"This Wonder Age ": The Economic
Transformation of Northeast Texas, 1900oo-93o
WALTER L. BUENGER*
IN FEBRUARY 1928 BURT LOCKHART, THE LONGTIME EDITOR OF THE
Pittsburg Gazette, wrote: "We are thankful we live in this Wonder Age
when the airplane and the radio and electricity play such an important
part and when the public conscience in business has attained its highest
standard. We are thankful, furthermore, that our own community shares
in the general prosperity of the nation and that our people by reason of
their energy and thrift are enjoying many of the substantial blessings of
this glorious age."'
Lockhart's proud assertion evokes laughter. After all, he was writing
about Pittsburg, Texas, not Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was a town of
about 2,600 in largely rural Northeast Texas. Surely prosperity, not to
mention basic structural changes in the economy, eluded a region that
like other areas of the South remained dependent upon cotton. In this
case, however, the obvious assumption is wrong. Lockhart had a point.
The years from 1900 to 1930 were a time of greater complexity and new
departure. A modernizing economy transformed Northeast Texas to the
benefit of Lockhart and others like him even if the "Wonder Age"
brought worsening conditions to some. We have too long looked back
through the lens of the Great Depression and assumed that prior
decades were simply stagnant preludes to disaster.
* Walter L. Buenger is an associate professor at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Se-
cesizon and the Unzon in Texas (University of Texas Press, 1984), co-author of But Also Good Bunz-
ness: Texas Commerce Banks and the Fznancing of Houston and Texas (Texas A&M University Press,
1986), and co-editor of Texas Through Time. Evolving Interpretatzons (Texas A&M University Press,
' Pittsburg Gazette, Feb. 17, 1928 (quotation). On Lockhart, see Artemesia Lucille Brison
Spencer, The Camp County Story (Fort Worth- Branch-Smith, 1974), 118. For a similar view see
Paris Morning Newu, Feb. 21, 1928: Naples Monitor, Mar. 9, 1928.
2 See, for example, Donald W. Whlsenhunt, The Depresszon in Texas: The Hoover Years (New
York: Garland, 1983), 1-50; T. R Fehrenbach, Lone Star. A Hstory of Texas and the Texans (New
York: MacMillan, 1968), 633-650. Although offering much valuable information, even the best
textbook treatment of early twentieth-century Texas depicts the rural cotton-growing areas of
eastern Texas as stagnant or in decline. See Robert A. Calvert and Arnoldo De Le6n, The Hstory
oJ Texas (Arlington Heights, Ill.. Harlan Davidson, 1990), 224-228.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed February 28, 2015.