On this day in 1905, political cartoonist John Francis Knott began his career with the Dallas Morning News. Born in Austria, Knott grew up in Iowa and honed his drawing skills in Chicago before journeying to Dallas, where he illustrated harness and saddlery catalogs. He met Morning News managing editor and artist D. Prescott Toomey and went to work for the newspaper. Over the years Knott gained national and international recognition for his daily cartoons during the Woodrow Wilson presidential campaigns and during World War I, and he greatly contributed to the war effort through increased Liberty Bond sales. His “Old Man Texas,” a cartoon character first devised in 1906, became an enduring symbol of rural Texas, honest government, low taxes, and property ownership. He published a book of his work, War Cartoons, in 1918. The Society of Professional Journalists honored Knott as best cartoonist in 1951, and he retired from the Morning News in 1957.
On this day in 1901, William Riley Curtis, well-known Panhandle rancher and owner of the Diamond Tail Ranch, was accidentally shot on a train headed for Memphis, Texas. A fellow passenger's gun fell to the floor and discharged. The stricken rancher was taken to Fort Worth, where he died a few days later. Curtis had bought the Diamond Tail in 1870 and subsequently built up his herd. He began hosting an annual barbecue in the 1880s. A highlight of that event was his presentation of a baby carriage to every baby named for him that year. In 1893 when a blizzard swept across the Panhandle, Curtis saved the Diamond Tail cattle by riding ahead of them in a heavy Arctic suit and cutting the fences in his path.
On this day in 1913, Mary Martin, musical theater star, was born in Weatherford, Texas. Family and friends encouraged Mary to perform in local theater as a child, and she began taking voice lessons at age twelve. She first achieved fame on the New York stage when she appeared in Cole Porter's production Leave It To Me. Martin's rendition of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" soon endeared her to Broadway audiences. She is best known for her roles in the musicals One Touch of Venus, South Pacific, Peter Pan, The Sound of Music, and I Do, I Do. Her lifetime achievements brought Martin a coveted award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1989. Martin died in California in 1990 and is buried in Weatherford.
On this day in 1880, the Missouri Pacific Railway Company, owned by tycoon Jay Gould, entered the Lone Star State for the first time by leasing the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (the Katy) and its line from Kansas to Texas. Gould, who bought the Missouri Pacific in 1879, was determined to develop a southwestern rail network, and also gained control of various other railroads in the state. However, the first Missouri Pacific system in Texas did not last long, as several of its component lines entered receivership in the 1880s. The railroad reorganized as the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company in 1917. The Missouri Pacific acquired a number of Texas lines in the 1920s, but filed for bankruptcy in 1933 and remained in receivership until 1956. It was acquired by the Union Pacific Corporation in 1982, and the unified system operated as the Union Pacific.
On this day in 1988, the D. and A. Oppenheimer bank, one of the oldest in Texas, closed. The bank was founded by brothers Daniel and Anton Oppenheimer, Bavarian immigrants who settled in Rusk in the 1850s. From 1858 to 1861 they operated as small merchants in Rusk and the surrounding area. In 1861 they closed their store and joined the Confederate Army. After the Civil War the brothers moved to San Antonio and opened a bank in addition to their mercantile business. They also began trading goods to ranchers for cattle and buying land. At one time they ran 15,000 head on ranches, and they were among the pioneers of the Texas goat and mohair industry. Anton died in 1906 and Daniel in 1915. Daniel's son Frederic, a physician, married into the Joske family and became manager of Joske's Department Store. He and his wife became noted art collectors.