Other Views of Honey Grove

Other Views from 1891

Where is Honey Grove?

Above: Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842–1922). Honey Grove, Texas. 1891, 1891. Graphite, blue pencil, and wash on paper, 15 by 24 in. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth.

Honey Grove in 1891

Fowler included Honey Grove in his 1891 tour of North Texas and produced an elaborate drawing of the city, highlighted with blue pencil and wash, but there is no record that it was ever lithographed. Perhaps the economic situation had worsened for Honey Grove merchants and farmers since Henry Wellge’s 1886 visit; or perhaps they believed that Wellge’s handsome lithograph had not paid sufficient dividends and were unwilling to support another one.

The economic situation for farmers did worsen nationally during the decade of the 1890s. Railroads involved farmers in the national and international market but at the same time put them in competition with each other. As cotton production soared, prices dropped. Only a fraction of farm produce was intended for family consumption, and every effort was made to increase the output of the major cash crop, cotton. Farm critics all over the state touted the importance of diversification and decried dependence on one crop. The economy had converted from barter to cash, and the fate of the farmer—and of the state—depended on the price of cotton, which fell steadily throughout the 1890s.[1]

Another possible reason for the lack of support for making the drawing into a lithograph could have been that Honey Grove residents did not like the lower perspective of his view, versus the clarity of Wellge’s effort in 1886. By comparison to Wellge’s crisp India ink drawings, Fowler’s pencil drawing might have seemed a jumbled mass, not adequately delineating individual residences, stores, and factories. Fowler seems to have made much more use of wash in this drawing, compared to his drawings of Quanah and Sunset. Nor did he emphasize the railroads—and a new one, the Santa Fe, had arrived in Honey Grove since Wellge’s visit—placing them in the left-hand margin and distant horizon of the drawing. Fowler depicted the city from the northeast looking southwest, opposite from the point of view that Wellge had taken. Smokestacks puff in the distance, and the public square seems full of wagons, but the foreground appears almost pastoral—the village in the garden—as compared with the factory smoke and busy railroad that Wellge had placed in the foreground of his print. Historian John Reps, who has studied bird’s-eye views extensively, concluded that Fowler was the most prolific of all the view makers in the country and that perhaps his clients “asked for nothing more than a clear and accurate portrait of the towns in which they lived,” but it is possible that his “spare” and “mechanical” style did not produce a convincing portrait for the citizens of Honey Grove.[2]