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Taming the Land

The Lost Postcard Photographs of the Texas High Plains

By John Miller Morris

Publication Year: 2009

A postcard craze gripped the nation from 1905 to 1920, as the rise of outdoor photography coincided with a wave of settlement and prosperity in Texas. Hundreds of people took up cameras, and photographers of note chose some of their best work for duplication as photo postcards—sold for a nickel and mailed for a penny to distant friends and relatives.   These postcards, which now enjoy another kind of craze in the collecting world, left what author John Miller Morris calls a "significant visual legacy" of the history and social geography of Texas. For more than a decade, Morris has been finding and studying the photographers and methodically gathering their postcards. In Taming the Land, he shares those finds with readers, introducing each photographer and providing interpretive descriptions of the places, people, or events depicted in the photographs. The stories the cards tell—in the images captured and the messages carried—add an exceptional dimension to our understanding of life in rural Texas a century ago.   Taming the Land presents postcards from twenty-four counties in the booming Texas Panhandle. This is the first book in a set called Plains of Light, which will collect and document turn-of-the-twentieth-century photo postcards from all over West Texas.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Clayton Wheat Williams Texas Life Series


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. x-xiii

Akibbutznik once showed me the caves in Israel where Bedouin boys had found the Dead Sea scrolls. The caves were nondescript, high above the Dead Sea, and more like small caches than caves. But the parchments therein, packed carefully in clay jars, carried priceless wisdom and authentic voices of the past. I too have found...

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The Light of the Texas Panhandle

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pp. 1-12

A hundred years ago a huge wave of settlement and prosperity poured into the Texas Panhandle. It reflected an age of global migration wherein settlers moved onto the Pampas, the Veldt, the Canterbury Plain, and even the once-forbidding High Plains of Texas. More than a hundred thousand optimists...

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Photographers of the Panhandle Plains

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pp. 13-14

The following tables correspond to the three geographical areas of the Panhandle Plains discussed in the book: Trans-Canadian Country, Red River Forks, and Central Golden Spread. The region includes the following twenty-four counties: Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Castro...

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The Trans-Canadian Country

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pp. 15-96

Winding and carving its scenic way two hundred miles across the Texas Panhandle, the Canadian River dramatically divides the northern and southern tablelands of the Texas Panhandle. The first Anglo settlers adored the Canadian River and its scenic valley. Ranchers lived in the valley and sent their animals...

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The Red River Forks Country

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pp. 97-160

In the pioneer era the eastern Panhandle was dominated by the three forks of the mighty Red River. The first settlers clustered in the valleys of the North Fork, the Salt Fork, and the Prairie Dog Town Fork, where the waters were good. Towns like Clarendon and Mobeetie were prominent in the 1880s. The Forks country received more rainfall, which pleased...

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The Central Golden Spread

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pp. 161-203

By the close of the nineteenth century, the vast and level plains south of Amarillo had been modified by the hand of ranchers and the mouth of domesticated beasts. The keystone species, bison, had been gone for a generation. Barbed wire fences now enclosed large herds of cattle cropping shortgrass plains and watering at...

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The End of the Trail

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pp. 204-206

The Panhandle truly had an economic miracle after 1900. She converted from ranch to farm country within a decade. Her clannish Anglo-Southerners, with their twangy speech patterns and pioneer folkways, were diluted with tens of thousands of midwesterners, especially at the height of the excursion sales by the Iowa land companies. A melding of these regional cultures laid the foundation...

A Note on Sources

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pp. 207-210

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 211-214


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pp. 215-220

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443678
E-ISBN-10: 1603443673
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440370
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440372

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 171 color photos. 4 color maps. 1 table.
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Clayton Wheat Williams Texas Life Series
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OCLC Number: 715188366
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Taming the Land

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Texas Panhandle (Tex.) -- Pictorial works.
  • Real photo postcards -- Texas -- Panhandle -- History -- 20th century.
  • Photographers -- Texas -- Panhandle -- Biography.
  • Photographers -- Texas -- Panhandle -- Correspondence.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Texas -- Panhandle.
  • Texas, West -- Pictorial works.
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