Legendary Texas Rarity: the First Houston City Directory
The very rare first city directory of Houston - a legendary Houston and Texas rarity. This directory is a rich source book of primary historical information including listings of the residents of the flourishing Texas city. Also notable are the numerous advertisements - including a particularly charming Texas boot-seller's illustrated ad - lists of local businesses, local churches, as well as the Houston Synagogue, essays on the history of Houston, Houston during the Civil War, Houston railroads, newspapers, education in Houston, and the like.
According to Leonard's preface, which includes a brief account of the directory's publication history:
This is the first work of the kind ever issued in Houston, and it is with pride that we refer to the hearty encouragement with which the proposal for its publication was greeted. In November last, a prospectus was issued with the design of testing the feasibility of the plan. The publication was conditioned upon the subscription of 500 copies by the business men of the city. It was thought that this would be a foundation broad enough to base the publication. The conditions were promptly compiled with, and a larger guarantee was given than asked, the edition reaching 1500 copies.
The map of Houston that sometimes accompanies copies of this directory (but is lacking in the present copy) was by William E. Wood, and actually lithographed in New Orleans by Pessou & Simon. The preface notes this fact: "...the necessity of sending our map to New Orleans for lithographing, on account of the lack of an artist of the kind in our own city, has been the cause of the delay in the appearance of the work.” Wood is mainly remembered for his 1869 wall map of the city. Page 94 of the directory includes an interesting longish paragraph about the map:
The map... was drawn for the work by Mr. W. E. Wood, who is well known as an experienced engineer, and eminently qualified to perform this duty from his position for so long a time as city engineer....The scale is 800 feet to the inch...In presenting the map with the book we have no doubt our readers will be gratified, and we have no hesitancy in pronouncing it accurate, with the exception of the name of Fannin street, which appears on the map Fanny street, an error of the lithographer.
The range of Houston and Galveston businesses advertised herein is astonishing. Here follows a small selection of the businesses, shopkeepers and schools operating in Houston and Galveston at the time who opted to advertise in the directory:
- Gray, Strickland & Co., Printers and Bookbinders
- Blessing's Photographic Gallery, Photographs, Ambrotypes, Melainotypes and the latest Porcelain Pictures
- J. Miller & Co. Guns, Rifles, Revolvers, Pistols, Ammunition, etc.
- Houston & Texas Central Railway Company. With list of stations and rates.
- G. A. Forsgard. Boots and Shoes.
- Baylor University. Independence, Texas. President, Rev. Wm. Carey Crane, D.D.
- Bryant's Newspaper & Periodical Depots
- Galveston Photographic Company. Photographs, Ambrotypes, Ferotypes, Ivory Types. Albatypes or Porcelain Pictures.
- Soule University. Chappell Hill, Texas. J.M. Follansbee, President.
Schools for Freedmen
Under a brief section on "Education in Houston" (pages 114-115), the compiler complains that Houston citizens were still not sufficiently interested in permanent educational institutions, despite the presence of competent educators. Many of the teachers and educators are mentioned by name and reference is made to several schools for freedmen:
The female academy, under the care of Miss Brown, of the Catholic Church, is also flourishing. Prof. Cunningham, a popular and highly competent scholar, has for several years been at the head of a private academy... There are in the city several schools for freedmen, which we believe are flourishing. And here we might remark that our observation indicates that the current of popular opinion is favorable to the education of the freedmen. There is no prejudice of any weight against the extension of such benefits to the former slaves... Our people do not desire to trammel the efforts of those who have undertaken to educate the African race, but on the contrary there is a willingness felt and expressed to lend a helping hand.
This Houston directory stands as one of the rarest of 19th century western city directories. While well represented in institutional collections, it is extremely rare in the market. No examples located in RBH. We know of an example that sold privately to J.P. Bryan in 2013, and one other example handled by our firm.
Winkler and Friend (1507) record examples only at Texas State Library and Rosenberg Library, Galveston.
OCLC locates examples at the DAR Library (ex Sam Houston Chapter); Mass Historical; Houston Public (electronic copy shows the facsimile edition, but the cataloging suggests they possess an original); Rice University (two examples, one lacking the map); San Antonio Public Library; UT Arlington; UT Austin; University of Houston; Rosenberg Library; and Yale University.
A facsimile edition of the 1866 Houston City Directory was published in 1966.