It’s that time again — Houston’s birthday celebration, observed traditionally on the anniversary of the publication of the Allen brothers’ newspaper ads offering land for sale in the area in 1836. Among the more eyebrow-worthy claims put forward by the founders: that the “beautifully-elevated” area (depicted nestled amid a clutch of towering hills) was already the site of regular steamboat traffic (the Laura wouldn’t make the first steamboat run up the sandy twists of Buffalo Bayou to Allen’s Landing until the following year), and that the area “[enjoys] the sea breeze in all its freshness” and is “well-watered” (that part, at least, is likely undisputed).
The ad text also claims that “Nature appears to have designated this place for the future seat of Government,” though Lisa Gray suggests this morning that a few well-timed gifts to members of the newly-minted Texas Legislature may have been responsible as well. Gray writes that the city hosted the Texas government from 1837 until the legislators, tired of the heat and mosquitoes, voted to move elsewhere in 1839.
Here’s the ad in its entirety, as it appeared 180 years ago today in the Telegraph and Texas Register:
Eventually, the ad’s predictions that the town would “command the trade of the largest and richest portions of Texas” did come true, with some help from the Galveston-destroying Great Storm of 1900. The discovery the following year of major oil reserves in the area, the reshaping of Buffalo Bayou into a deepwater port soon thereafter, and the development of the would-be Ship Channel as a refining center in the lead-up to and wake of World War I did the rest of the job.
- Promise — and a Few Fibs — Launched This City’s Destiny [Houston Chronicle]
- THE TOWN OF HOUSTON [Houstorian]
Image of the Allen brothers’ advertisement: Houstorian