From Commerce to History
Robert Runyon's Postcards of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Brownsville 1910-1926
As of March 6, 1911, he had a standing order of over ten thousand of these cards for his employer. From December 17, 1910, to November 11, 1911, Runyon's records show receipt of 37,500 postcards from Tom Jones.
In March 1911 Tom Jones wrote to Runyon, "I should judge that things are getting pretty warm in your neighborhood. If the soldier boys get to Brownsville, you will surely need Souvenir [sic] Cards and so forth. Get their money." This he would soon do, but with cards he printed himself and color cards of his images mass
produced by Curt Teich and Company of Chicago, rather than those ordered from his first supplier. In the meantime, he began wholesaling his cards to outlets other than his employer. He also solicited assignments and orders from private clients, mainly land developers. On July 9, 1911, the Melado Land Company of Houston asked him to take pictures for them to use in their Rio Grande Valley Magazine. The officers of the company found his work much to their liking. They purchased nine of the twelve pictures he sent and inquired if he had more
pictures of Valley crops, palm groves, Mexican scenes, and fruit trees. They later hired him to take pictures of every house and "everything that could be used in an advertising way” in their Monte Cristo development, as well as “a picture of the cabbages between Mission and Monte Cristo". In October of the same year, Gulf Coast Magazine of Corpus Christi responded to Runyon's sales pitch by suggesting that they swap advertising space for pictures.
In January 1912, Runyon made his new career official by resigning as manager for Gulf Coast News and Hotel Company and began to operate out of a house, selling postcards and processing film. He and Amelia Leonor Medrano Longoria, sister in law of a soon to be Mexican Constitutionalist commander serving under Gen. Lucio Blanco, were married in 1913. As predicted by Tom Jones, the heightening of tensions along the Texas Mexican border gave Runyon an opportunity to expand his business. His ties to Blanco permitted him to get exclusive pictures of events on the Mexican side of the border and in northern Mexico. He sold them to newspapers and later to the increasing number of U.S. troops at Fort Brown.
Hand-tinted postcard of Ft. Brown soldiers posing with machine guns and horses.
Circa 1910-1920. [Robert Runyon Photograph Collection; run_12610]