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EARLY AMUSEMENTS. The lusty spirit of frontier humor was quick to make the earliest settlers of Texas lighten their work with the good fellowship of their neighbors. All joined in house-raisings, log-rollings, rail-splittings, quilting bees, bear hunts, and several other activities in which labor and fun were mixed. Dances were popular from the time of earliest settlement. On these occasions the frontiersman talked and laughed loudly and stamped his feet noisily while dancing. Other kinds of indoor parties were candy-pullings and candy-breakings, at which simple games were played. When local church members objected to dancing, the play party met favor, although it did not become prevalent in Texas until the 1840s. Most popular of all sports, however, was horse racing, with the chief racing centers located along the coast. The course at Velasco was talked of even in New Orleans. After the Texas Revolution, dancing schools and theatrical organizations appeared. Patriotic occasions provided opportunities for barbecues, songs, oratory, and parades by military organizations. In 1844 the Fourth of July celebration at Clarksville featured the Montgolfier balloon and a fireworks display. At Christmas and New Year's the people enjoyed dances, torchlight processions, the decorated Christmas tree, and the practice of exchanging gifts. The polishing of entertainment had gone so far by 1848 as to cause Rutherford B. Hayes to observe in his diary that the social life in Texas was like that found elsewhere.


Eugene C. Barker, Readings in Texas History (Dallas: Southwest Press, 1929). William R. Hogan, The Texas Republic: A Social and Economic History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946; rpt. 1969).

Curtis Bishop


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Curtis Bishop, "EARLY AMUSEMENTS," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed January 26, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.