The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999 Page: 212
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
expansion and development. As a result of the completion of the St.
Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway in 1904 and the introduction of
widespread irrigation in 1912, the area began to experience unprece-
dented growth in population, commerce, and agriculture. During the
1920s, midwestern farmers were drawn to relocate there for the fertile
and comparatively inexpensive land. The proximity of such towns as
Brownsville to Mexico and the temperate climate attracted tourists as
well. Brownsville became the center of trade and export for the Valley
and northern Mexico. In 1931 the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce
reported an increase in the town's population of 87 percent over ten
In addition to these new residents, the reactivation in 1913 of Fort
Brown for border patrol brought even more people whose families and
friends were far away. All of these conditions created a need for quick
but informative communication. Postcards were an ideal vehicle for the
purpose, and Robert Runyon was there to provide them.
The height of postcard popularity, the first two decades of the twenti-
eth century, was an era of general prosperity and optimism for the Unit-
ed States as a whole. While "pioneer view cards" had been printed and
sold locally in the United States since the 1870s, they were not intended
to be mailed, although some were. This situation changed in 1898 when
Congress reduced the postage rate for cards from two cents to one cent.
Kodak's introduction in 1902 of postcard-size photographic paper on
which images could be printed directly from negatives significantly
streamlined the process of producing local views. The backs of the cards
were usually preprinted to facilitate their use for conveying messages.
Photographers soon found that "people would pay more for such cards,
so while they did not warrant mass production by commercial publish-
ers, they could still be made for a profit." Cards were produced to adver-
tise cities as early as 1906, often with captions promoting the local
environment as a superior place to live and work.2
The 350 photographic postcards (photographs printed on postcard
stock) in the Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 1910-1926, at the
Center for American History include approximately one hundred im-
ages of the border conflict and revolution in Mexico during the years
1913-1916. Along with other Runyon photographs, they formed the ba-
sis for Frank N. Samponaro and PaulJ. Vanderwood's book, War Scare on
the Rio Grande: Robert Runyon's Photographs of the Border Conflict, 1z93-
Milo Kearney and Anthony Kopp, Boom and Bust: The Historical Cycles of Matamoros and
Brownsville (Austin, Tex.: Eakin Press, 1991), 222-225; Brownsville Chamber of Commerce,
Points ofInterest in and around Brownsville (n.p., 1931).
2 Hal Morgan and Andreas Brown, Prairie Fires and Paper Moons: The American Photographic Post-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999, periodical, 1999; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/m1/255/: accessed December 10, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.