How did race turn El Paso into a booming commercial city in the early 1900s?

Raised of $1,000 Goal
Ended on 5/14/14
Campaign Ended
  • $130
  • 13%
  • Finished
    on 5/14/14

About This Project

Using historical census data from El Paso (1870-1920), I want to explore the question: what role did race and class play in El Paso, as it grew from a sleepy Mexican frontier town to a booming commercial center?

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What is the context of this research?

Students and I will examine census records of El Paso from 1870 to 1920 (name, race, age, marital status, occupation, literate/illiterate, birthplace, birthplace of parents), as well as El Paso business directories (name, race, occupation, business and/or home address) from 1885 to 1920.

What is the significance of this project?

Intended audience: historians (amateur and professional), k-12
teachers, residents of both El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, and people who may no longer live in El Paso, but whose family history can be traced back to El Paso.

The area of border studies, especially here in Texas concerning towns along the US-Mexico border, is constantly growing in universities across the U.S.

Many studies have been conducted about life on the border, from a contemporary and historical perspective, but what separates this project is the fact that it seeks to present the history of El Paso before city residents, and allow them an opportunity to search the data for themselves and see how truly unique border life was and still is.

What are the goals of the project?

Goal 1) To present before the local community (El Paso and Ciudad Juárez), an opportunity to understand the rich history of the area, especially related to the relationship between race and class along the border of the United States and Mexico.

Goal 2) To use business directories and licenses, alongside census data, to track individuals and families across the decades, in order to understand how race and class affected the growth and spatial layout of the city and its businesses.

Goal 3) To create an interactive kiosk that will allow visitors to search for family members recorded in the census or other individuals residing in El Paso.

Goal 4) To provide my students with an opportunity to engage with and analyze intriguing historical data to understand the racial and socioeconomic complexity that existed along the border, which is an avenue that we explore in our class.

Goal 5) To contribute to the resources available to students and scholars at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Inter-American and Border Studies.


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The funds raised here will allow me (and my students) to purchase a subscription to, a printer, SPSS (Statistical Program for the Social Sciences), travel funds, and purchase computer for display in El Paso for individuals to search our compiled data, All of this, will allow us to not only understand the racial and socioeconomic complexities of historical El Paso, but create short narratives about some of the city residents.

As a high school teacher and independent historian, while the amount requested may not seem like a lot, it is difficult to find funding opportunities for such a project, since I am not affiliated with a university. Nevertheless, with your help, we can offer the people of El Paso an opportunity to get in touch with their past.

Meet the Team

Jonathan Weber
Jonathan Weber

Team Bio

I teach high school history at a private school in the Dallas area and conduct independent historical research projects in my free time. I have a PhD in History from Florida State University, where I wrote about public health, death, science, and technology in Mexico City during the Porfiriato.

Lab Notes

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Project Backers

  • 3Backers
  • 13%Funded
  • $130Total Donations
  • $43.33Average Donation
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