draftsman with the newly-formed real estate partnership of Bolanz & Murphy (How Schauseil developed this skill set is entirely unclear!) In 1887 he drew his first map of Dallas for the firm, a small (17” x 14”) Official Map of Dallas and East Dallas Texas, the lettering on which is unmistakably Germanic. This was replaced in 1891 by the absolutely colossal (126” x 113”) Revised Edition of Murphy and Bolanz’ Official Map of the City of Dallas and Suburbs. Both are excessively rare, with OCLC listing no holdings of the 1887 map and a single example of the latter, at SMU. The 1891 map was only superseded by the 1911 map offered here, also signed by Schauseil.
Some time around 1912 Schauseil apparently completed the manuscript for an autobiography, titled Lost Life of Theodore Schauseil, though I find no record of its having been published. It would no doubt have made for excellent reading.
Not in OCLC, Antique Map Price Record, or RareBookHub,and a general Google search yields no other known examples. Biographical information on Schauseil from Ron Melugin, Heroes, Scoundrels and Angels: Fairview Cemetery of Gainesville, Texas (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2010) and Past History and Present Stage of Development of Texas (Chicago: Forrister History Company, 1912), pp. 161-2. A bit of background on Bolanz & Murphy from the Dallas Gateway web site. Some background on Kessler from William H. Wilson, “Adapting to Growth: Dallas, Texas, and the Kessler Plan, 1908-1933,” Arizona and the West, vol. 25, no. 3 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 245-264.