Garland is on State highways 66 and 78 and the Missouri Pacific and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads, fifteen miles northeast of downtown Dallas in northeastern Dallas County. Duck Creek runs through the city, and Lake Ray Hubbard lies on its eastern border. Garland was named for President Grover Cleveland's attorney general, Augustus H. Garland, in 1887, when a new post office was established between the two communities of Duck Creek and Embree. Duck Creek was a station on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, and Embree was a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. They had fought over the post office for several years, but in 1887 Congressman Joseph Abbott solved the problem by submitting a bill to Congress to move the post office to a place between the two towns; the new site was called Garland.
By 1890 Garland had a population of 478, four churches, three gristmills, three steam cotton gins, a roller flour mill, and several hotels, in addition to other businesses. During the 1880s the town received gas lighting, and in 1888 a new high school, called Garland College, was built. Garland was incorporated on April 21, 1891. The first mayor was M. Davis Williams, a local merchant, and the town marshall was Tobe Ethridge. The first bank, Citizens Bank, was chartered in 1895. The town had Baptist, Methodist, Christian, and Cumberland Presbyterian congregations, and by 1892 the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Knights of Honor each had a hall. In 1899 a fire destroyed twenty-eight of the thirty businesses in Garland, including the offices of the newspaper, the Garland Daily News. After the destruction of the business section, Garland rebuilt around a town square. Eventually, plank sidewalks and a fountain for watering horses were added. In 1904 the population was 819.
By 1914 the community had two banks, three cotton gins, telephone and telegraph connections, three restaurants, an undertaker, and many stores, including those selling jewelry, drugs, and harness. By the mid 1920s the population of Garland was more than 1,400. Texas Power and Light put four electric lights around the square in 1915, making it one of the few places that the new electricity was used. Later a group of Garland citizens bought a generator and set up a city utility, Garland Power and Light Company. A $100,000 bond was voted in the early 1920s to finance a 2,300-foot well and an overhead storage tank so homes and businesses could have running water. Previously each house had its own well and outhouse. The first car dealerships opened in the 1920s. On May 9, 1927, a tornado destroyed much of the city and killed seventeen people, including a former mayor, S. E. Nicholson. Six years later the Nicholson Memorial Library opened in his honor.
In the late 1930s the Craddock food company, which manufactured pickles, and the Byer-Rolnick hat factory, which in the 1990s made Resistol hats, moved to town. In 1937 the KRLD (Dallas) radio tower was constructed in Garland. In 1940 the population of Garland was 2,233. During World War II several aircraft plants operated in the Garland area. After the war Kraft Foods bought the Continental Motors Plant to retool for its manufacture. The first park in Garland, Central Park, was purchased in 1948, and Carver School for Negroes was built the same year. As a station on two railroads, Garland was a major onion-shipping point in the 1940s.
By 1950 the population was 10,571. In 1951 Garland changed to a city-manager government, and L. E. Stark was the first city manager. The townsite comprised 6,832 acres in 1954 and 8,000 in 1957. By the late 1960s Garland had fifteen parks, eighty churches, two hospitals, four banks, and twenty-eight schools. In 1969 it had an estimated population of 72,000 and 1,000 businesses.
In the early 1980s Garland had one of the lowest poverty rates of cities in the country. In 1990 it had a population of 180,650 and 2,227 businesses, making it Dallas County's second largest city and the tenth largest in the state. Garland had a variety of industries, including electronics, steel fabrication, oilfield equipment, aluminum die casting, hat manufacture, dairy products, and food processors. In 1990 a council-city manager form of government was adopted. In 2000 the population was 215,768 with 6,085 businesses.
In 1990 Garland had fifty-seven schools with 36,158 students, two hospitals with 329 beds, 130 churches, seventy parks, three golf courses, nine public swimming pools, and 327 restaurants. The Wet 'N Wild Water Recreation facility and Firewheel Golf Park attracted visitors from throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Landmark Museum presented the history of Garland, and Octoberfest was a yearly event. The Garland Civic Chorus, Ballet Classique, Texas Baroque Ensemble, and Northview Observatory were popular year-round. The city employed more than 400 police and firemen.