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The University of Texas’ archive of more than 8,000 Texas border photographs by Robert Runyon from the early 1900s constitutes one of the most remarkable visual histories imaginable: Runyan (1881-1968) was a commercial photographer in Brownsville, Texas who tirelessly shot Masonic parades, bull fights, prize-winning cabbages, executions, grapefruit (and rattlesnake) farms, impatient iguanas, and the local militia in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Northeastern Mexico. When the Mexican Revolution reached the Texas border in 1913, Runyan was ready with his camera, and made invaluable photographs of military operations and soldiers’ camp life alike. “As with popular subjects such as bullfights and Mexican Revolution casualties,” reads his bio, “Runyon sold many of his Fort Brown views as postcards to the soldiers and to Valley residents and tourists.” After the Revolution, Runyan flourished as a studio photographer, and eventually turned his interests to botany (which is evidenced in his photographs of native plants) and an unsuccessful run at the Texas House of Representatives before his death in Brownsville at the age of 87.

The digital archive contains thousands of photographs, which are helpfully divided into categories such as Aeronautical accidents (Texas), Executions (Mexico), Sports (Texas), Birds’ Eggs and Nests (Texas), Funeral Rites and Processions (Brownsville), Pancho Villa, Women Soldiers (Mexico), and Fairs (Texas). Happy hunting.

Robert Runyon, “Copy Photo: The grave of a federal officer executed in Juarez”

Robert Runyon, “Armadillo”

Robert Runyon, “Abel Garcia and wife”

Robert Runyon, “Landscape around Point Isabel Railroad”

Robert Runyon, “Rio Grande Snake Farm, Joe Guerrero”

Robert Runyon, “Agricultural fair, display of heads of cabbage”

Robert Runyon, “Oil well near Loma Alta, February 24, 1920”

Robert Runyon, “Copy Photo: Hanged man, February 13, 1912”

One Comment

  1. I’m really digging your historical photography posts like this one and the one about stereographs. This one’s timely as I’m reading “Theodore Rex” and just read a passage about the “Brownsville Raid”, which is roughly contemporary to when Runyon was shooting (film!) in the area.

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