Houston in 1937
What Was Houston Like in 1937?
City of Houston
Cities, like individuals, don’t just “happen” to be great. Enduring fame—human or civic—rests on a firm foundation. There must be well-rooted reasons. We have all witnessed the recurring phenomena of sudden rises and falls of men and communities. Meteor-like, their names are emblazoned across the sky of public attention, only to quickly disappear and be promptly forgotten.
In the making of Houston’s foundation there was involved many years of planning and effort. Only in recent years has Houston enjoyed the fruits of her labors.
Let us delve for a moment into the early history of Houston and we shall see just how firmly and painstakingly this foundation which supports the present civic superstructure was laid.
Houston was founded in turbulent times and her early history was enacted in a most romantic setting. The first permanent settlement on the banks of Buffalo Bayou was made early in 1836, shortly after the Battle of San Jacinto, the deciding conflict in the struggle of the Republic of Texas from Mexican dominance. It was fought on April 21, 1836, and that day of the month is annually observed as a holiday and time of celebration by all Texans.
The founders of Houston were John K. and A. C. Allen, who first tried to buy the townsite of Harrisburg (now a Houston suburb) from the owner, John K. Harris. They couldn’t agree on the price, so the Allen Brothers decided to establish their dream city at a point eight miles from Harrisburg. In August, 1 836, the Allens filed a deed for 1,400 acres, had the tract duly surveyed and the first of September began a vigorous campaign of newspaper advertising. One of the advertisements stated in part:
“Nature seems to have designated this place for the future seat of government It is handsomely and beautifully elevated, salubrious and well watered, and now in the very heart or center of population, and will be so for a length of time to come. It combines two important advantages:
a communication with the coast and foreign countries and the different portions of the Republic. As the country shall improve railroads will become in use, and will be extended from this point to the Brazos and then up the same, also from this up to the head waters of the San Jacinto, embracing that rich country, and in a few years, the whole trade of the upper Brazos will make its way into Galveston Bay through this Channel.
Developments have since proved that the Allen Brothers were not only good real estate men but excellent prophets.
The city’s growth is reflected in the fact that the 1930 census placed Houston’s population of 292,352 as first in Texas and second in the South. This represents an increase of 110 per cent over the 1920 population figures. The United States Census Bureau estimated Houston’s population at the beginning of 1933 to be 319,000. The year 1930 also saw the announcement of the port’s advance to first place in the nation as a cotton port. As further evidence of the city’s advancement, Houston was the only large city in the nation that year in which postal receipts showed a gain over each corresponding month of the preceding year. Houston also led all of the nation’s large cities in the per capita expenditure for home building.
Houston enjoys the advantages of both rail and deep-water shipping facilities. Eighteen railroad lines radiate from the city like spokes from the hub of a wheel. As far back as 1850, when the first Texas railroad was operating from Houston over the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railroad, Houston was an important railroad point not only for Texas, but for the Southwest.
An average of fifty freight trains and more than sixty passenger trains arrive and depart from Houston daily.