Connecticut-born Frederick Law Olmsted is best known for his design of New York's Central Park. But his writings on the slaveholding South, including Texas, garnered critical acclaim in the 1850s for their detailed descriptions and keen social commentary. The New York Times sent Olmsted to the South to record his observations. On his second trip, he and his brother John arrived in Texas on Christmas Day, 1853.

The brothers traveled two thousand miles on horseback through the state. Their journey took them through the East Texas swamps, the coastal plains, and cities such as Austin and Houston. Olmsted recorded local slang, the prices of various commodities, and what he called the "bewildering beauty" of the landscape. He also described the cruelty and economic inefficiency of slavery. More»

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Frederick Law Olmsted, 1893. Engraved by T. Johnson from a photograph by James Notman. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.