What El Paso, Texas, looked like at the Turn of the 20th Century

El Paso began to shed its frontier image at the turn of the 20th century, becoming a major industrial, commercial, and transportation center. In 1900, the city’s population was 15,906; by 1910, it had grown to 39,279, and by 1925, it had grown to 77,560. The cosmopolitan community established many educational and cultural institutions, including the oldest symphony orchestra in Texas. Jesuit priests built a network of parishes and schools in the El Paso Valley over the 1880s and 1910s with the help of the American Catholic hierarchy. They laid the foundations for Pius X’s El Paso Diocese in 1914. One of the most prominent Jesuits in El Paso was Father Carlos Pinto (1841–1919), known as “the apostle of El Paso” for his work among Mexicans.

In 1909, William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz organized a summit in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. It was the first time a Mexican president crossed the border into the United States, and a U.S. president met with a Mexican president. Texas Rangers, 4,000 U.S. and Mexican troops, FBI agents, Secret Service agents, and U.S. marshals were brought in as tensions rose across the border, including assassination threats. Among other things, John Hays Hammond owns significant investments in Mexico. In 1908, he ran for vice president against Taft, a close friend from Yale. Burnham headed a 250-strong private security detail hired by Hammond. On October 16, the day of the summit, Burnham and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered a man carrying a concealed palm pistol along the procession route. Burnham and Moore captured, disarmed, and arrested the assassin within feet of Taft and Diaz. An overwhelming number of Americans lived in the city by 1910, creating a settled environment. Still, this period was short-lived as the Mexican Revolution brought refugees–and capital–to the bustling boom town.

Here are some fascinating historical photos of El Paso, Texas, in the 1900s.

#1 Group shot of many African American members of the United States Infantry, outside and among tents, buildings, and equipment, at the International Bridge in El Paso, 1900s

#3 Newly designed canal structure in Franklin Canal, El Paso Valley, 1900s

#4 Store Front for Sears, Roebuck and Co in El Paso, Texas, 1900s

#6 The studio at the 16th Infantry Camp, El Paso, Texas, 1900s

#7 Mexican Quarter of El Paso, 1900s

Mexican Quarter of El Paso, 1900s

(Original Caption) Looking north from the International Bridge showing the Mexican quarter.

#8 Trams travelling down Oregon Street, El Paso, Texas, 1909

#9 Trams travelling down San Antonio Street, El Paso, Texas, 1909

#11 The Federal Building and Hotel Sheldon from across the park in downtown El Paso, Texas, 1902.

#13 El Paso – The Day The Circus Came To Town, 1900s

#15 Mexican church at the smelter, El Paso, Texas, 1907

#16 Mexican adobe house, Mt. Franklin in distance, El Paso, Texas,1907

#19 Corner building, Morse the Popular Price Tailor, 1900s

#46 Bennett House in El Paso, 1906

Bennett House in El Paso, 1906

There are columns beneath an entrance that protrudes from the building, a balcony to the left, windows, and a roof that extends farther out.

#51 The front and right side of the Carnegie Library in El Paso, 1904. The building has four large ionic columns with a star engraving above them. Trees and bushes can be seen on the landscaping.

#52 The Carnegie Library in El Paso, Texas, 1904

The Carnegie Library in El Paso, Texas, 1904

The library has an extension to the right, and tall columns in front of the entrance with a star and "Free Public Library" engraved above the columns. Landscaping can be seen with a large tree.

#59 Nesom House in El Paso, 1903

Nesom House in El Paso, 1903

It has trees in front of the building along the sidewalk. The building itself has two small columns in an open space within the outside wall. The roof has a decorative curved design and a rhombus shaped hole in the wall.

#60 Nesom House Interior, 1903

Nesom House Interior, 1903

Support beams hold up the ceiling, from which hangs metal and glass light fixture. The room contains chairs, a table, cabinets, a window, a fireplace, carpet, and a curtain.

#61 Oregon Street, El Paso, Texas, 1900

Oregon Street, El Paso, Texas, 1900

People seen walking across the street in the foreground are slightly blurred, and text can be seen directly on the photo that reads, "Oregon Street El Paso, Texas 7". A handwritten note on the back labels the building in the center as the Federal Building.

#63 El Paso Military Institute Main Dormitory, 1909

El Paso Military Institute Main Dormitory, 1909

There are three stories, with the lowest story being lower than ground level, and many vertical windows along the front. The building has an arched entrance, and the forefront of the photo has landscaping

#64 El Paso Public Library: North Side – Second Floor, 1904

#65 A street in El Paso with various stores seen on the side to the left and a sign for the “Herald” seen in the background, 1900s

#68 View of El Paso, looking North from International Bridge showing Mexican quarters, 1909

#69 Franklin Canal, El Paso: Completing reconstruction of settling basin and concrete lining, 1907

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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