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:
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FIRST ZIKA BIRTH DEFECTS CONFIRMED IN HARRIS COUNTY AS CONGRESS GOES ON BREAK On Friday Congress left for a 7-week recess without approving any funding to deal with the potential for the Zika virus to spread in the US; the break started just 2 days after Harris County Public Health confirmed the county’s first case of a baby born with Zika-related microcephaly. While no home-grown cases of the virus have yet been reported in Texas, Baylor’s Dr. Peter Hotez tells Maggie Fox that local spread “might already have started on the Gulf Coast and we would have missed it,” noting that federal funding would have given a boost to underprepared local agencies in mosquito-heavy Southern states. Hotez and other public health types say that the kinds of mosquitos that carry the virus (which are adapted to urban environments and are active during the day) are able to breed anywhere from a drip pan in a suburban refrigerator to the perennial piles of illegally dumped tires around Fifth Ward. Healthcare workers at Legacy Community Health Services also tell Fox that Houston is “a perfect place for Zika to take hold and reach a crisis point,” particularly since the 16-plus percent of Texans who are uninsured aren’t likely to seek treatment and get diagnosed. [NBC] Photo of Legacy Community Health Services building at 1415 California St.: Candace Garcia
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ATTACK OF THE GIANT VAMPIRE MOSQUITOES “My dog was carried off while we were walking at Memorial Park. I lost 6 lbs – not from walking, but from blood loss . . .” [Ellie Mae, commenting on Mosquitoes Reclaim Houston]
Okay, swatters. Got any weekend war stories to share? Add accounts of your latest battles in the comments section below.
Photo: Christine Tremoulet [license]
WILL THEY EVER GET TO PLAY THE HOUSTON FLOOD? In a rare and surprising victory for regional realism, prospective fans have chosen to name Sugar Land’s new minor-league baseball team the Skeeters, the Atlantic League team’s management announced yesterday. Defeated at the baseball ballot box: also-rans the King Canes and Lizard Kings. Fans should be able to watch the Skeeters and swat mosquitoes from $8 seats in Sugar Land’s new strip-mall-inspired open-air stadium on the banks of Oyster Creek by the 2012 season. While one rendition of the new team’s logo pictures a mosquito piercing a baseball with its proboscis, an animated version (featured at the top left of every page on the team’s new website) depicts it angrily and repeatedly stabbing into Fort Bend County on a map of Texas. (See also less-charitable responses to the name from Around the Loop and Deadspin.) [Skeeters News; previously on Swamplot]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BRING THOSE TV CAMERAS TOO CLOSE AND ZZZZAP!!!! “It’s actually a bug-zapper to bring Wayne [Dolcefino] … he is attracted to the glow of money being spent on anything other than polyester suits and Golden Corral.” [PaxMcKatz, commenting on IAH’s New Welcome to Houston Sign: We Hope Your Splashdown Was Pleasant]
BAYTOWN MOSQUITO REPORT, IN LANDINGS PER MINUTE “. . . while Baytonians might feel like the mosquitoes are out in droves, Director of the Baytown Health Department, Mike Lester, said what we’re really seeing is a return to ‘normal.’ ‘For the last couple of years we’ve been really fortunate that the weather has been good to us,’ he said. ‘Even though people might think it’s bad right now, the pest rate is between five and 20 landings per minute, which is average for this time of year.’ Lester explained that there are generally three peak ‘hatch-outs’ during the 11-month Gulf Coast mosquito season: May, August and November. During those months, mosquitoes hatch and mature, infesting Baytonian air for a few weeks before they give way to the next generation of larvae.” Why isn’t this kind of report a regular feature? [Baytown Sun]
ROLL CALL: HOUSTON MOSQUITO CONTROL SPIDER FORCE The Yellow and Black Garden Spider, proud builders of those zig-zaggy webs, “preys upon Houston’s least-favorite insects, including wasps and mosquitoes, but are completely harmless to humans. Its cousin, the Spiny-Backed Orb Weaver . . . is also a dutiful and helpful one-spider pest-control squad, and is even more recognizable.” [Houstonist]
WHY YOU WANT DRAGONFLIES IN YOUR GARDEN “Our garden has a number of areas with standing water, prime mosquito breeding ground. In six years of gardening there, I have never been bitten by a mosquito. I don’t know of any other place in Houston, with the possible exception of being in the back of a convertible going 60 miles per hour down I-10, where I can make the same claim.” [Urban Harvest, in the Houston Chronicle]
Harris County Mosquito Control sends out the planes to battle the West Nile virus and sprinkle northern Houston with insecticide.