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THE GOOD OLD DAYS (1880-1890)

The population of the United States had reached 39,818,449 by 1870, and the center of the The population of the United States climbed to 50,155,783 in 1880, and New York became the first state to exceed five million population. Early in the prior decade, Texas passed its first million mark, and showed 1,591,749 people in 1880, when the federal census counted 16,513 in Houston and 27,985 in Harris County. Other counties showed a higher rate of increase than did Harris County during this period, with Grayson County (Sherman) leading with a total of 38,108, Dallas County next with 33,488, Bexar County third with 30,470, Fayette (La Grange) fourth with 27,996, and Harris fifth.

During this decade, Pasteur first applied the vaccination principle to anthrax and Koch discovered tuberculosis and cholera germs. The Eiffel Tower was completed in Paris, the Statue of Liberty unveiled in New York harbor, and the Washington Monument dedicated in Washington. The trial of anarchists for the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago reflected a period of labor unrest. Alaska had its first major gold strike and the Midwest experienced its first land boom, with crop diversification characterizing agriculture production. Twenty thousand people made the run into Oklahoma with the capture of Geronimo. The Interstate Commerce Commission became the first of the many federal regulatory agencies to come. Congress overrode a presidential veto to pass an $18,000,000 Rivers and Harbors Bill. The 10-story Home Insurance Building was completed in Chicago and the 11-story Tower Building in New York; engineers and architects claimed they were probably as high as steel-frame buildings could go. The first classes were held at the University of Texas, and "Texas Leaguer" became baseball parlance for a hit just over the infield.

The frontier had practically disappeared in Texas, and row crops were started where only cattle grazing had been practical before. The pay-as-you-go policy was established in state government and the state legislature passed important educational measures, with rapid advances in public education coming for the next several years. Conflict developed in West Texas between the cattlemen and the row crop farmers, between the big rancher and the little farmer, and between the open-range people and those who were buying land and fencing it in. Barbed wire came to the area, and fence-cutting became so general that it threatened to bring on civil war. But during the same period, cattle raising changed "from frontier adventure to business enterprise." according to Stuart McGregor in the "Texas Almanac."

Former President U.S. Grant came to Houston in 1880 to help 5,000 cheering residents open the new Union Station. The first passenger train made the Houston-New Orleans run on August 30 of that year, and the first "through" freight arrived from San Francisco on January 15,1882, including a carload of salmon. After twice threatening to secede from Houston, Fifth Ward residents, who felt that they lived "on the other side," were appeased with an iron drawbridge across Buffalo Bayou in January, 1883, and with "handsome new buses."

By 1886, an arc-light winked at the corner of Main and Preston streets. Horse-drawn barges floated courting couples down the moon-lit bayou. Gilbert & Sullivan packed Pilot's Opera House; there Edwin Booth also played Hamlet to capacity crowds. Houston's educational facilities were reported to include a Clopper Institute as well as an English-German Institute.

By Mid-decade a dozen steamships and 22 schooners were scheduling daily voyages from the foot of Main Street, which was the original Allen's Landing. The Chamber of Commerce was already urging a deepwater Ship Channel for Houston, citing as an example the man-deepened Clyde River which made Glasgow a center for world trade in Scotland. Houston at this time had two ice factories, two breweries, and five banks. Ten railroads served the city and the port.

Writing about this period in his book, "Building Texas" Carl Blasig says: After 1880, the growth of Texas cities, in which the newly organized commercial bodies (Chamber of Commerce) took an active part, continued. The Indians had been subdued and crime and lawlessness were diminishing under the vigilant eyes of Texas Rangers and other peace officers. Texas had become a desirable place in which to live. Railroad transportation, commercial enterprises, and industry expanded. Urban population again tripled during the last two decades of the century... As the social and economic forces grew stronger with the passing of the frontier, and the way of living became more competitive, Texans became conscious of the need for united action to safeguard their interests and also for the need of governmental regulations of certain phases of the state's growing economy."

The peopling of Texas by the Anglo-Americans was part of the westward movement--the spread of population across the vast expanses of the American continent, according to Dr. F. A. Buechel, research director for the Houston Chamber of Commerce for many years. This movement had come to be recognized as the dominant institutional force in the American economic development in the 19th century. The people sought rich natural resources, including land ownership, which could be had almost for the asking.

Texas' economic development has been the result of a series of impacts of these greater external forces, both national and international, coming to terms with the natural environment of the state. The rise of cattle, cotton and lumber production in Texas was the result of shifts in production of these products as each advanced across the United States into new producing regions on the one hand and the utilization of Texas' main natural resources, such as native grasses, soils and forests, on the other. These three groups, important as they were in the early years, have assumed greatly added significance ever since.

The growth of cotton, livestock and lumber production in the latter third of the 19th century was paralleled by the extension of railroads into the state and the growth of commercial centers in the major regions of the state. Even in more developed areas, it was not until the latter part of the 19th century that mineral resources began to be used in comparatively large amounts. Modern mass production industry which consumes minerals in such vast quantities grew directly out of the revolutionary developments in the production of iron and steel during the last quarter of the last century, a movement based upon the successful application of the Bessemer process together with associated techniques.

 

 




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