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Block and Addition Books
Dallas County 1880-1920

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About Murphy & Bolanz Technical Aspects

About Murphy & Bolanz

In 1874, John P. Murphy established a real estate development firm and started doing plats of every neighborhood addition in Dallas County. Charles F. Bolanz joined the firm in 1884, and together they produced a set of maps that are incredibly detailed and provide information that cannot be found anywhere else. The Murphy & Bolanz Company became the official mapmaker for the City of Dallas. In an ad placed in the 1914 Texas Almanac, they stated that they have been involved in nearly every land deal in Dallas County. They also claimed to have the most complete set of block books for Dallas County. The result of their efforts was a set of maps of each block in Dallas and of some of the surrounding suburban towns, including original townsite maps of most towns and communities in Dallas County. The Dallas Public Library owns 10 volumes of the Murphy & Bolanz addition and block books containing detailed maps of Dallas and its surrounding suburbs from the 1880s to the 1920s and an index.

These maps contain layouts for neighborhoods that are on the National Register, as well as sites of early school houses, street car lines, businesses and parks. Numerous features including streets, creeks (even those since turned into storm sewers), and railroad crossings and lines are shown. African-American, Jewish, and Catholic cemeteries are depicted on the maps, as well as larger cemeteries where many early Dallasites were buried.

The maps also show early property ownership with details about transfer of title for many of the lots (noted in pencil) and document the origin of many place names. Every block in Dallas County is laid out and most include the name and date of the person or company who purchased the property from the original owner. In addition to block-by-block descriptions of official City of Dallas blocks, the block books include important early surveys such as the John Neely Bryan survey in what is now downtown Dallas. The sites of early Dallas businesses, such as Neiman Marcus, Sanger Brothers, and the Adolphus Hotel, can be located. The location of railroad lines and crossings are shown throughout the collection, and a detailed layout of Union Depot is included.

The volumes also show the layout of the City of Dallas before the implementation of the Ulrickson plan. Compiled by a committee headed by Charles E. Ulrickson, the Ulrickson plan was a nine-year capital budget program calling for the issuance of $23,900,000 in bonds to finance a variety of public works projects. The bond program passed in December 1927 and in the coming years it would bring about dramatic changes in Dallas.

The maps hold enormous research potential for users throughout the state of Texas and the United States. The maps have provided important assistance to those researching the site of the Freedman's Cemetery Project and the surrounding neighborhoods. Family history researchers and genealogists can trace their roots through land ownership data noted on the maps. The block books are particularly valuable to legal researchers because of the references to legal documents on the maps and the assistance they provide in tracing land ownership. The numerous references to land features that are not found in any other source are important to environmental site assessors. Historic groups and preservationists will find old cemeteries, parks, and landmarks, and they can trace property ownership. Some of the sheets contain information about the type of structure on the property, the building materials used and the dimensions of the structure. Historians researching urban issues and city planners will find the collection an indispensable source of information regarding the layout of a city on the verge of tremendous growth. Educators and students can use the maps and information they contain as teaching aids and for research assignments.

About Murphy & BolanzTechnical Aspects

Technical Aspects
(or, What We Did and Why We Did It)

When the Dallas Public Library acquired this collection, the ten bound volumes were in poor shape. The index volume was in pieces and completely unusable. The nine map volumes were not much better, with cracked or broken bindings, loose, torn, wrinkled, and/or missing pages, high acidity, and red rot. As these volumes contained beautiful and detailed maps of Dallas and property information not found anywhere else, we needed to make the maps available in some manner. We developed a three-year plan to preserve and digitize the map volumes and transcribe the index. We applied for and received a TexTreasures grant from the Texas State Library & Archives Commission (funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services) to preserve and digitize the three addition books and transcribe the index. We are seeking funding sources to continue the project.

Our initial efforts centered on stopping (or at least slowing) the degradation of the maps. We treated the volumes with Bookkeeper spray (each page was sprayed individually) to add an alkaline buffer. The volumes were then disbound and the leaves carefully separated into individual sheets. These sheets were then encapsulated in 3-mil polyester film, leaving a 1 to 1 1/2 inch inner margin. These sheets were rebound in custom post binding archival albums (made by Henry Nuss Bookbinder, Inc., who also bound the original volumes).

After encapsulation, the maps were scanned. For our imaging workstation, we had the following setup:

  • Dell Precision 530
    • 1.5 GHz Intel Xeon processor
    • 1 GB RAM
    • (2) 37.2 GB Hard drives
    • CD-RW
    • Dual 19" monitor display
  • Microtek Artix Scan 2020
  • Windows 2000
  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0
  • DjVu Workgroup 3.0, with Editor

Using PhotoShop, the maps were scanned at 400 dpi. We found that the polyester film served as a filter (of sorts) in the scanning process. The film lessened the harshness of the yellowing in the image and made it easier to read the pencil notations, which was one of our goals in this project. The images were adjusted for contrast to make the pencil notations easier to read. The "Auto Contrast" feature in Photoshop was used for the initial contrast change. Then, the Brightness/Contrast settings were adjusted manually to: Brightness = -8 and Contrast = +25. Digital watermarks were added and the images were saved as uncompressed TIFF files. A file naming structure based on the book and page number was employed in the naming of the images.

For the Block Book maps, which were larger than our scanner, we employed a local reprographics firm to image the maps. They used an oversize scanner to create 300 dpi color scans of the block maps, scanning approximately 25 maps per day. The scans were returned to the library on CDs, and the images were then uploaded to our server for processing.

The images were then converted to the DjVu format, an image file format created by LizardTech, Inc. The conversion process resulted in an average of 75:1 compression, allowing the derivative images to be served over the Internet much easier. The conversion was usually done as a batch process. The master TIFF images then were burned to CD-R for storage.

Once the derivative images were created, the maps were edited and prepared for the web site. Each map was indexed for street names, personal names, and various geographic and man-made features such as creeks, railroads, and buildings. This information became part of the Meta tagging for each web page. Also, using DjVu Editor, we were able to embed hyperlinks within the images. As these maps were working documents of the Murphy & Bolanz Company, most of the maps contain cross-references to other maps. The DjVu software allows us to provide dynamic links to these other pages without changing the appearance of the map. This makes the final product more interactive than would be possible with other formats.

After the image was edited, it was tagged for the Internet using a xHTML template. A final check of image quality and editing was performed before considering the process completed. As each volume was finished, the HTML and corresponding image files were transferred to the Library's web server. Eventually, all nine map volumes were imaged in this manner and made available through this site.

While the images were being processed, the index volume was transcribed into a Microsoft Access database. This index database was used to produce the indexbook feature of the web site. From Access, we generated alphabetical reports that were saved as HTML tables. These tables were then edited and pasted into a xHTML template.

All the web pages were hand-tagged using a "lite" version of xHTML 1.0. We chose xHTML 1.0 as it makes a good bridge between the existing HTML "standard" and the emerging use of XML, or eXtensible Markup Language. (And, many thanks to those organizations that have published their xHTML style guides, particularly the New York Public Library). Hopefully, as browser technology changes, our pages will still be readable.

About Murphy & Bolanz Technical Aspects

Dallas History & Archives, Dallas Public Library