Vintage photos trace the history of the Texas Rangers back to 1884

SAN ANTONIO – The history of the attorneys known as the Texas Rangers spans nearly two centuries.

“The Ranger story begins many years ago. In 1823, Texas father Stephen F. Austin recognized the need for a group of men to protect his fledgling colony, the land settlement efforts that marked the beginning of Texas’ development,” according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

While the full history of the Texas Rangers can be found on the TxDOT website, it’s not all about tales of bravery and heroism.

The history of the Texas Rangers is also riddled with tales of illegality and crime.

“They protected settlers and enforced laws, but also sometimes executed thieves without trial, drove Native American tribes from their homelands, and some rangers even lynched Mexicans and Mexican-Americans along the Texas-Mexico border,” according to the Bullock Museum.

Today, the Texas Rangers is still an existing law enforcement division. As of January 1, 2020, the Texas Ranger Division has 166 rangers for the entire state. The company is headquartered in eight geographic locations, including Company D in San Antonio.

“The modern Texas Ranger wears civilian clothes and can be identified by his western hat and western boots. Badges, still made from a Mexican coin, are pinned to a Ranger shirt above the left pocket. Their duties vary by assignment, but rangers generally have criminal investigative duties and assist with local law enforcement,” according to

Here’s a look at some historical photos from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Special Digital Collection that provide an insight into the history of the Texas Rangers:

Photo shows Studio portrait of members of Texas Rangers Company F, Frontier Battalion. Everyone is armed with guns. Around 1884. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photo shows four unidentified Texas Rangers belonging to Capt. Brooks’ Company mounted and posed at the end of an iron and timber bridge in 1892. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Terry’s Texas Rangers reunited in San Antonio in November 1889. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photo shows Texas Rangers and others on horseback with adobe structures in the background in a west Texas town. Around 1915-1920. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photo shows Texas Rangers standing behind the moonshiners and their gear. Around 1922. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photo shows Texas Rangers Honeycutt and Trimble standing on a street with a church and other adobe buildings in the background in 1923. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
The photo shows six unidentified Texas Rangers and an unidentified Texas National Guard general. The Rangers hold guns; The General holds a tailstock. Around 1925. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Three Texas Rangers on horseback with radios in a pasture in June 1946. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photo shows Texas Rangers standing in the boat as a diver climbs aboard on Lake Austin, 1956. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)
Photo shows two Texas Rangers dusting a desk for fingerprints in 1970. (UTSA Special Digital Collections)


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