The Texas Myth in Reality:
The Seefeld Family as Entrepreneurs
JAMES P. BAUGHMAN*
LMOST ANY ECONOMIC OR DEMOGRAPHIC INDICATOR ONE MIGHT
select will testify to the remarkable growth and development
of the state of Texas during the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Population almost doubled. Cotton production increased by 15 percent
and railroad mileage by 70 percent. Value added by manufacturing
increased fivefold and oil production in 1925 was 175 times greater
than the 836,000 barrels produced in 1900. The litany of progress and
the names of the men and cities beatified in the process are so well
known as to require no further repetition here.
But this aggregate evidence of success masks another Texas in
which the magic never seemed to work so easily. In that 'Texas men
dreamed the same dreams of progress and plenty and believed just
as fervently in the impossibility of defeat; but they reaped frustra-
tion and failure instead of the agricultural and mineral wealth they
sought. It was not that they were inept; nor were they rogues or
scoundrels who got their just desserts. Rather, they were honest and
hardworking businessmen who-in the parlance of the 1970's-just
could not "put it all together." The Seefeld family was one such
group of would-be entrepreneurs. The importance of their example
is not revealed through "scientific" history but only when told as
a story. It then becomes a case study in the hardscrabble reality that
lurked all too often and for so many behind the Texas myth.
The story begins shortly before the Civil War when Joachim
Seefeld, a native of Pomerania, brought his wife and three children
to Wisconsin. Settling in the southeastern corner of the state, he
prospered as a truck and dairy farmer supplying the large German
community in nearby Milwaukee. In 1876, having sold his farm and
moved into the city, he opened a wholesale produce business under
#James P. Baughman, associate professor of business history at Harvard University and
editor of Business History Review, is the author of Charles Morgan and the Development
of Southern Transportation.
'Rupert N. Richardson, Texas: The Lone Star State (2nd ed.; Englewood Cliffs, 1958) ,
338-359; Walter P. Webb and H. Bailey Carroll (eds.), The Handbook of Texas (2
vols.; Austin, 1952), I, 321, 420-421; II, 304-305.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101201/. Accessed July 23, 2014.