Texas Heritage, Volume 19, Number 1, Winter 2001 Page: 33
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In 1995 Richard
Francaviglia proclaimed that
"Tex-map mania" was sweeping
across the Lone Star state
and beyond. He argued that
the shape of Texas was being
used more and more to promote
products, services, and
businesses. In his groundbreaking
book, "The Shape
of Texas" (Texas A&M Uni- J::g ....
looked at the
Texas map as a
icon-of Texas identity and one
that is immediately recognizable to people
around the world. His book raised and tried
to answer the intriguing question as to why
the Texas shape is so familiar.
Part of the answer has to be maps!
As this issue of HERITAGE shows, Texas
has been mapped for centuries, long before
the current boundaries as we know them
had been settled. Indeed, the shape of
Texas today is of relatively recent derivation-a
product of a complex series of legislation
called the Compromise of 1850
agreed on in the U.S. Congress. The compromise
was intended to deal with a number
of outstanding issues creating sectional
and regional tensions in the American
nation at the time. One of these was the
disputed western boundary of Texas.
Since the end of the Texas Revolution
in 1836, Texas had claimed the Rio
Grande from its mouth, north to its source,
and north again to the 42nd parallel as its
western boundary. An impoverished Texas
Republic looked west to New Mexico in
hopes of reaping some of the commercial
benefits of the then-active trade between
Santa Fe and St. Louis. Such a boundary,
however, totally ignored the history of the
US on Teas
region and lumped Santa Fe, Albuquerque,
and other New Mexican towns and
settlements with Texas. When the U.S.
annexed Texas in the mid-1840s, the annexation
resolution gave lip service to the
Texas boundary claims. After New
Mexico entered the union at the close of
the Mexican War in 1848, tensions between
Texas and New Mexico, then a territory,
increased and armed hostilities
seemed a real possibility.
Hoping to derail any fighting between
Texans and New Mexicans, Congress
agreed to assume the Texas debt of
$10 million (an amount that Texas was
unable to pay off) in return for the claim
to eastern New Mexico being dropped by
Texas. As a result of the compromise, the
current shape of Texas was set -- with its
western boundary running from the
mouth of the Rio Grande at the Gulf of
Mexico to El Paso, and then due east
along the 32nd parallel to the 103rd meridian,
and then north to the line at 36
degrees 30 minutes north. This line, established
by the Missouri Compromise
in 1819, created the distinctive panhandle
of the state. It is this shape that
Francaviglia finds recognizable by
people across the globe.
Francaviglia did most of the
research for his book in the Virginia
Garrett Cartographic History
Library (VGCHL) at The
University of Texas at Arlington
(UTA). The VGCHL is a part of
the UTA Libraries' Special Collections
Division and is located
on the sixth floor of the Central
Library. The cartographic history
library is open Mondays from 9:00
(t2a ps from 9:00 a.m.5:00
hours change slightly when the university
is not in session, so researchers are encouraged
to call prior to planning a trip. Contact
the library at (817) 272-3393 or at
The VGCHL is dedicated to amassing
a cartographic collection focusing on
Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. The collection
has been built largely through donations
and gifts from people like Jenkins and
Virginia Garrett, Lewis and Virginia Buttery,
Bob Isham, Marvin and Shirley
Applewhite, and Ted and Helen Mayborn,
as well as significant grants from the Sid
Richardson Foundation of Fort Worth and
the Summerlee Foundation of Dallas. The
UT System and UTA have also provided
resources for the collection. The collection
now numbers more than 5,000 maps dating
from 1493 to the present and more than
2,000 atlases and geographies. In addition,
the library acquires books about exploration,
maps, and other cartographic topics
and subscribes to related journals.
So for those studying the shape of
Texas, like Francaviglia did, delving into the
history of the state's western boundary, or
tracing the history of Texas cartography, UT
Arlington is a good place to start.
HERITAGE * 33 * WINTER 2001
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 19, Number 1, Winter 2001, periodical, Winter 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45384/m1/33/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.