Come to Texas: Attracting Immigrants, 1865-1915

Come to Texas: Attracting Immigrants, 1865-1915

Come to Texas: Attracting Immigrants, 1865-1915

Come to Texas: Attracting Immigrants, 1865-1915

Synopsis

"Come to Texas" urged countless advertisements, newspaper articles, and private letters in the late nineteenth century. Expansive acres lay fallow, ready to be turned to agricultural uses. Entrepreneurial Texans knew that drawing immigrants to those lands meant greater prosperity for the state as a whole and for each little community in it. They turned their hands to directing the stream of spatial mobility in American society to Texas. They told the "Texas story" to whoever would read it. In this book, Barbara Rozek documents their efforts, shedding light on the importance of their words in peopling the Lone Star State and on the optimism and hopes of the people who sought to draw others.

Rozek traces the efforts first of the state government (until 1876) and then of private organizations, agencies, businesses, and individuals to entice people to Texas. The appeals, in whatever form, were to hope-hope for lower infant mortality rates, business and farming opportunities, education, marriage-and they reflected the hopes of those writing. Rozek states clearly that the number of words cannot be proven to be linked directly to the number of immigrants (Texas experienced a population increase of 672 percent between 1860 and 1920), but she demonstrates that understanding the effort is itself important.

Using printed materials and private communications held in numerous archives as well as pictures of promotional materials, she shows the energy and enthusiasm with which Texans promoted their native or adopted home as the perfect home for others.

Texas is indeed an immigrant state-perhaps by destiny; certainly, Rozek demonstrates, by design.

Excerpt

Out on the road, one bumper sticker reads, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.” I observed this message in August, 1992, after living in the state for twenty-five years and having come to call myself an “adopted Texan.” The sticker brought a chuckle to my lips, but also a tug at my heart. I had come slowly to absorb much of the mentality that comes with longtime residence in the state. I had even begun teaching Texas history at a local community college, challenging my students, and myself, to understand more about the state’s past. Symbols inundate those making associations with Texas—boots, cowboys, oil wells, the state’s outline on freeway overpasses — and I had become very comfortable with these mythological associations.

But the realization grew that this bumper sticker was a 1992 version of the marketing that took place between 1865 and 1915 when Texans of many different stripes and vocations used their energy, enthusiasm, and rhetorical skills to entice others to come to Texas. During the research phase for this book, I was repeatedly amazed at the amount of work done by earlier Texans to encourage migration here. The variety of documents they produced also broadened my concept of what it means to try to convey a message. They wrote and wrote and wrote—they produced volumes. The energy committed to the task and the enthusiasm evident on the page made me stop and ask why? I haven’t answered that question yet, at least not to my complete satisfaction, but this book is an effort to show the attempts made by the Texans of the late nineteenth century to encourage a migration toward Texas. Their unbounded belief in the power of words to change people’s place of residence triggered something for me that I can’t quite explain.

Saying thank you is a very rewarding exercise that comes at the end of a long process in creating a book. Individuals who contributed to the final process represent a wide spectrum of people who all had in common an encouraging . . .

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