On this day in 1964, Robert E. McKee, one of America's most important contractors, died in El Paso. The Chicago native moved to Texas in 1910 and started his own contracting firm three years later. By 1935 he had built the naval docks and the Marine Hospital at the naval base in San Diego. In Hawaii he built various military facilities, including the power plant at Pearl Harbor and the Air Corps Double Hangars and a 3,200-man barracks at Hickam Field. He built the largest military center in Texas, Camp Bowie, near Brownwood, in a record time of ten months. He constructed large military installations in the Panama Canal Zone. During one year he had 42,000 workers on his payroll. He was responsible for building the facilities for the Los Alamos Atomic Energy Project in New Mexico, for which he received the Army-Navy "E" award for high achievement in October 1945. In the 1950s McKee constructed several large facilities at the United States Air Force Academy. In 1959 he was the major contractor for the new Los Angeles International Airport. His company also built a large percentage of El Paso's major structures. McKee was a philanthropist and patron of the arts in El Paso, and was honored as a "conquistador" by the city in 1962. Santa Fe Industries, a holding company of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, acquired Robert E. McKee, Inc., in 1972.
On this day in 1822, the Banco Nacional de Texas, or Texas National Bank, was established as a bank of issue--the first in Texas--by Governor José Félix Trespalacios in San Antonio. Shortly after arriving in Texas in August, Trespalacios hit upon the idea of issuing paper money, to be backed by the specie due from the central government, as wages to the province's demoralized soldiers. Members of the city council were made officers in the bank, and four soldiers were given the task of hand-producing the notes. Just under 12,000 pesos was issued in two installments on November 1 and December 1, 1822, before the bank was suspended. The short-lived experiment in emergency financing proved costly to most noteholders, who had to wait until 1830 for redemption of the Texas money by the Mexican government. Despite its failure, this institution claims the title of the "first chartered bank west of the Mississippi."
On this day in 1917, McClesky No. 1 came in. This oil well began the boom in Ranger, Texas. By June 1919 twenty-two wells were being drilled in the area and eight refineries were open or under construction. Ranger may have had 30,000 residents at one time. Pictures from the boom days show derricks sprouting up like trees throughout the town. The boom also brought the usual social accompaniments--gambling houses, brothels, and frequent killings in the oilfields. By 1921, however, the boom was over.