Texas State History
Texas has records of human habitation dating back over eleven thousand years. Located along the Rio Grande, Texas was at the intersection of several major culture groups including the Puebloan peoples, Mississippian peoples, and the Mesoamerican peoples centered around Teotihuacan. By colonial times, there were six major culture groups in Texas, including Comanche, Atakapa, Coahuiltecan, Puebloan, Apachean, and Caddoan peoples (most famously the confederations of the Natchitoches, Hasinai, Wichita, and Caddo). As in many places in colonial history, the interactions between the different cultures of Texas and the colonizing cultures was complex. The name "Texas" comes the Hasinai word for "allies," táysha—the Spanish referred to their allies, the Hasinai, as tejas.
The early colonial history of Texas had several distinct phases. Spanish explorers, including Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, were the first to visit the region in the 16th century. They were largely uninterested in Texas for the next hundred and fifty years, focusing their conquering and colonial efforts on other prosperous colonies like Florida. The French then began scouting out the region in the 17th century. In 1685, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, established a short-lived French colony at Matagorda Bay. The Spanish decided to dedicate an expedition to drive out the French—the French had already been driven out of Texas after angering their former native allies (from whom they'd "borrowed" canoes without payment), but the expedition ignited interest in settling there.
For the next century and a half, the Spanish began to build up a great number of missions and towns throughout Texas, juggling political alliances and rivalries with the different nations in Texas. They were at times allies and at times enemies of the Lipan Apache, Comanche, Hasinai, and the Mescalero. On top of all that, Texas acted as the buffer between the competing colonial territories of France and Spain. After the Louisiana Purchase, it became the disputed buffer between New Spain and the United States.
In 1821 Mexico became independent of Spain, including the territory of Texas. To handle raiding by the now-hostile Comanche, and to increase settlement and grow their economy, Mexico began a program of granting land and concessions to heads of household regardless of immigrant status. This attracted American immigrants, led by Stephen F. Austin, to settle along the Brazos River. The Americans largely chafed against the Mexican government, especially over the issue of slavery—slavery was illegal in Mexico, but the Americans from the South were intent on keeping their slaves. In 1836, following a brief war between the American settlers in Texas and the Mexican government, the Independent Republic of Texas was proclaimed with Sam Houston as president. This war was famous for the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. After Texas became a state in 1845, border disputes led to the Mexican-American War of 1846–1848.
Texas continued to grow and expand up to and through the Civil War. Texas sided with the Confederacy, as it was a major slave state, but had some of the largest pockets of pro-Union citizens in the South. Confederate Texans persecuted and executed several hundred pro-Union Texan citizens. The last land battle of the Civil War happened in Texas.
Texas later underwent a major economic shift in the first half of the 20th century. The discovery of oil in Texas created a massive boom in the oil and shipping industries. This made it an attractive location for the U.S. military to expand during World War II. Military investment led to a massive boom in Texas cities and helped diversify the state economy. To maintain the state's agriculture even as its population moved to the cities and went to war, the U.S. government brought in over 100,000 Mexican agricultural workers as part of the Bracero Program.
Millions of tourists spend over $50 billion annually visiting more than 100 state parks, recreation areas, and points of interest such as the Gulf Coast resort area, the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Alamo in San Antonio, the state capital in Austin, and the Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
The Lone Star State
Texas is famous for its sense of local identity and its of independence. The Lone Star State puts a premium on its unique history and traditions. The amusement park Six Flags comes from Texas, named after the six flags that have flown over Texas—Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. The outline of Texas is popular on consumer goods like belt buckles and waffle irons. In the last several decades, the environmental slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" has become a slogan for Texan pride. And, more so than in any other state, there remains today a notable movement for Texas independence from the United States.
Live Music Capital of the World
Austin, Texas is well-known by its slogan "the Live Music Capital of the World." Austin has more live concerts per capita than any other city in the United States. Estimates say that on a given night in Austin there are 100 live music performances, spanning a wide range of genres. Austin's music history stretches back to the 1800s, but it really took off in the 1960s. The city opened several large venues, and cultivated an alternative country music scene from the more conventional musicians centered around Nashville. Today the city has major scenes for folk, country, jazz, tejano, zydeco, punk, and indie music.
Ranching in Texas
The cowboy is widely seen as iconic of Texas. While Old West cowboys aren't common in Texas today, it is still the ranching capital of the United States. Texas is the top wool producer in the country, and also has massive herds of cattle. King Ranch in Texas is larger than the state of Rhode Island, and houses over 35,000 cattle. The ranching culture extends into other areas of Texas life, influencing fashion and entertainment—rodeo, a sport that tests various ranching skills like roping cattle and riding bucking animals, is the official state sport of Texas.
Perhaps Texas's biggest cultural export to the rest of the country is its food. Tex-Mex food originates with the states large Mexican-American population (also known as Tejanos), especially along the southern border with Mexico. Tex-Mex cuisine, like northern Mexican cuisine, is a fusion of Spanish food with local native food traditions, often using ingredients related to the ranching industry. After the 1960s, Tex-Mex became more Americanized with ingredients like yellow cheese, and started becoming more popular throughout the country. Today, Mexican food (largely Americanized Tex-Mex) generates more than $40 billion per year in the U.S.
Facts About Texas
The second-largest state in America, Texas is home to everything bigger and better. The Lone Star State has some of the most vibrant, cultural, and historic locations, including Houston, Austin, and Dallas, perfect for city walks and museum visits, shopping trips, and food tours.
In Texas, you can find the echoes of past Confederate States, rebellions, struggles for independence, and Native American tribes that still dwell on their ancestral lands. And you can explore more Texas facts right here on Infoplease, including the 28th state’s largest cities, national parks, movie locations, wildlife, geographic features, and more!
Arts & Culture
Crime & Paranormal
Geography & Landmarks
Famous Texas Natives and Residents
Alvin Ailey choreographer;
Wes Anderson filmmaker;
Mary Kay Ash cosmetics entrepreneur;
Stephen Fuller Austin founding father of Texas;
Gene Autry singer and actor;
Carol Burnett comedienne;
George W. Bush president;
Cyd Charisse actress and dancer;
Denton A. Cooley heart surgeon;
Joan Crawford actress;
Dwight David Eisenhower president;
Tom Ford designer, director;
A. J. Foyt auto racer;
Ben Hogan golfer;
Sam Houston statesman;
Howard Hughes industrialist and film producer;
Jack Johnson boxer;
Lyndon B. Johnson president;
George Jones singer;
Tommy Lee Jones actor;
Janis Joplin singer;
Scott Joplin composer;
Beyonce Knowles singer/performer;
Trini Lopez singer;
Mary Martin singer and actress;
Matthew McConaughey actor;
Spanky McFarland actor;
Audie Murphy actor and war hero;
Chester Nimitz admiral;
Sandra Day O'Connor jurist;
Buck Owens singer;
Lou Diamond Phillips actor;
Katherine Anne Porter novelist;
Wiley Post aviator;
Dan Rather TV newscaster;
Robert Rauschenberg painter;
Tex Ritter singer;
Robert Rodriguez fimmaker;
Rip Torn actor and director;
Tommy Tune dancer and choreographer;
Stevie Ray Vaughan musician;
Lupe Velez actress;
Dooley Wilson actor and musician;
Babe Didrikson Zaharias athlete and golfer.
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Historical Population Statistics, 1790–Present
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