Dallas History

Dallas was first surveyed by John Neely Bryan who was searching for a good trading post for settlers in 1839. However, after a treaty removed all Native Americans from Northern Texas, Bryan changed his original plan from a trading post. Instead, he decided he would settle the area instead. He founded the settlement in 1841 and in 1845 the first land partitions were created. While there were many settlers whose name were Dallas, no one is singled out as being the namesake. By 1855, new settlers from Europe began setting up a community west of the city. Many of these settlers were artists and musicians. This influence is still present in neighborhoods like Deep Ellum and lower Greenville.

The first mayor elected was Samuel Pryor in 1856. By 1860, Pryor served less than 700 settlers, which included many African American slaves. Settlers also came from Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland. That was about to change as the railroad drew nearer from the south and new stage lines beginning to pass through the city.

In 1860, the city suffered a fire that destroyed the business district. The fire was blamed on slaves and resulted in three African American slaves being lynched and the remainder whipped. Soon after, in 1861, the Civil War began and Dallas County voted in favor of secession. However, far removed from the war by distance, Dallas suffered no damage. This was a large factor in the post Civil War era, as many emancipated slaves migrated to Dallas. Unlike other cities in the south, Dallas was thriving and allowed the newly free population to form their own communities. Soon after, a Ku Klux Klan chapter was formed in 1968. In 1871, Dallas legally became a city.

In 1873, the two major railroad routes intersected in Dallas, further establishing the city as a commercial center. The population doubled that same year from 3,000 to over 7,000. Markets for raw materials and crops such as grains and cotton quickly became a strength. The city also was at that time the last stop on the railroad to gain supplies for traveling west.

By the late 1800’s, the Industrial Period changed the city from being known for farming and ranching to more of an industrial city as crops became less sustainable. In 1888, the Dallas Zoo opened. It was the first zoo in the state and a big attraction. Dallas survived the financial panic of 1893. In 1894 Parkland Memorial Hospital opened. By the turn of the century, Dallas was changing and was the leader in many markets, including books, jewelry, wholesale liquor and pharmaceuticals. Dallas also became the trade center for cotton and grain. However, the times were changing and so was Dallas.

Early in the 20th century, Dallas changed from an agricultural center to a business center. Banking, insurance and fashion retailing were quickly becoming the mainstay of the city. The very first skyscraper west of the Mississippi, the Praetorian Building, was built and at the time was the tallest building in Texas. At the same time, many poor whites, blacks and Mexicans were disfranchised when a poll tax was imposed in 1902. Jim Crow laws made racial segregation legal and imposed white supremacy. Racial tensions were high and have remained high in the city of Dallas throughout history.

Texas Oil Boom

The East Texas oil boom was spawned in 1930 when a man struck oil 100 miles east of Dallas. Dallas quickly became the financial center for the oil industry in Texas and Oklahoma. This resulted in the city becoming a financial center for the oil industry. In 1936, Dallas was chosen as the site of the Texas Centennial Exposition, which would become known as the Texas State Fair to many. Over 50 buildings were built in Fair Park and the first year, over 10 million visitors came.

In World War II, Dallas became a manufacturing center for the effort. Ford Motor plant in Dallas became a war-time production center, producing jeeps and military trucks. The city was not immune to the depression and in 1943 war rationing began. In 1958, the integrated circuit was invented by Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments. This was the start of the high-technology manufacturing era for Dallas. In the 1950s and 1960s. The city was the third-largest technology center in the country.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 on Elm Street when his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza. The top two floors of the Texas Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy, have been converted to a historical museum. The museum is an interactive experience covering the life and presidency of John F. Kennedy.

The 70s and 80s

The 1970s and 1980s produced a real estate boom in Dallas like never before. It was during this boom that the Dallas skyline began to take shape. Much of the downtown skyline we see today was a product of this era. In the mid 1980s, this boom came to a halt with the economic downturn and no other high rises would be built in the downtown loop for the next fifteen years. In the 2010s, this trend changed and new construction would begin. In 1991 the city would celebrate its 150 year anniversary.

The Future

The 1990s brought the booming telecom industry. During this time, the city became known as Texas’s Silicon Valley and the Silicon Prairie. By the early 2000s the dot-com bubble burst. The 2001 terrorist attacks weighed heavily on the economy. These factors had an influence on the local economy as well. However, by 2005 an economic turnaround began in Dallas and the downtown area began a period of rebirth. Three new towers began construction and many smaller projects were underway, leading to over 10,000 new residents moving into the city center. The 2010s have already shown continued growth in the downtown and surrounding areas. The future of this great city is bright. With renewed life in the downtown area, new life has been breathed into the city.

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