Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: Farming and Ranching

August 20, 1945

langley_skyline-horseback_c1945_LOCAug. 20, 1945

by Paula Bosse

Back in 2014 when I started this blog, this is one of the first photos I posted. It is one of those Dallas photos that can actually be described as “iconic”: a cowboy on horseback watches over a herd of cattle grazing just beyond a vibrant mid-century skyline — old Texas meets new Texas. The photo is by Dallas photographer William Langley, and, according to the Library of Congress, it was taken on August 20, 1945. I am posting it again today, August 20, 2020 — 75 years to the day it was taken.

So what was happening 75 years ago today? Here are a few stories from the newspaper.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur was heading to Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been bombed within the past two weeks, effectively ending the war).

Wartime restrictions on the use of natural gas were lifted by the War Production Board.

Hollywood stars Dick Powell and June Allyson had gotten hitched.

LBJ was being touted as a possible candidate for Texas governor.

The average cost of a meal for a family of four before the war was $2.27 (or about $40 in today’s money); now, after the war, it had risen to $3.70 (about $50). Fruit preserves were almost impossible to find.

Dallasites were chomping at the bit to bid farewell to the war-ordered Daylight Savings Time and return to Standard Time — they wanted go to bed when it was dark outside. 

Annexation had meant that Dallas had increased in size over the past year from 51 square miles to 87 square miles.

Several Dallasites saw a “very large and very luminous” meteor.

Sgt. Jesse Curry, 31, of the Dallas Police Department, had been awarded a fellowship for an 18-week course in traffic administration at Northwestern University Traffic Institute in Chicago.

It was announced that improved trash pickup was on the horizon, as soon as new trucks became available.

War workers were being released from their war-work obligations, and the city’s businesses were beginning to hire, which was good news, except for many Dallas women who were still working but who were met with the announced closure of many “playschools” which were operated around the city on a 12-hour cycle to accommodate shift workers. 

The Texas League announced they would resume minor league play in the spring.

Hockaday would increase its staff from 83 members to 100 for the upcoming school year.

“The Three Musketeers” was opening at the Starlight Operetta in Fair Park. The State Fair of Texas would not resume until 1946.

“Thrill of a Romance” — with Van Jones and Esther Williams — was at the Majestic.

“Pillow to Post”  — with Ida Lupino and Sydney Greenstreet — was at the Palace.

“The Story of G.I. Joe” — with Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum — was at the Tower.

“Asi Se Quiere en Jalisco” — with Jorge Negrete — was at the Panamericano.

Interstate Theaters declined to respond to the rumor that a soon-to-be-built theater in Galveston was to be equipped to show television broadcasts. 

High temperature on the Monday Bill Langley took that photo was 92 degrees.          


Sources & Notes

Photo by William Langley — titled “Skyline, Dallas, Texas” — is from the collection of the Library of Congress. Langley appears to have been positioned somewhere around the present-day Stemmons Corridor.


Copyright © 2020 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

R. S. Munger’s Cotton Gin Manufactory

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1889-dallas-directory_detElm & Trunk, the early years (detail of an ad from 1889)…

by Paula Bosse

When R. S. Munger moved to Dallas from Mexia around 1885, even he probably had no idea how revolutionary his patented inventions would become to the world of agriculture — he had several patents, but his “improved” cotton gin was hailed as the most significant advance in cotton ginning since Eli Whitney’s original invention. Munger had been producing his equipment for a while in Mexia, but he knew that in order for his company to grow, he would have to move to a larger city, one served by the all-important railroad. He arrived in 1885 and moved into an existing “East Dallas” building owned by the wealthy banker (and former cotton farmer…) William H. Gaston (who later became an officer of the company).

The following article appeared in an 1885 edition of the Dallas Herald. It is bulging with superlatives and grand statements which actually weren’t exaggerations: because of Munger’s relocation to Dallas and his products’ massive success, the city became a national hub of agricultural machinery manufacturing. This had a huge impact on Dallas’ economic development, and the unnamed writer of this article deserves credit for his prescient words. (Click to see larger image.)

munger_to-dallas_dallas-weekly-herald_052885Dallas Weekly Herald, May 28, 1885

Another article describes just what Munger’s “improvements” were and also has a description of his factory — the heart of which was a 25 horsepower engine (a quick Google search tells me that 25hp is the size of a standard outboard motor engine).

Dallas Morning News, Sept. 28, 1886

A very early want-ad:

DMN, July 28, 1886

(You can read about Mr. Munger’s career accomplishments in A History of Greater Dallas, published in 1909, here, and in the Handbook of Texas entry here.)

munger-r-s_find-a-graveR. S. Munger (1854-1923)

Fast-forward to today: the factory which Munger began in Dallas in the 1880s is somehow still standing and is known by most as the Continental Gin Building.

Here are a few very early ads of Munger’s cotton-gin-manufacturing empire, from city directories (the illustrated ads are full-page, which even in 1886 cost a pretty penny).

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1886-dallas-directory_listingDallas city directory, 1886

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1886-dallas-directory_aDallas city directory, 1886

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1886-dallas-directory_bDallas city directory, 1886

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1888-dallas-directory_listingDallas city directory, 1888

munger-improved-cotton-gin_1889-dallas-directoryDallas city directory, 1889


Sources & Notes

Photo of Robert Sylvester Munger from Find-a-Grave.

All other sources noted.

An aerial view of the complex of former Continental Gin Co. buildings can be seen via Google here.

More on the Continental Gin Company can be found in these Flashback Dallas posts:


Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Peak Season at the Farmers Market — 1951

farmers-market_1951_DPLCute tomatoes… (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Some of my favorite summertime memories are wandering around the Farmers Market as a child with my family — back when it was still gritty and still had real farmers and real farm families selling produce actually grown nearby. I loved moving from shed to shed and marveling at everything: the endless baskets of fruits and vegetables, the weather-worn farmers, and a vibrant marketplace comprised of the most diverse crowds I can remember seeing in one place as a child.

This photo — showing Peggy Mayne of Grand Saline selling tomatoes out of the back of her family’s pickup — was taken in 1951, during a summer of fruit and vegetable plentitude. July inventories and sales were breaking records — right before the effects of what would turn into one of the longest and worst-ever droughts in Texas history began to be felt by farmers and consumers.

I miss you, Dallas Farmers Market of yesteryear.


Sources & Notes

Photo from the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library.

More Flashback Dallas posts on the Farmers Market area — which I realize more and more was one the city’s most interesting parts of town — can be found here.

More on the devastating 1950-1957 drought and its impact on everyday life in Dallas can be found in my previous post, “Whither Water? — 1956.”


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


“Delusions of Affability” — Marijuana in 1930s Dallas

marihuana-film_poster“The weed with roots in hell…” (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Today is April 20, also known as the cannabis-friendly “420 Day.” So why not take a look at the early days of marijuana awareness in Big D?

The “marijuana problem” in Dallas didn’t really start to be reported regularly in the pages of The Dallas Morning News until the 1930s, but there were a few stories that showed up in the early 1920s, such as this one about a raid on an opium-den-style house in Little Mexico in 1921 (click for larger image).

marijuana_dmn_041321DMN, April 13, 1921

Heading into the 1930s, the legality of the possessing and selling marijuana was fairly vague. After reading a bit about what was happening in Dallas in regard to “Mexican cigarettes,” I’m still not sure when the possession and selling of marijuana became illegal. The federal, state, and local laws all seemed to be different, and all were constantly in flux. There might even have been conflicting laws on the city and county books. Like I said, confusing. Nevertheless, here are a couple of interesting tidbits from the opening months of 1931 concerning the first charge in Dallas County against a person selling marijuana and the first conviction in Dallas County for a person selling marijuana. (According to the Inflation Calculator, today’s equivalent to the $25-to-$500 fine of 1931 would be, approximately, a $395-to-$7,900 fine.)

A Mexican was placed in the county jail Wednesday after a charge of selling marijuana had been filed against him in County Criminal Court, the first time in history of that body such a charge has been brought against a defendant. […] The Mexican was still ‘smoked up’ when arrested. (DMN, Jan. 29, 1931)

The penalty for selling “Mexican dope weed” was a fine of $25-$500 or a jail sentence of one month to one year.

The first conviction on record in County Criminal Court for selling marijuana, Mexican ‘loco weed,’ was given Thursday when Judge Noland G. Williams sent Manuel Garino to the county jail for thirty days. (DMN, Feb. 6, 1931)

Still, marijuana was considered only a minor annoyance locally — the Asst. D.A. even went so far as to say that there was “little use of the drug in Dallas.”

Actually, throughout the ’30s, a lot of policemen didn’t even know what marijuana plants looked like — one wonders how much marijuana-related activity was going on all around them in plain view? In these early days, when the police did stumble onto large quantities of “loco weed,” it was sometimes merely by accident while investigating something else.

And then, suddenly — around the mid ’30s — marijuana was everywhere. Just in time for the Texas Centennial, when thousands and thousands of potential new customers would be flooding into the city! Enterprising individuals were growing it all over the place — in their yards, in their fields with other crops, and even on a little island called Bois d’Arc Island in the middle of the Trinity River bottoms, a few miles south of Dallas (where 3,000 pounds was seized in July, 1938).

Even though the purchasing, the selling, the use, and the growing of marijuana was going on all over the city — in white, black, and Hispanic neighborhoods — the main areas of enforcement were, unsurprisingly, in Little Mexico and Deep Ellum, areas populated by minority citizens.

Police Sergt. O. P. Wright stopped a 22-year-old Negro languidly puffing a cigarette as he walked in the 400 block of North Central Tuesday.

“What kind of a cigarette is that, boy” inquired the Sergeant.

“Rough cut,” replied the languid one. (“Policeman Sniffs Air, Catches Marijuana Smoker,” DMN, June 22, 1938)

The federal government was attempting to deal with the marijuana problem — by taxing it so highly that it would discourage those participating in the loco weed trade: $100 tax on every ounce! At a time when you could buy a joint for anywhere from a dime to a quarter. Talk about your “sin tax”!

Marijuana/marihuana was generally demonized as a highly addictive drug which caused psychosis and led, inevitably, to all sorts of heinous acts and/or lewd behavior. …Or death. A lot of helpful, cautionary exploitation movies began to appear on Dallas screens, such as Marihuana from 1936 (which, incidentally, had an Oak Cliff child actor — Gloria Brown — in the cast). Below, the pomp and bug-eyed bally-hoo adorning the entrance to the lovely Capitol Theater, beckoning the Elm Street passerby to check out the film. …In order to be well-informed.

George W. Cook Collection, DeGolyer Library, SMU

Aug., 1936

Aug. 1936

marihuana-film_dmn_061639June, 1939 (back by popular demand!)

(The full Marihuana film can be viewed free here, although it’s surprisingly dull.)

Even though most marijuana warnings were dire and filled with exclamation marks, I kind of like this more subdued one: “Smoking of the weed gives the subject delusions of riches, success and affability” (DMN, Dec. 21, 1936).

And there you have it, a little slice of unexpected Dallas historical trivia.


Sources & Notes

A few pertinent articles from the archives of The Dallas Morning News:

  • “Marijuana Smallest Worry of Dallas in Narcotic Violations” (DMN, March 6, 1931)
  • “Uncover Cache of Loco Weed, Lock Up Seven; Police Led to Mexican Dope Trailing Bogus Coin Milling” (DMN, March 30, 1932) — great story about cops who stumbled across marijuana when tracking down counterfeit half-dollar coins (counterfeit 50-cent pieces?!). My favorite part of this story is at the very end: “One of the Mexicans carried twenty-seven of the coins in one of his shoes.” Wow.
  • “Stalk of Marijuana Seven Feet Tall Is Found in Oak Cliff” (DMN, Aug. 7, 1934)
  • “3,000 Pounds of Marijuana Seized By Raiders on River Bottom Farm; Haul Valued at $25,000” (DMN, July 30, 1938)
  • “Marijuana Den With Open Air Resort Raided; 6 Arrested; $100 Worth of Cigarettes Found; Plants in Back Yard Destroyed by Officers” (DMN, June 25, 1936) — “This is the first open-air marijuana den I have ever encountered in all my years of service.”
  • “Policeman Sniffs Air, Catches Marijuana Smoker, Three Others” (DMN, June 22, 1938)

Related Flashback Dallas post: “3800 Main: Fritos Central — 1947,” here


Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Mardi Gras: “Our First Attempt at a Carnival Fete” — 1876

mardi-gras_dhs_1876When cotton was Rex (click for much larger image)

by Paula Bosse

In the 1870s, if a Dallas resident wanted to celebrate the glitzy revelry of Mardi Gras with a parade and balls and didn’t want to travel all the way to New Orleans, the place to go was Galveston. Galveston had a lock on Texas Mardi Gras galas. But Dallas being Dallas, there were soon plans to stage a massive Carnival right here. The day-long celebration debuted on February 24, 1876, which, oddly, was on a Thursday. (Mardi Gras that year was actually on Tuesday, Feb. 29, and it was probably celebrated early in Dallas so as not to interfere with the hey-we-got-here-first celebrations in New Orleans and Galveston.)

It was estimated that the festivities cost the city more than $20,000 (which, if the Inflation Calculator is to be believed, would be the equivalent of almost $450,000 in today’s money). The city was cleaned up in preparation for the anticipated onslaught of visitors and was decorated with flags and bunting along the lengthy parade route of Main, Elm, and Commerce streets. Revelers had elaborate costumes made for the processions and the grand masked balls, some with fabric imported for the occasion from France

mardi-gras_dal-herald_021876Dallas Herald, Feb. 18, 1876 (not 1676!)

The Dallas Herald and The Dallas Commercial were incessant in their whipping up of excitement for the big day. And it worked. People streamed into town from all over Texas. Hotels were packed, and it was estimated that over 20,000 spectators watched one or both of the day’s parades.

The following day, The Dallas Herald apparently devoted their entire front page to coverage of the event, under this wordy headline:

A Day in Dallas, Our First Attempt at a Carnival Fete. The City Aglow with Enthusiasm and Wild with Rollicking Revelry. Visit of King Momus — His Cordial Reception by the People — The Procession in His Honor. The Season of Merry-Making Brought to a Happy Close with Balls and Bouts — Well Done, Dallas!

(Sadly, this issue is not available online, perhaps because there were none found to scan as it sold out more than five editions and was probably the paper’s best-selling edition to-date.)

Dallas’ first Mardi Gras had been an unqualified triumph, and newspaper editors and city leaders were beside themselves with joy. The parade — and the city — had been covered enthusiastically and favorably by newspapers around the country, and the success of the huge celebration was seen as having been better advertising for the exuberant and growing city than could ever have been hoped.

Galveston? Pffft!


A few tidbits from that first Mardi Gras.

There were very few “incidents” reported surrounding the festivities. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of incidents that occurred that day, just that not a lot of them found their way into the newspapers (apparently whiskey was free-flowing all day long, and one suspects there were “incidents” aplenty connected with that). Among the very few non-“jolly” things that happened on Carnival Day and the day following included the following:

  • A small boy had been run over by a carriage (“but not dangerously hurt”)
  • A child and a horse had been burned severely when a can of gasoline was thrown into a bonfire “to increase the flame”
  • A member of the Stonewall Greys who had participated in the noontime parade had fallen whilst “foolishly scuffling” and had “received a slight but painful wound from a bayonet”

Also, there was some sort of “fireball discharged from a rocket” which caused some consternation:

fireball_dal-herald_022676Dallas Herald, Feb. 26, 1876


All residences and businesses along the parade route during the evening procession were “commanded” to be illuminated. Even if gasoline-fueled bonfires were raging along the parade route, the elaborate procession was probably poorly lit.


My favorite “float” was the huge wagon of lumber meant to draw attention to East Texas timber and the thriving lumber industry in Dallas. One report said “the immense moving forest of pine” was drawn by “32 yoke of oxen” — another said “nearly 100 Texan steers.” Whatever it was, that must have been spectacular to see.

oxen-team_dal-herald_022676Dallas Herald, Feb. 26, 1876


The massive amount of publicity and praise that Dallas received quite clearly irked other cities. Austin seemed especially perturbed. There had been a small outbreak of smallpox in McKinney preceding the big day, and several digs at Dallas (like the one below) appeared in newspapers around Texas, accusing the city’s leaders of knowingly endangering the welfare of the entire state just so they could put on their little parade. The exaggerated furor passed fairly quickly, and the het-up schadenfreude expressed by rival cities was amusing.

small-pox_austin-weekly-standard_031676Austin Weekly Standard, Mar. 16, 1876


An invitation issued by the Mystic Revellers:


mardi-gras_mystic-revellers_1876_envelope_memphis-public-libraryColton Greene Collection, Memphis Public Libraries


The photo at the top shows the parade wagons representing the brand new Dallas Cotton Exchange (which seems to have been organized the previous month). As described in The Galveston Daily News, the Cotton Exchange’s offering “represent[ed] King Cotton enthroned on six bales of cotton, with numerous subjects appropriately costumed, and occupying two cars” (Feb. 25, 1876). Below are a couple of magnified details of the photo. I’m not sure, but it looks as if the horse and rider in the foreground are covered with cotton. Like tarring and feathering … but fun … and with cotton. The King of Cotton is surrounded by what look like henchmen. The masked man on the right in the elaborate costume is both cool and kind of creepy. (Click both photos for larger images.)




Sources & Notes

Top photo appeared in the book Historic Photos of Dallas by Michael V. Hazel (Nashville: Turner Publishing Co., 2006); photo from the Dallas Historical Society.

Newspaper clippings as noted.

To read the coverage of Dallas’ Mardi Gras parades and balls —  “a grand pageant and general jollification” — see the front page of The Galveston Daily News (Feb. 25, 1876), here (third column, top of page — zoom controls are on the left side of page).

I wrote a previous post called “Mardi  Gras Parade in Dallas — ca. 1876” which features a photograph which might be from this first Mardi Gras. That post and photo can be seen here.

Happy Mardi Gras!

mully-graw_dal-herald_022476Dallas Herald, Feb. 24, 1876

Photos larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

The Southern Rock Island Plow Company

southern-rock-island-plow_city-directory_1908-det_smFrom plow company to Dallas’ most famous building (click to enlarge)

by Paula Bosse

Behold, the Southern Rock Island Plow Company building. Looks familiar? Perhaps “Texas School Book Depository” is an easier hook to hang your hat on. When Dallas seemed to be farm implement-central, there were numerous plow companies in business here. This is the second Southern Rock Island Plow Co. building — the first one (built in the same location around 1898) burned down when it was struck by lighting. The building that still stands was built in 1903, and it is, without question, the most famous building in Dallas.And it’s probably not that far behind the Alamo.




Sources & Notes

Ad from the 1908 city directory.

Photo from the Building, Plumbing, Gas & Electrical Laws of the City of Dallas (1914).

More on the history of the Dallas branch of the Southern Rock Island Plow Co. can be found here.

For more about what’s going on with the building these days, see the Dallas Morning News article “Dallas County May Move Offices Out of Historic School Book Depository” by Matthew Watkins, here.

For more on the various incarnations of the building (which, by the way, is officially called the County Administration Building and which now houses county offices as well as the Sixth Floor Museum), see my previous post, “The Sexton Foods Building and the Former Life of the School Book Depository,” here.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Dallas News Hustler — 1908

newsboy-horse_dmn_012608_lgErnest d’Ablemont, 13, newspaper carrier aboard his trusty steed, 1908

by Paula Bosse

The photo above appeared in the pages of The Dallas Morning News on Jan. 26, 1908 under the headline “One of the Dallas News Hustlers.” The caption:

Ernest A. d’Ablemont is one of the hustlers selling The Dallas News. He began selling the paper in March, 1905, on Sundays at the age of 11 years. He is now 14, or will reach that age on his birthday, March 16, 1908. Since he began, he has never missed a Sunday, rain or shine, hot or cold. Since his business career began he has clothed himself and has accumulated sufficient money to enable him to make a loan of $150 at 10 per cent.

Quite the business-minded newsboy — the Inflation Calculator estimates that $150 in 1908 would be equivalent to almost $4,000 today! In 1909 — just a year later — he had his own entry in the Worley’s city directory, but he had jumped ship from the News and was working for The Dallas Dispatch.


Ernest d’Ablemont was born in Dallas in 1894 to immigrant parents — his father, Felix, was French, and his mother, Inga, was Norwegian. One wonders what could possibly have enticed a Parisian to come to Dallas, but Felix had been in the city since about 1883, working first in a meat market, then spending most of his life as a produce man. Felix was a “truck farmer” (he grew vegetables to sell locally), and he had a small piece of land off 2nd Avenue in the old Lagow Settlement area, south of Fair Park, about where S. 2nd Ave. intersects with Hatcher. Felix placed this ad in 1903:


“German, Swede, Norwegian or French preferred.”

Ernest followed in the footsteps of his farmer father. After his early entrepreneurial foray into the world of newspaper delivery and a couple of years of service in World War I (which took him overseas where he was assigned to a field hospital and a “sanitary train”), he returned to Dallas and worked the family’s truck farm until he retired. He died in 1954 at the age of 60.


Top image of young Ernest on horseback from The Dallas Morning News, Jan. 26, 1908; photo by Clogenson.

Want-ad from the DMN, Nov. 1, 1903.

WWI “sanitary trains”? I’d never heard the term. Find out what they were and see what one looked like in this GREAT photo from Shorpy, here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


The Runyonesque Pearl Street Market, Full of Colorful Characters and an Army of Rats

bob-taylors-cafe_ebayProduce seller, Pearl Street Market (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Last week I wrote about the produce market area in the neighborhood where the Farmers Market was eventually built, mainly because I had come across the above undated and unidentified photograph. I really wanted to know more about this photo, and the more I read about the area known in the ‘teens through the ’50s as the Pearl Street Market, the more I became fascinated by it.

I love this photo, but, sadly, I never found out who cafe-namesake Bob Taylor was, and I never discovered the identity of the man sitting on the sidewalk with his produce. BUT, I did realize that this produce seller was right across the street from one of the biggest wholesale produce sellers in Dallas, the Hines Produce Company. In fact, the photo below might show my mystery man’s view across the street. Both photos show the intersection of the 2000 block of Canton and the 400 block of South Pearl, the heart of the Pearl Street Market.

hines_canton-pearlHines Wholesale Produce Company, Canton & S. Pearl (click for larger image)

These two scenes look so wholesome — produce peddlers selling their fresh fruits and vegetables, quaint old cars and trucks parked along streets that are still vaguely familiar-looking, and the overall old-fashioned-ness of everything — all presented in nice, sharp, black-and-white photographs that always make me feel a little nostalgic, even though I wasn’t actually around back then and have nothing, really, to be nostalgic about.

But “wholesome” is not a word that would have been associated with the Pearl Street Market. In fact, this was a part of town your mother would probably strongly suggest you not visit. Here are a few of the illicit activities that went on here on a fairly regular basis:

  • Brawls in cafes, often involving weaponized broken beer bottles
  • Shootings
  • Stabbings
  • Pick-pocketing
  • Burglary
  • Robberies (of victims both asleep and awake)
  • Gambling
  • Muggings
  • Drug dealing
  • Arson
  • Hit-and-runs
  • Vehicular homicides
  • Regular homicides
  • Prostitution (I’m just guessing…)
  • Shop-lifting
  • Vagrancy
  • Selling another man’s melons and fleeing with the money
  • The occasional being “severed” by a train
  • Etc.

A typical police blotter story went something like this:

[Miss Esther Lee Bean] told physicians she was attacked by another woman who broke a beer bottle on her head and then used the jagged neck of the bottle as a weapon, cutting her several times on the right arm…. The affray occurred in a cafe in the 400 block of South Pearl. (Dallas Morning News, Dec. 17, 1938)

So … yes, very nostalgic.

Crime was a big problem, but what seems to have been even more upsetting to the people of Dallas was the general squalor of the place. Sanitary conditions were appalling. Rotting fruit and vegetables were thrown in the street, and live chickens were kept in cages, doing things that chickens do (which probably shouldn’t be done that close to things people might eat). And there were NO public toilets in the area — visiting farmers (who often bypassed the flea-bag hotels and slept in their trucks — or even on the sidewalks) routinely used the alleys as “comfort stations.” And then there were the rats. LOTS of rats. A staggering number of rats. Rats absolutely everywhere. Typhus? Not just a rumor. City sanitation crews would come by daily to hose the place down, but there was so much solid matter going down the drains that sewers were frequently clogged. It was, in a word, disgusting.

hotel_pearl_1959_portalA typical hotel near Pearl & Canton, a bit cleaner by the ’50s

For years this part of Dallas, just south of the central business district, had been a place where farmers (and produce brokers) had been selling their fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs, pecans, and whatever else they could haul into town. It was all very informal, and for much of that time it was completely unregulated. This part of town had been the base of the “truck farmers” since at least 1912. Before that, the market was at Pearl and Main, and in the earliest days it was at Ervay and Elm.

In 1914 a city-sanctioned (and presumably regulated) municipal retail market where vendors would sell directly to consumers was proposed, but eventually consumers became irritated that the produce they bought at the municipal market was significantly more expensive than that which could be purchased from the “hucksters” who parked along Pearl Street and roamed residential neighborhoods. The Pearl Street vendors sold primarily to wholesale customers, but over time, they opened up their stalls to the public and did a bustling business with housewives. The wholesale market was hit pretty hard by the 1930s as the number of independent grocers — once the major buyers on Pearl Street — diminished as chain stores took over. Those housewives became more and more important as time went on.

farmers_dmn_071721DMN, July 17, 1921 (click to enlarge)

farmers_dmn_071721a(click for larger image)


farmers_dmn_071721bDMN, July 17, 1921

By the 1920s, the Pearl Street Market was well-established, and it was where one went to buy fresh (and “fresh”) fruits and vegetables. And according to this real estate ad, business was booming:

produce-mkt-dist_dmn_110423(DMN, Nov. 4, 1923)

In 1933, The Dallas Morning News printed a fantastic, full-page, Runyonesque article about the “Pearl Streeters,” written by Eddie Anderson, who interviewed the colorful characters of the area and described the buzzing street life. With tongue only partially in cheek, he wrote: “Chicago has its Water Street. In New York you will find it on Washington. And if you go abroad there is the famous Smithfield Market of London and the vaulted bazars of Constantinople. In Dallas, it is Pearl Street.” Below, a photo that accompanied the story (click for larger image).


Anderson’s story was certainly entertaining, but it mostly glossed over the area’s more unsavory aspects. By 1938, there were louder and louder demands to clean up the neighborhood. Housewives organized and protested the deplorable conditions of the area, echoing points covered in a scathing Morning News editorial in which it was described as “a hazard to the health of the city because of the number of persons who visit it and because 75 per cent of the vegetables and poultry consumed in Dallas pass through that market” (DMN, Aug. 17, 1938).

In the early 1940s, the city finally stepped in and built the fore-runner to the Farmers Market that we know today. By the 1950s, things in the squalor department had settled down a bit, and photos featuring pretty suburban housewives examining the produce and smiling children sampling fresh strawberries.

Nary a rat to be seen.


A street map of the Canton & Pearl area in about 1920, back when Canton Street was still part of an uninterrupted grid. (Note that many of the street names have changed over the years.)



Sources & Notes

Top photo (with Bob Taylor’s Cafe in the background) is from the author’s collection.

Photos of the Hines Produce Co. and the Prestwood (?) Hotel are from the Dallas Municipal Archives’ Dallas Farmers Market / Henry Forschmidt Collection, via the Portal to Texas History. You can browse this great collection here.

Map detail is from the very large “1919 Map and Guide of Dallas & Suburbs” (C. Weichsel Co.), via the Portal to Texas History, here.

The following DMN articles on the Pearl Street Market/Farmers Market are worth a read:

  • “Pearl Street Market in Morning, Dallas’ Most Picturesque and Busiest Place in City” (July 19, 1925)
  • “$1,500 Dope Cache Found Under Pile of Pineapples” (July 15, 1936), a story about a heroin bust with a headline that seems right out of The Weekly World News
  • “Let’s Keep Our Pantry Clean,” editorial by Harry C. Withers (DMN, Aug. 17, 1938)
  • “Dallas: The Old Public Market” by Tom Milligan (Aug. 15, 1966)

And even though I linked to it above, it’s so good and such a fun read that I’m going to mention it again: I highly recommend Eddie Anderson’s “Pearl Street Market As It Sees Itself” (May 14, 1933), here. Edward Anderson was an interesting guy: read about him at the Handbook of Texas here; read about his novels and see photos, here. All these years I’ve had his novel Thieves Like Us on my bookshelf, but I had never gotten around to reading it. Now I have a reason to!

I’ve gathered a pretty entertaining collection of crime reports from the Pearl & Canton neighborhood into one handy document, which can be read in all its seedy glory, here. SERIOUSLY. THIS IS FANTASTIC STUFF!

Most pictures larger when clicked.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


J. M. Howell’s Dallas Nurseries — 1880s

howell_rose-garden-etc_1888The Cedar Springs-Fairmount-Howell triangle

by Paula Bosse

Dallas fruit grower and nurseryman J. M. Howell (1849-1925) was something of a “fruit visionary.” He gave us the “Dallas Blackberry” — something he was quite proud of. He also had dreams of giving Texans more shade.

I am looking forward to the time when Forest and Shade Trees will be planted extensively in the cities and on the prairies of this State, consequently I am giving this class of stock special attention.

Fruit and shade. I can get on board with that. He also issued some very pretty catalogs.






howell-nursery_1888-directory1888 Dallas directory

howell_dallas-nursery_1891-directory1891 Dallas directory


Sources & Notes

Above images are from scans of Howell’s catalogs on the Internet Archive: the entire 1887-88 catalog is here; the 1888-89 catalog is here. Included in these catalogs are descriptions of Howell’s inventory and his planting instructions to get the best yields from Dallas’ soil and climate.

I LOVE the top image. This area — called “Howell’s Addition” — was at the northern edge of the city limits at the time. In March of 1891 the street name “Peak” was changed to “Fairmount” at Howell’s behest. In fact, Howell named the following streets: Fairmount, Maple, Routh (after his in-laws), and Howell. (His uncle was the namesake of nearby Thomas Avenue.) Below is a map showing the area around 1890 — there seems to be a lot of development around him. The rose gardens and orchards may be gone, but at least he got a street named after him.

howell-map-1898Map ca. 1891, confusingly rotated to show same view as top image.

That triangular plot of land is still there (it was the location of the old Casa Dominguez restaurant for many years). Sadly, it’s not much of a scenic vista these days. Uptown could do with a few more orchards and a lot less of everything else.

Howell was a guy who got around. Among other things, he is credited with introducing the magnolia tree to Dallas. Also, he was particular to peaches, and he planted acres and acres and acres of peach trees in Parker County, hoping they’d be a big cash-crop one day — and he was right! For more on Howell, see the Dallas Morning News article “Nurseryman Named Routh Street,” a great “Dallas Yesterday” profile by the always informative Sam Acheson (DMN, Dec. 14, 1970).


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Dallas Steam Mills at the Cedar Spring — 1855

by Paula Bosse

DALLAS STEAM MILLS, at The Cedar Spring, Dallas Co.

These Mills are situate at the main Cedar Springs, 2 1/2 miles North from Dallas, and are now in successful operation, and will be able to furnish Flour in quantities to suit purchasers on short notice, corn ground for the fifth. A store is also situated convenient to the Mill, under the charge of W. K. MASTEN, who will sell goods on as favorable terms prices as are given in Dallas. Wheat bought for our store in Dallas, and at the Cedar Spring store.

–GOLD, & DONALDSON. Dallas, Texas , April 7, 1855


In 1843, a trading post was established just outside the city of Dallas at the new settlement of Cedar Springs. There were few settlers at the time, so items traded were pretty much limited to only the essentials (groceries, ammo, buffalo hides). By 1850, though, sexier luxury goods like “hoopskirts, silk stockings, bridal bouquets, Bibles, accordions, Mustang liniment, snake-root and castor oil were listed in the inventory of a deceased merchant. This advance in merchandising may be attributed to the establishment by that time of a gristmill to which farmers from many miles around brought their grain. Naturally they visited the stores to trade” (WPA Dallas Guide and History). The Dallas Steam Mills was one of the first commercial mills in “the Cedar Spring,” and as it was affiliated with successful early Dallas retailers Gold and Donaldson, it must have also been one of the most profitable.

The community grew quickly. Until 1850. That was when Dallas County residents went to the polls and voted on which of the local communities would be the county seat. The choices were: the city of Dallas, Cedar Springs, and the ever-popular Hord’s Ridge. Cedar Springs came in dead last. The agony of defeat must have hit hard — the loss seems to have dampened civic enthusiasm and contributed to stagnant growth. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that the area — by then called Oak Lawn — had rebounded with a boom in population. By the 1940s, though, the area had been officially annexed by the city of Dallas. Oak Lawn (né Cedar Springs) had, at least, managed to hold onto a shred of independence a few decades longer than its former opponent had — Hord’s Ridge had changed its name to Oak Cliff, but it, too, had been swallowed up by the voracious, mammoth city surrounding it. No hard feelings, guys. You can run but you can’t hide. Resistance has always been futile. We’re all just one big happy kudzu-like sprawling sprawl now.


Below is an interesting account of traveling through Cedar Springs in 1852.


Dallas Steam Mills ad from the Dallas Herald, 1855.

Quote mentioning accordions and hoopskirts from The WPA Dallas Guide and History (Dallas Public Library Texas Center for the Book, University of North Texas Press, 1992). p.124

The account of passing though Cedar Springs, by Charles DeMorse, is the lead story in the July 17, 1852 issue of Clarksville’s Northern Standard newspaper; it can be found here  on UNT’s invaluable Portal to Texas History site; from the collection of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

A biography of Charles DeMorse, writer and editor of Clarksville’s Northern Standard can be found here.

The Handbook of Texas History entry for Cedar Springs is here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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