Sectional Map of Texas Compliments of Texas Coast Irrigated Land Co.
Farming in the Lower Rio Grande Valley – 365 Days of Growing Weather Every Year
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This unrecorded pocket map of Texas was likely issued in or shortly after 1914 (see date code at the bottom of sheet) by the Texas Coast Irrigated Land Company to advertise its holdings in the Rio Grande Valley, near San Benito, Texas. A relatively simple overview of the state shows county outlines, primary transportation routes (railroads and coach roads), and major settlements. The location of the Kansas City-based company’s property is boldly circled near the bottom, on the line of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway.
While the map is somewhat dry, the bombastic text is sure to catch the eye of any prospective farmer looking to find a new home. “With practically every kind of crop grown bringing prices double, and in some cases, many times normal, with unlimited markets for food and feed stuff, the farmer has turned something of a miner. The yield isn’t nuggets, but 35c cotton, $2.50 corn, $75 cabbage and $3 potatoes is encouraging. With the unlimited market and unprecedented prices for all kinds of farm products, an opportunity unequaled is offered the farmer.” It continues praising San Benito and the Lower Rio Grande Valley into borderline incoherence, the boundless enthusiasm for prospective wealth unrestrained by common sense.
Apparently, such boosterism was common in the Rio Grande Valley in the early 20th century. Exaggerated claims that led to ruinous losses for emigrants prompted an investigation by the U.S. Postal Service in 1921 to inquire about the extent to which the mail was used to perpetuate crimes of fraud. Led by Post Office Inspector J.M. Donaldson, the inquiry uncovered widespread evidence of malfeasance. According to author Cristina Salinas, “The responses to his questionnaire convinced Donaldson that the land companies employed the “most outrageous, outlandish, and reprehensive methods that can be conceived” in selling the land and “swindling the public.”
Before his investigation could be completed, the chief inspector of the Post Office took Donaldson off the case following a series of lobbying visits from owners of South Texas land companies and their lawyers to Washington, DC. Two years later, the issue was temporarily revived during a US Senate subcommittee hearing about the suspended Post Office investigation. In the end, Senate investigations petered out without any restitution for swindled owners.”
The Texas Coast Irrigated Land Company of Kansas City, MO was referenced in an (unrelated) 1919 lawsuit, but otherwise, its historical footprint has been light. At least three such companies were registered in different states between 1906 and 1921, perhaps reflecting the prevalence of such speculation. In any case, the map is very rare and I’ve been unable to find any other recorded examples in auction records or online repositories. A fantastic example of South Texas boosterism during the early 20th century.
Source: Salinas, Managed Migrations, p. 18.
Publication Date: 1914
Author: Texas Coast Irrigated Land Company
Sheet Width (in): 22
Sheet Height (in): 22.25
Condition Description: Pocket map folded into 18 segments and affixed to original paper wraps. Printed on thin and brittle paper with trimmed margins and separation at fold intersections that has been repaired on the verso with archival tape. A seam in the right center of the image is the result of the plate strike. One hole in the sheet where the map is glued to the front covers. Remains in good condition overall for a scarce and ephemeral map.
1 in stock