Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Galveston and the zgoo Storm: Catastrophe and Catalyst. By Patricia Bellis Bixel and
Elizabeth Hayes Turner. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2ooo. Pp. xi-
ii+ 90. Foreword, acknowledgments, introduction, bibliographical essay, in-
dex. ISBN 0-292-70883-1. $6o.oo, cloth).
Patricia Bellis Bixel and Elizabeth Hayes Turner's Galveston and the Igoo Storm
commemorates the hurricane that leveled Galveston, Texas, on September 8,
1900oo. The storm-the worst natural disaster North America had seen-caused
the deaths of six thousand people. The book, however, does more than chronicle
Galveston's destruction. Bixel and Turner explore the many changes, positive as
well as negative, that resulted from the city's struggle to rebuild its government,
economy, and infrastructure. A generous selection of photographs helps readers
appreciate the scale of the destruction left in the storm's wake, the difficulties
faced in the recovery effort, and the monumental feats of civil engineering un-
dertaken to help prevent a future disaster.
The authors trace the story of Galveston's rise from the earliest European con-
tact to its emergence as a principal city of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. By the
time the 19oo storm hit, Galveston had become a bustling port city. Situated on a
barrier island, it had weathered smaller hurricanes, but its residents were unpre-
pared for the magnitude of this one.
The authors tell a fascinating story. Chapter one, for example, which discusses
the powerful hurricane's destruction of Galveston, places the reader at the center
of the drama by recounting how the city's residents reacted to the news of the im-
pending storm, as well as how they dealt with the destruction and its aftermath.
Other chapters examine the relief effort, the switch from a representative gov-
ernment to a commission government, the shifting distribution of political pow-
er, and the massive engineering projects that raised the city's grade and built
protective sea walls. These chapters offer readers the opportunity to appreciate
the scale of what Galvestonians were able to accomplish in the face of disaster.
Various interests, both humanitarian and economic, motivated citizens to work
hard to rebuild the city.
Particularly interesting is the discussion of how the relief effort and changes in
city government affected African Americans and women. The authors conclude,
"The result was the rise in white female power at the expense of black men" (p.
149). The presence of the Red Cross and its charismatic leader Clara Barton, the
authors argue, encouraged women to participate in the relief effort. Long after
the relief effort concluded, organized women continued to exert influence in city
policy. African Americans, on the other hand, faced limited opportunities to par-
ticipate in the relief effort. And the city's shift to an at-large elected commission
government from a representative government further eroded the political pow-
er of African American men.
Although aimed at a general audience, scholars will also appreciate Bixel and
Turner's study. The work incorporates previously unavailable sources and builds
upon earlier studies of the hurricane. Specialists may wish to see the historical
context expanded beyond what the authors provide, and will be disappointed at
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed August 30, 2014.