The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968 Page: 227
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Notes and Documents
decades-and harassments later. The electric light (the one bene-
fit that would not become a Pandora's box) came to Houston in
1882, the first automobile in 1897, and manned flight in 1910.
Something of the city's gusto and character during these thirty
years is shown in the satire of Alexander E. Sweet and J. Armory
Know in their caprice of a book, On a Mexican Mustang, Through
Texas: "After you have listened to the talk of one of these pioneer
[Houston] veterans for some time, you begin to feel that the creation
of the world, the arrangement of the solar system, and all sub-
sequent events, including the discovery of America, were provisions
of an all-wise Providence, arranged with a direct view to the ad-
vancement of the commercial interests of Houston.""
One feels the difference in Houston's municipal aspirations then
and now in two mottoes. In the late 1890's the city advertised itself:
"Where the mock bird has no sorrow in his song, no winter in his
year,"6 a paraphrase of a famous couplet by the eighteenth-century
poet Michael Bruce. Now Houston calls itself the Space City.
You can see the city at the beginning of the three decades through
the impressions of a visitor, an Iowa man, who came to Houston
in i879. After returning home, he wrote a letter to the Davenport
Gazette about his trip. That he liked Houston is plain, but it is also
plain that Houston puzzled and even alarmed him. Houston, he
is the great railroad center of Texas, and if railroads make a great
city, this is destined to be one. . . . Besides this[,] it is the harbor of
the Morgan line of steamships. . . . It has some (not many) good
buildings, business houses and residences. It has the finest market house
in the West and the finest market .... But the city looks shabby. There
is not a paved or macadamized street in the town, and but few decent
sidewalks, and no system of sewers at all. Wooden troughs are placed
in the gutters in some places, and waste water from houses is conducted
into them through other wooden troughs. This water does not run off,
but stands and emits an unhealthful odor. . . .
I was told that the city has an enormous debt . . . [which was true,
and would so remain for years].
The city is beautiful for situation and were it paved, painted and
polished up, it would shine like a star.
5Alexander E. Sweet and J. Armory Know, On a Mexican Mustang, Through Texas,
from the Gulf to the Rio Grande (New York, 1883), 49.
6W. W. Dexter, Picturesque Houston (Houston, 19oo), unp. The paraphrase was from
Michael Bruce's "Ode to the Cuckoo."
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968, periodical, 1968; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/m1/259/: accessed January 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.