The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983 Page: 474
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
and early twentieth centuries, and, in so doing, seeks to illuminate a
public policy issue that continues to challenge American cities.2
Founded in 1839 to serve as capital of the new republic of Texas,
Austin has long been a lively political center. And so it was in the
187os, years of Reconstruction and its aftermath. "First the members
of the Legislature come; and t ey, as is always the case, are followed by
burglars and robbers of every escription," noted a cynical resident in
1873, perturbed by "bands pf politicians and office seekers" who
thronged the city streets. But !it was another Austin-the bustling en-
trep6t-that impressed the poet Sidney Lanier in 1872. "Crowds of
Texan farmers, young and old, in all manner of country rig, move in
and out of stores, filling their wagons and emptying their pockets. . ..
Political center and entrep6t-these two dimensions gave purpose
to a city that in 1875 numbered some io,ooo residents, two-thirds of
them white (including about 3oo Mexican-Americans) and one-third
black. Another two to three thousand people-some from homes bor-
dering the city but most of them sojourners-were usually to be found
in Austin.4 Residents and visitors alike concentrated their activities
along or near Congress Avenue, the broad thoroughfare that stretched
some ten blocks from the capitol to the Colorado River. Austinites
would call it "the Avenue" for decades to come.
In the 187os Austin was a city still deeply rooted in its frontier and
preindustrial past. Cattle drives came through town, and hogs ran in
the streets. Gun play occasionally erupted on the Avenue, and the stage
to San Antonio was even robbed not far outside of town. The city had
no paved streets, no sewers, and no municipal garbage collection.5
2Austin Daily Statesman, July 2o, 1882 (quotation); David C. Roller and Robert W.
Twyman (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Southern Hzstory (Baton Rouge, 1979), 1,oo-1,o11.
For excellent bibliographies of printed primary and secondary sources on prostitution in
the progressive era, see Mark Thomas Connelly, The Response to Prostitution in the Pro-
gressive Era (Chapel Hill, 1980), 211-252, and Ruth Rosen, The Lost Sisterhood: Prosti-
tution in America, g9oo-zg98 (Baltimore, 1982), 214-236.
3Ford Dixon (ed.), "The Diary of Edwin B. Hancock, 1872-1873," Texana, III (Win-
ter, 1965), 307 (first and second quotations); Sidney Lanier to Robert S. Lanier, Nov. 23,
1872, Charles R. Anderson and Aubrey H. Starke (eds.), Sidney Laner: Letters, 1869-1873
(1o vols.; Baltimore, 1945), VIII, 275.
4Joe A. Costa to Thomas B. Wheeler, May 4, 1875, Schedule of Inhabitants in the
City of Austin, 1875, II (Austin-Travis County Collection, Austin Public Library; cited
hereafter as ATCC); Austin City Council, meeting of May 24, 1875, Minute Book A (City
Clerk's Office, Austin).
5Austin Democratic Statesman, Apr. 16, 1872; Austin Daily Democratic Statesman,
May 12, 1874; Austin Weekly Journal, Apr. 11, 1874; U.S., Department of the Interior,
Census Office, Report on the Social Statistics of Cities, comp. George E. Waring, Jr., vols.
18 and 19 of the reports of the tenth census (Washington, D.C., 1886-1887), XIX, 305,
308; Austin Democratic Statesman, May 14, 1872.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983, periodical, 1982/1983; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/m1/534/: accessed June 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.