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A Colossal, Virtually Unknown Wall Map of Dallas, Published After Publication of George Kessler's Plan For Modernizing Dallas

The present map measuring approximately 7.5 feet x 7.5 feet, is the only other large format map of Dallas published before World War I, and reflects the dramatic growth.  Published in 1911, it was issued shortly after the Great Flood of 1908 and the year after the completion of George Kessler's initial plan for improving the urban planning of Dallas.

Following the flood, Kessler was tasked by the city of Dallas to create a planned community. The Kessler Plan was the City of Dallas's managed growth plan from 1910 through the 1930s. The Plan was intended to create and contain the Dallas Floodway of the Trinity River, and combine the six rail yards at Dallas Union Station. In 1909, 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 of civic improvements.

As noted by William H. Willson in Adapting to Growth: Dallas, Texas, and the Kessler Plan, 1908-1933; Arizona and the West, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 245-264:

In 1908 Dallas, Texas, wore the aspect of an unplanned city. Chaotic street patterns, confusing and expensive transportation arrangements, inadequate public recreational facilities, and periodic flooding from the Trinity River made life difficult in the rapidly growing Southwestern community. To solve these pressing problems, encourage commerce, raise the quality of life, and enhance civic pride, Dallas's business elite turned to comprehensive planning. Businessmen and city officials summoned George E. Kessler, a landscape architect and city planner, to draft a plan for systematic public improvements. The Kessler Plan sparked controversy and quickly unraveled under the demands of Dallas's spectacular growth. The plan nonetheless left a mark on the city that remains visible today. It highlighted the strengths, and the weaknesses, of urban improvement styles in the ear of the City Beautiful Movement.

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 the Kessler Plan called for its construction.

Murphy & Bolanz

The firm of Murphy & Bolanz was Dallas's primary map publishing company in the last 19th and early 20th Century, which survives until today. The Dallas Public Library houses the Murphy & Bolanz collection, a manuscript collection consisting of real estate maps of Dallas and surrounding communities. The Murphy & Bolanz Company was an early Dallas real estate development firm established in 1874 (and exists today as Bolanz & Miller). The collection includes three addition books, six block books, and an index. The firm used these volumes to trace and record the growth of Dallas. The collection consists of approximately 3,500 maps, or about 400 maps per volume.  

Historical Context

Dallas was one of the great American 'boom towns' of the late 19th Century, and developed rapidly from a small frontier outpost into Texas' most dynamic city. The present map was made at an important point in this exciting period.

What would later be known as Dallas was founded in 1839 by the trader John Neely Bryan, who recognized the site's strategic value, located near one the few fords along the Caddo Trail, along the Trinity Floodplain. Bryan built a trading post and conducted the first survey of the area. In 1841, a treaty process removed all Native Americans from the Dallas region, thus eliminating most of Neely's customers. He then decided to shift gears and establish a permanent town.

J. P. Dumas surveyed and laid out a 0.5 square mile town site in 1844, which formed the genesis of modern Dallas' distinct grid street system. Dallas' importance was enhanced upon Texas' annexation to the United States, in 1845, as it acted as a natural nexus between the populated areas of southern Texas and the American territories located to the north and east. It was around this time that the settlement was named 'Dallas' almost certainly after George Dallas, who served as the Vice-President of the United States from 1845 to 1849.

In 1856, Dallas was granted a town charter by the Texas Legislature. By 1860, its population reached 678, including 97 African Americans and many recent European immigrants. Also, by this time, several key stage lines ran through the city and the railroad was in the process of being built towards Dallas from the south. 

By 1871, Dallas's population exceeded 3,000 and its city charter was officially ratified. In 1873, Dallas became the intersection of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad and the Texas & Pacific Railway, thus ensuring its role as a major transport hub. The city soon became one of the main clearinghouses for Texas's agricultural goods and was the last 'civilized' stop for many Americans travelling to the Southwest. Dallas' population soared racing over 10,000 by 1880.

Unsurprisingly, Dallas became one of the hottest real estate markets in America and vast fortunes were made by those who correctly anticipated the rail routes and the sites where innumerable businesses sprang up in the area. The makers of the preset map, Murphy & Bolanz, were amongst the leading players in real estate speculation during this period, and this map was intended as a propaganda piece to encourage more migration to the city and to gin up property prices.

Dallas' importance was further enhanced in 1880 by the completion of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, under the leadership of Jay Gould. Growth accelerated, and by the time that this map was made, Dallas had a population of around 35,000.

In the late 1880s Dallas real estate firms, like Murphy & Bolanz, would barely have had a chance to list properties before they were snapped up, at ever higher prices. This created a massive 'Property Bubble' which burst during the Panic of 1893, a nation-wide recession. While Dallas would recover, the Panic had the effect of introducing an element of sobriety to Dallas' economic life.

Dallas acquired telephones (1881), electricity (1882), and several daily newspapers, principally the Dallas Morning News (1885) and the Dallas Times Herald (1888). Having annexed the neighboring town of East Dallas on January 1, 1890, Dallas ranked as the most populous city in Texas in 1890, with 38,067 residents.  

By the turn of the century the economy had recovered, and Dallas was the leading book, drug, jewelry, and wholesale liquor market in the Southwest. It was the world's leading inland cotton market, and it still led the world in manufacture of saddlery and cotton-gin machinery. Its population stood at 42,638. In 1905 businessmen formed the 150,000 Club, aimed at increasing the city's population to 150,000 by 1910, although the actual growth only reached 92,104 by 1910.  The city also doubled in area to 18.31 square miles, partly through annexation of Oak Cliff in 1904.  

In the second decade of the twentieth century Dallas began to implement the city plan commissioned from George E. Kessler after a disastrous flood in 1908. Oak Cliff and Dallas were connected by the Houston Street Viaduct, at the time the longest concrete structure in the world; the Union Terminal Company consolidated six downtown railroad depots; and the railroad tracks were removed from Pacific Avenue. 


We find no record of any other surviving examples. 

Condition Description
Wall map on linen, with original rods.