1892 Tallapoosa, Ga. Haralson Co. Looking Northwest. George E. Norris, del.
1892 Tallapoosa, Ga. Haralson Co. Looking Northwest.
1892 Tallapoosa, Ga. Haralson Co. Looking Northwest.
1892 Tallapoosa, Ga. Haralson Co. Looking Northwest.
1892 Tallapoosa, Ga. Haralson Co. Looking Northwest.

1892 Tallapoosa, Ga. Haralson Co. Looking Northwest.

Brockton, Mass.: George E. Norris, printed by Burleigh Litho. Co., Troy, New York, 1892. Lithograph 52 x 79 cm, plus margins.

A scarce bird’s eye view of Tallapoosa, Georgia, published at the peak of the city’s investment boom while the chief developer was being exposed for massive fraud.

Tallapoosa was first settled in the 1830s amid America’s first Gold Rush which took place in Northern Georgia. Only in 1882—when a Georgia Pacific R.R. line was built just outside of town—did Tallapoosa begin to boom. A lively economy sprang up, ranging from agriculture, lumbering and mining to wine-making and tourism. Economic development increased around 1886, when Ralph Spencer (1859–1916) of Connecticut arrived. Spencer quickly established various corporations to capitalize on Tallapoosa’s numerous industries. Most notable was the Boston-based Georgia-Alabama Investment and Development Company (est. c. 1890), which maintained control over large portions of the land in the area and sought to turn the city into a major manufacturing center. Backed by congressmen, bank presidents and Massachusetts’ statesman Benjamin Butler, the Company sold $1 million in shares to some 15,000 investors. As a result, Tallapoosa saw tremendous development:

Growth and development of the new city was… dramatic. Tallapoosa’s “old town” population stood at only 56 in 1884; but according to the 1890 census, the new City of Tallapoosa, centered along the Georgia Pacific Railroad, had reached a population of 1,699 by the end of the decade. Tallapoosa’s boom phase continued into the early 1890s. A Prospectus of the City of Tallapoosa published by the Georgia-Alabama Investment and Development Company in 1891 claimed that Tallapoosa had 13 manufacturing establishments operating or under construction, a state bank…, 3 hotels, Lithia Springs Park and Gardens and the great Lithia Springs Hotel under construction, 2 newspapers, an electric light company and 36 street lights, a waterworks, 5 churches (2 Black), 2 schools (1 Black), 30 stores, and nearly 700 houses, with two-thirds having been built in the past two years… Some reports claim Tallapoosa's population reached 2,500 to 3,000 in the early 1890s, during the height of the boom (Coosa Valley Regional Development Center, Haralson County, Georgia, Comprehensive Plan, 1994-2014.)

While this development suggested a rather rosy scenario, the Georgia-Alabama Investment and Development Company was in fact embezzling investors’ funds—a fraudulent scheme spearheaded by Spencer and other company board members. The present view was issued in 1892, the year the Company folded. More than 10,000 investors—many of whom were from New England—lost their shirts in what became a national scandal. The New York Times dubbed it “one of the greatest financial schemes ever sprung on a confiding public.”

Showing Tallapoosa from the southeast, this view provides a comprehensive picture of the burgeoning city, with its many streets in various degrees of development, municipal buildings, factories, rivers, lakes, parks, and the massive 175-room Lithia Springs Hotel. A key in the lower margin identifies forty-six businesses, schools, parks, hotels and numerous “Merchants &C”—bakers, photographers, restaurants, variety stores, and so on. More than a dozen detailed vignettes of Tallapoosa’s landmarks appear across the top and bottom.

Many bird’s eye views of towns throughout the United States were published for promotional purposes by real estate companies and others in the later 19th century. While the present view appears to have been published for similar purposes, an unusual note in the lower margin suggests that trouble was afoot at the time of publication: “On this 18th day of February, 1892, before me, G. F. Quackinbush, a Notary Public in and for Haralson County, appeared Geo. E. Norris, who being sworn, deposes and says that the above view is a correct representation of the number and character of the buildings in Tallapoosa, no more having been shown than are built or in construction at this time.” Norris was likely in the employ of Georgia-Alabama Investment and was apparently instructed to include some such reassurance to address increasing skepticism about the company’s claims.

Scarce. OCLC records only four copies. Reps cites just one of the four.

A fascinating view produced at the apogee of Tallapoosa’s development just as its developers were being exposed, or about to be exposed, for systematic fraud.

REFERENCES: Reps, Views and Viewmakers, #746; Coosa Valley Regional Development Center, “Haralson County, Georgia, Comprehensive Plan, 1994-2014”; “Investors Come to Grief: The Georgia-Alabama Company’s Bubble Bursts” New York Times July 15, 1892. Tallapoosa Historical Society. Ralph L. Spencer at sites.google.com

CONDITION: Good, traces of old folds, which have been expertly reinforced on verso with paper pulp; a few small losses to printed area, a few tiny holes with minimal effect on printing; reinforced on verso with Japanese tissue.

Item #5240

Price: $3,750.00

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