Photography on the South Texas Frontier
Images from the Witte Museum Collection
Compelling images of people in a region that in many ways remains a frontier
Published in partnership with The Witte Museum
The images in Photography on the South Texas Frontier catch South Texans through more than 150 years of formal and informal moments in studios, at home, at work, and at play. The photographs, most published for the first time, are from the top-ranked collection of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas.
The illustrations were scanned in color, yielding a range of tones that otherwise disappear when historic images are converted to black and white. They are also treated as artifacts, preserving their patina and reproducing the original mountings and borders, which often bear elaborate typography. The oldest, a daguerreotype, was made in 1849, less than twenty years after the birth of photography. It pictures Major Gen. William Jenkins Worth, a Mexican War hero for whom the city of Fort Worth is named.
Images of others in South Texas appear in tintypes, then cabinet cards, autochromes, photo postcards, and snapshots. A cowboy poses in the 1880s with his horse and rifle close at hand. Firewood vendors pause with their burros in Laredo. The imprisoned Geronimo leans against a wall at Fort Sam Houston, and textile designers work in Brownsville. A piano class picnics in San Antonio, and in Starr County a water hauler rides atop his wagon. J. Frank Dobie lounges beside a fence in Atascosa County.
Taken as a whole, the images and text portray the evolution of photography and offer unique perspectives on a distinctive frontier.
- Winner of Wilder Award Silver Medal, Texas Association of Museums
“These rare photographs, edited with such great affection, insight, and skill, provide a unique window into our region’s past and deserve an honored place on the bookshelf of anyone who loves the land and people of South Texas.”
— San Antonio Express-News