City of Austin Collection:
An Inventory of the City of Austin Collection at the Texas State Archives, 1873-1965, bulk 1921-1927
In 1839, the town of Waterloo was chosen as the capital of the new Republic of Texas and re-named Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas." Between 1880 and 1920 Austin's population tripled, expanding to a total of 34,876 residents. Just as the population of the city was expanding, the business sector of Austin was also growing. However, while the state of Texas as a whole was booming due to oil extraction, this was not true in the city of Austin. As a result, business conglomerates, such as the Chamber of Commerce, began to promote Austin as a residential city. However, there was considerable lack and neglect of city services and by 1905, Austin had few sanitary sewers, few public parks and playgrounds, and a single paved street. In 1908, actions led by A.P. Wooldridge (future mayor of Austin) overturned the aldermanic form of government in favor of a commission government. This resulted in steady progression and improvement of city services, such as the 1918 acquisition of Barton Springs, a spring-fed pool open to Austinites, which served as a symbol of the residential city. In 1924 the Chamber of Commerce led the petition to adopt a council-manager government, which was adopted by 1926 and remained into the late 1990s. In 1928 the city commissioned the first city plan since 1839, in which the city was called to further develop residential, cultural, and educational interests. A $4,250,000 bond was issued that provided funds for streets, sewers, parks, the city hospital, the first public library building, and the municipal airport, which opened in 1930. It was at this point that the city government placed a further emphasis on recreation, establishing programs for the development of recreational programs, parks, and pools.
In the early and mid-1930s Austin was affected by the Great Depression, though the city fared comparatively well due to the leadership of Mayor Tom Miller, who took office in 1933, and U.S. Congressman Lyndon Johnson, who was elected in 1937. During the 1930s Austin's population grew at a faster rate than any other decade of the twentieth century, increasing 66 percent. The Public Works Administration provided Austin with more funding for municipal construction projects than any other Texan city in the same period. Johnson helped to procure federal funding for housing and dams along the Colorado River, resulting in the completion of the Tom Miller Dam in 1940 and the Mansfield Dam in 1941. The two dams in the Lower Colorado River Authority system brought many benefits to the city, including cheap hydroelectric power, lesser effects of flooding, a consistent water supply, and a general increase in the appeal of Austin as a residential city.
(Sources include: Humphrey, David C."Austin, TX (Travis County)," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed February 10, 2017; and the collection itself.)
Austin's Chamber of Commerce was established in 1877 as one of only three such chambers in the state of Texas; The first two were established in Houston in 1840 and in Galveston in 1845. The Austin Chamber of Commerce was a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of business organizations, civic organizations, institutes of education, and various individuals. Upon its founding, the Chamber's mission was to help foster the country's most prosperous business community in Austin. The Austin Chamber of Commerce joined the other Texas branches in 1906, establishing a statewide association. The Chamber promoted businesses in Austin as a means of attracting tourists and appealing to residents. In their early efforts, they promoted sites such as the Austin Dam, the moonlight towers, and the State Capitol.
(Sources include: Blasig, Carl A. "Chambers of Commerce," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed February 10, 2017; and the collection itself.)
William C. Walsh (1836-1924), was born in Dayton, Ohio on September 23, 1836. Along with his father (a blacksmith) and mother, he moved to Austin, Texas in 1840, receiving his primary education within the city. He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. before ultimately taking the position of clerk in the Texas General Land Office in September 1857.
Walsh fought in the Civil War, resigning from his position in the General Land Office in order to enlist in 1861. Walsh ultimately become the first lieutenant of the Tom Green Rifles Company B, Fourth Texas Infantry, which became a part of Hood's Texas Brigade. Walsh fought as captain at the battle of Gaines Mill in which he was severely wounded, resulting in the use of a crutch for the remainder of his life.
Walsh's career took many turns. In November 1862 he was named quartermaster general of the state of Texas. After 1865 Walsh hauled wood, ran a rock quarry, and, as an ardent Democrat, refused to accept a state appointment from Republican Governor Edmund J. Davis. In January 1873 Walsh was elected chief clerk of the Texas House of Representatives. He served until 1878, when he was appointed commissioner of the General Land Office by Governor Richard B. Hubbard. At the time of his election, land fraud in Austin was rampant. As land commissioner, Walsh was hard on crime, as evidenced by his prosecution of a ring of forgers and land thieves who raided the archives of the land office, ultimately resulting in thirty convictions and one hundred of the thieves fleeing the state. Walsh's opposition to the free grass movement resulted in the establishment of the State Land Board in 1883. Concurrent with his position as land commissioner, Walsh collected and organized information regarding the history and development of Austin. Advertised as being the "oldest citizen in Austin," he published articles in the Austin American newspaper regarding the history and development of buildings and land use in the city. In his writing, he focused on the erection and history of buildings such as the War Department, the Arsenal, the Treasury Building, the Capitol, and the General Land Office.
(Sources include: Gilman, Virginia Roberts. "William Walsh," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed February 10, 2017; and the collection itself.)
The City of Austin collection documents the history of Austin, Texas, through historical accounts, brochures, and other materials promoting the city to tourists and citizens. The collection spans from 1873 to 1965, with the majority of the contents generated in the period of 1921-1927. The contents of the collection are largely divided between two major sources: promotional materials created by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and other organizations, and documents created by Austin historian William C. Walsh. The materials from the Austin Chamber of Commerce and other organizations provide insight into the ways in which Austin as a city promoted itself to both tourists and citizens. The materials by Walsh include his history of the city entitled Austin in the Making, along with his handwritten notes, a bound draft of the work, and a copy of the series derived from this work that was published in the Austin American newspaper. Austin in the Making focuses on the history of Austin from the perspective of its infrastructure. In his work, Walsh discusses the erection of numerous buildings, such as the Capitol and the War Department, as well as the history of land ownership in Austin. Walsh also includes personal anecdotes regarding his upbringing in Texas.
Subject files, dating 1873-1963, document at a local level how Austinites, businesses, and organizations conceived of the city and promoted it over time. Materials consist of promotional pamphlets and tourism materials, brochures, directories, reports, and maps. Topics in this series include historical homes; state and city government buildings; histories of Austin geared towards tourists, businesses, and homeowners; lakes; dams; community initiatives, such as construction of local youth centers and allocation of community chest funds; city housing development; city charter provisions and amendments; traffic safety laws; and city government business. A majority of the materials are from the Austin Chamber of Commerce,. Other authors include the Austin City Council, Texas Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, and other state agencies, businesses, and private organizations. Items of particular interest include Austin in a Nutshell, a brochure that lists potential sites of interest for prospective homeowners, and the 1943 booklet Austin, Texas Area that includes the history of Austin's moonlight towers, which the Chamber of Commerce promoted as a unique technological innovation.
Writings on the history of Austin, dating 1921-1965, primarily consist of essays, drafts, newspaper clippings, notes for and a draft of Walsh's Austin in the Making, newspaper articles. Walsh's materials provide insight into how a historian studied the city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Topics in this series range from the early development of the city and state government infrastructure to American Indians who once inhabited the area, Stephen F. Austin, sculptor Elisabet Ney, city demographics, and histories of Austin's oldest buildings, including the Driskill Hotel, French Legation, and St. David's Episcopal Church. Items of particular interest include a 1924 Austin American article profiling Walsh's status as the oldest living citizen in Austin and featuring a picture of Walsh, and letters discussing the establishment of county lines between Travis and Bastrop counties.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Under the Copyright Act of 1976 as amended in 1998, unpublished works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. The term of copyright for published material varies. Researchers are responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
(Identify the item and cite the series), City of Austin collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2017/083
The date of donation and the name of the donor of the collection are unknown. The collection was accessioned for control purposes on February 10, 2017.
Collection initially processed by staff archivists, 1960s
DACS-compliant finding aid and XML markup completed by Abe Heath and Irene Lule of the University of Texas at Austin School of Information, fall 2016
Detailed Description of the Collection