SFA Story: The History of Stephen F. Austin State University

The SFA Campus

Stephen Fuller Austin, Map of Texas, 1836
. . . (Philadelphia, 1836)

Austin's Map of Texas 1836
Courtesy: Texas State Archive. Stephen F. Austin's map of Texas with Parts of Adjoining States in 1836. Click the map for the fullsize image.

While trying to secure confirmations for his father’s colony, Stephen F. Austin spent many months in Mexico. In every document, Austin stressed the urgent necessity for compiling a good map of Texas, a task he pledged to undertake upon the confirmation of his grant. After his grant received approval, he spent the next six years gathering information. Through his own travel observations and the reports of others, he prepared numerous sketches, plats, and preliminary drafts. In 1829 he sent the completed manuscript draft to the prominent Philadelphia publisher, H. S. Tanner. He dispatched a Spanish copy to the Mexican government, fulfilling his long-standing promise.

Tanner carefully engraved the plate for the map and issued it in March 1830. It was immediately in high demand, and Tanner reissued it four times before the end of the decade. It was without question the most accurate depiction of the area to date, and it served as a model for many subsequent productions. The map recorded the old settlements of San Antonio, Nacogdoches, Goliad, and the roads connecting them, and it also portrayed for the first time on a printed map the new town of San Felipe de Austin, Harrisburg, Brazoria, Matagorda, Victoria, and Gonzalez. Austin set down the rivers accurately and in great detail, and the rendition of the coast significantly improved previously published attempts. The map points out locations of Indian tribes, immense herds of buffalo,” and “immense droves of wild horses,” as well as labeling prominent ridges and the cross timbers.

While Austin talked about the map in terms of making the details of his beloved Texas known to the Mexicans, he obviously intended the map as an education for Texans. He wanted them to have an intelligent and concrete means of visualizing their own territory.

The map has the Mexican seal in the lower right hand corner, indicating that it was published under their sovereignty. The 1836 edition of the map presented here was undergoing re-issuance at the time the battles for Texas independence were raging. After the Battle of San Jacinto, Austin wrote to the publisher in Philadelphia and had the date April 21, 1836, imprinted on the map where the Mexicans surrendered.

There is a copy of this map in the SFASU President's Office (Limited Copy Engraving: 74x60 cm (29x23.6 in.) The original of the map framed there is located in the Southern Methodist University Archive. Governor William Clements, former Chairman of the SMU Board of Regents, had the limited edition facsimiles made as part of the 1979 inauguration gifts for his major supporters. The SMU Library protested the copying of the map in the limited edition, but they were unable to stop the printing. The map is definitely a collector’s item.

Southern Methodist University Libraries Catalogue Information:

Main Author: Austin, Stephen F. (Stephen Fuller), 1793-1836.
Title: Map of Texas with parts of the adjoining states [map] / compiled by Stephen F. Austin.
Published: Philadelphia : Henry S. Tanner, 1836, (c1835).
Description: Map; 1 map : col. ; 74 x 60 cm. fold. to 16 cm.
Subject Headings: Land grants-Texas. Texas --Maps.
Location:DeGolyer Library, Vault, Non-circulating
[See also: James C. Martin, Maps of Texas and the Southwest, 1513-1900. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1984.]

Texas State Archive: Austin's map can be seen at the Texas State Archive website, where an image of another original copy can be studied or downloaded: Map Number 0409c

Description: Covers most of Texas and parts of the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila. Shows rivers, colonies, land grants, towns, forts--including the Alamo and the Mexican Garrison on the Brazos, missions, routes and trails--including the Old San Antonio Road, silver mines, Indian tribes and villages, and herds of wild horses and game. There are notes on topographic features and on the number of families settled in the various grants and colonies. Maps 409a and 7583 are earlier editions, maps 409b and 424 are later editions.