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The City in Texas

The City in Texas
A History

The award-winning author of Texas, a Modern History and Galveston: A History presents the first comprehensive narrative of urban development in Texas from the Spanish Conquest to the present.

Series: Bridwell Texas History Endowment

February 2015
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352 pages | 6 x 9 | 61 b&w photos, 15 maps |

Texans love the idea of wide-open spaces and, before World War II, the majority of the state’s people did live and work on the land. Between 1940 and 1950, however, the balance shifted from rural to urban, and today 88 percent of Texans live in cities and embrace the amenities of urban culture. The rise of Texas cities is a fascinating story that has not been previously told. Yet it is essential for understanding both the state’s history and its contemporary character.

In The City in Texas, acclaimed historian David G. McComb chronicles the evolution of urban Texas from the Spanish Conquest to the present. Writing in lively, sometimes humorous and provocative prose, he describes how commerce and politics were the early engines of city growth, followed by post–Civil War cattle shipping, oil discovery, lumbering, and military needs. McComb emphasizes that the most transformative agent in city development was the railroad. This technology—accompanied by telegraphs that accelerated the spread of information and mechanical clocks that altered concepts of time—revolutionized transportation, enforced corporate organization, dictated town location, organized space and architecture, and influenced thought. McComb also thoroughly explores the post–World War II growth of San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston as incubators for businesses, educational and cultural institutions, and health care centers.


Introduction: Theories, Definitions, Historians

Part One: First Things

1. The Lay of the Land

2. The Influence of the Native Americans

3. The Towns of the Spanish Empire in Texas

4. The Coming of the Americans

5. The Towns of the Texas Revolution

Part Two: The Dirt Road Frontier, 1836–1900

6. Major Events

7. The Dirt Road

8. Migration: Gone to Texas

9. The Evolution of San Antonio

10. The German Towns of Texas

11. The Coastal Ports

12. The River Ports

13. The Political Towns

14. The Military Towns

15. The Railroad Towns

16. The Lumber Towns

17. The End of the Dirt Road Frontier

Part Three: The Amenities of City Life, 1900–1950

18. The Rural to Urban Shift

19. The Great Galveston Storm

20. Spindletop and Beaumont

21. The Oil Towns

22. The Elite Rule of the Cities

23. The World War I Era

24. The Entrancement of the City

25. The Great Depression

26. World War II

27. The Immediate Postwar Years

Part Four: Great Texas Cities, 1950–2012

28. Population and Urban Expansion

29. Suburbs and Subdivisions

30. Segregation and Integration

31. The Hispanic Identity

32. John F. Kennedy and Dallas

33. The Voting Rights Act and the Cities

34. Land Transportation

35. Airlines and Airports

36. Urban Excellence in Texas

37. Houston, a Renaissance City

38. The Infrastructure for Excellence

39. The City and the State: A Conundrum


Suggestions for Further Reading



David G. McComb taught United States history, world history, sports history, and the history of technology at Colorado State University, where he retired as a professor emeritus in 2002. He has published fourteen books, including the award-winning Galveston: A History; Texas, a Modern History; and Spare Time in Texas: Recreation and History in the Lone Star State.


“Individuals interested in knowing more about the various pathways to modern Texas cities will find much worthy of exploration in McComb’s new book. ”
Texas Books in Review

“After finishing the book the reader will no longer be able to ignore the many contributions that the cities of Texas have made to the state...a valuable addition to the scholarship of the urban Southwest and should be read by those interested in Texas and its transformation from a rural to an urban state.”
Annals of Wyoming: The Wyoming History Journal

“[An] intriguing synthesis.”
Pacific Historical Review

“The broad, efficient sweep of McComb's writing style is remarkable...The book represents a major accomplishment in Texas historiography and is highly readable. If you read one work in 2017 that examines the entire state, McComb's study would make a fine choice. ”
Central Texas Studies

“Military towns, railroad outposts, lumbering centers, river communities, and port cities all get coverage in The City in Texas . . . [A] solid introduction to Texas urban history.”
The Journal of Southern History

“This book is a treasure trove of information, representing a lifetime of research, and it will be indispensable . . . for years to come.”
David R. Johnson, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Texas at San Antonio

“This is the only comprehensive synthesis of the urban history of Texas that I'm aware of. Commanding the deep experiences of a lifetime of study of Texas and its cities, McComb combines an interesting narrative with a compelling analysis of the Lone Star State’s urban places. His book will help a broad array of readers to understand that urban history, often dealt with as an afterthought when it comes to Texas, is fundamental to an understanding of the state’s development.”
Robert Wooster, Regents Professor of History, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi