THE CITY IN TEXAS: A HISTORY
by David G. McComb
Published in 2015 by University of Texas Press.
Reviewed by Manning Wolfe.
David G. McComb’s The City in Texas: A History, is an insightful overview of the rise of Texas cities from the time of the Spanish Conquest to modern day. The 342-page book provides an overview, with movement as the primary theme, and emphasis on the transformation of Texas from a rural to urban environment.
In the beginning of the book, McComb’s chronicles the habitat of resident Native Americans and the Texas Revolution in the backdrop of eight major landforms and diverse weather patterns. The book quickens and becomes more compelling after what the author calls the “end of the dirt road frontier.” In this section, attention is on the railroad and telegraph as the most significant factors in city formation, location, and interconnectedness.
McComb’s best-known publication, Galveston: A History (University of Texas Press) is an urban biography emphasizing technology as the dynamic force in urban development, and provides a guide to the rise of Texas ports. The author touches on the famous city of Galveston and hurricane in the reviewed book, and uses the Gulf Coast city as an example of the emergence of port cities circa 1900.
As far as politics and commerce, McComb explores the emergence of the city and cattle shipping following the Civil War. His descriptions of the lumber industry, and provision of supplies are detailed and informative, (“As the oil patch replaced the cotton patch…”); the development of oil towns, and the science and technology surrounding that, is shown as part of a major shift in the state.
After World Wars I & II and the Great Depression, the last part of the book, exploring Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and especially Houston, is fascinating. McComb’s accounts of Willie Nelson’s creative Austin and Renaissance Houston with NASA, cultural centers, and the medical center are particularly enjoyable.
In conclusion, McComb emphasizes the need for prioritization of health, education, water, and roads to keep the great state great. He explores whether ‘Gone to Texas’ will remain a slogan of pride or become a humorous reference to days gone by.
Of course, the book is a must read for any Texas history buff. It also serves recent transplants to the state. It shows the historical background of the contemporary happenings new arrivals observe in their present hometown, and may satisfy their desire to know what makes Texans tick. It would be a welcome addition to any bookshelf, as it does not need to be read sequentially and can be used as a reference to explore historical topics as they arise.
See more about David G. McCombs.
Manning Wolfe is a writer and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. After many years of storytelling, Manning has started a legal thriller series involving a Texas attorney based in Austin. The first book, Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. Boots King, was the winner of the 2014 Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest – Mystery Division. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, she specializes in business law.