• Austin Sunset by Randall Chancellor

History of Austin

Written by Ysmay.

Goddess of Liberty February 1888 from the Austin History Center

Nestled in a bend along the Colorado River, Austin, Texas is the capital of the second largest state in the United States of America. The Texas economy is robust, with Texas ranking 15th worldwide based on GDP.

The histories of Texas and Austin are inextricably linked. Originally named Waterloo, the first Anglo settlers began coming to the area in the 1830s. When the fledgling city became the capital of the newly independent Republic of Texas in 1839, it was renamed in honor of Stephen F. Austin, the "Father of Texas."

In the spring of 1836, the Texas War of Independence (from Mexico) was won by the people of the new Republic of Texas. Initially located in Houston, during much of the 9 years of its existence the government of the new Republic was centered in Austin. By the spring of 1839, the population of the new capital had swelled to over 800 people.

A site was selected for the new capitol building on a small hilltop that looked down a broad avenue to the Colorado River. Congress Avenue is still one of the primary thoroughfares in Austin.

Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845.

Cotton has always been a prime crop in Texas, with large plantations made possible in the pre-mechanized era by slavery. Consequently, against the wishes of governor Sam Houston, the state eventually seceded and joined the Confederacy. The citizens voted for approval of secession by a vote of 46,129 to 14,697. (Sam Houston refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy and was therefore removed from office.)

After the Civil War, United States control of Texas was re-established on June19, 1865. This date is remembered with the celebration of the holiday Juneteenth.

After the railroad arrived in 1871, Austin saw rapid growth. In the 1880s the first public schools were opened, universities founded, and the new Capitol was constructed.

Throughout the rest of the 19th century, Austin would continue to grow. The construction of the Great Granite Dam provided electricity and helped manufacturing garner a firm foothold in the city.

The 1900s and Beyond

Although heralded as a great achievement, the Great Granite Dam built in 1893 was no match for an even greater storm that ravaged Austin on April 7, 1910. The water crested at 11 feet above the dam and burst into downtown Austin, killing 47 people.

During the 1930s, a young, but surprisingly influential, politician named Lyndon Baines Johnson helped to secure funding to build a system of seven dams and reservoirs across the Colorado, creating the "lakes" that run through the center of downtown.

In the years following the Great Depression, Austin started to become the high-tech center it is today. During the "Baby Boom," research laboratories were established to study diseases, weapons of war, and chemicals.

At first, these companies were members of the old guard such as IBM. However, Austin continued to grow and by the 1990s, new and old technology companies were building large plants and office complexes here. Notable for their Austin presence are: Dell, Inc, Applied Materials, National Instruments, Samsung, Freescale Semiconductor, Nvidia, Oracle Corporation, 3M, Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard, Google, AMD, Cirrus Logic, United Devices, Cisco Systems, eBay/PayPal, Intel Corporation, Buffalo Technology, Silicon Laboratories,  and Hostgator.

Proud of its claim to be "The Live Music Capital of the World," Austin's music scene didn't begin to evolve into the amazingly diverse and prolific culture that it is today until the 1970s. Austin City Limits began broadcasting from Austin in 1975, and the city quickly became a haven for musicians of all genres looking to catch their big break in Austin's numerous live music venues.

Austin continues to grow, in part due to the lower cost of living than other desirable areas of the country. It's a nearly ideal city for young professionals to find lucrative and satisfying employment, and a laid back, affordable lifestyle.

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