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The History Of Early Texas Photography (From 1840s-1900)

Texas Matters: Dive into the hidden history of early Texas photographs with Lawrence T. Jones, III, whose new book "Lens on the Texas Frontier" presents a stunning look at life in early Texas.

The photograph collection of Lawrence T. Jones, III, is Texas history as you’ve never seen it before.

It may be surprising to most people that there is a strong photographic record of the history of Texas. There wasn’t a photojournalist at the battle of the Alamo, but it wasn’t too long afterward that photography was invented and cameras were carried into the wild West.

Lawrence T. Jones has collected these original historic images for 40 years and is perhaps the nation’s premier expert on early Texas photographs.

His collection for the first time has been compiled into a book containing the rare images along with explaining text.

The book is "Lens on the Texas Frontier" and it is published by Texas A&M Press.    

"Old photographs are often just used to illustrate text in history books without much detail about the photograph itself and often photographs contain all kinds of evidence, internal evidence that is quite useful as a research tool. One of my goals is to get people more interested -- especially scholars and researchers -- in studying photographs, really looking at photographs. A lot of people will see photographs but they don't really look at them and study them. And you can learn a lot; not with every photograph but you can learn quite a lot. They all have a little story."

Earliest photograph in the book: First Lieutenant William Hardeman of the Texas Mounted Volunteers (1846)

Credit Jones Collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University
Earliest photo in the book is of First Lieutenant William Polk Hardeman that was taken in 1846.

View more photos from the book online via the SMU digital collection of the Jones photographs at: digitalcollections.smu.edu/all/cul/jtx/

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi