Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Panther City March ~ Decoding Fort Worth History Step By Step

A couple of years ago at the Will Rogers Flea Market  I picked up a copy of the Panther City March sheet music published in 1914 by "Tot" Echols. It had a nice birds-eye view of Fort Worth across the top, but I really didn't pay too much attention to it. A few weeks ago I uploaded an image of the front page to the Jack White history group. This is an ad hoc group of about 80+ local historians who contribute to Jack White's monumental project to document historical Fort Worth in pictures.  I thought that the image might interest a few people.  Little did I know..

Click to enlarge image
Jack, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the location and history of almost every street & major building in the history of Fort Worth, first commented on the unusual angle that the city picture had been taken from, pin-pointing the likely spot as from the old Brewery building on Jones Street. And also that the the picture seemed to be earlier than 1914 because some buildings of the date were not in the picture.

Click to enlarge image
Comments started coming in. There was discussion of just who "Tot" Echols was.  Immediately someone found the census reports and another found a picture of his gravestone at Rose Hill cemetery.

Click to enlarge image
There was considerable discussion about the possible existence of a single, tall, guyed "radio" tower either on or behind the Westbrook Hotel just right of  center in the picture. Radio as we know it,  really hadn't gotten started in the pre-1914 era.  But the hi-res images showed the tower really was there and probably on top of the hotel.

Click to enlarge image
By this time, Jack had announced that there was enough interest in this subject that he would do at least one page on it to add to the "Way We Were" website.  About the same time, another member of the group came up with the answer which also helped in dating the picture as around 1910-11: The Westbrook Hotel had installed a "wireless telegraphy" system for their customers convenience and this was the transmitting tower.

Click to enlarge image
Over the next few days the group kicked around the seemingly odd locations of some buildings, omissions and general questions about the arrangement of the downtown area in this 1910-1914 era.  There was some confusion among those of us that really weren't as conversant with this period as others.

Click to enlarge image
Finally, Jack took all the information and published a modified version of one of the regular pages that showed with exceptional clarity the streets and major buildings and other features. It is an amazing bit of work, because it just appeared overnight, without warning. It provides a solid guide for future research.

Most of the puzzles were solved. Questions answered. And now there are a few more well documented answers to the endless questions about Fort Worth History...

Panther City March images from The Electric Books Collection
The Way We Were images from the Jack White Collection

No comments:

Post a Comment