Early Texas medical journals provide one of the important sources of original materials documenting the history of health care in the state. In content and scope, Texas journals did not differ from medical journals published elsewhere in the country. In the absence of a sponsoring organization and standard format for articles, early journals often reflected the style and temperament of their physician editors. Most nineteenth-century journals had a short lifespan, and as products of private enterprise they were often subject to economic and political fluctuations. Greensville Dowell, M.D., founded the first medical journal in Texas. From 1866 to 1871 his Galveston Medical Journal provided the major means of communication among members of the Texas medical profession. Many of the Journal's contributors were from the Galveston Medical College and the Galveston Medical Society. When physicians from twenty counties met in Houston in June 1869 to establish the Texas State Medical Association, Dowell published the proceedings as well as the constitution and bylaws in his journal. He frequently appealed to his readers to organize local medical societies and attempted to establish contact with as many Texas physicians as possible. Despite his efforts, the Galveston Medical Journal never became financially independent and ceased publication in 1871.
The Texas medical profession was without a journal until the appearance of the Texas Medical Journal in 1873. Once again, the move came from the faculty of Galveston Medical College. The editor John D. Rankin, M.D., appointed a board of six corresponding editors to extend the journal's sphere of influence. Although a competent group of physicians with wide connections composed the editorial board, the state's second major journal failed to gain the support it needed and went out of existence in 1879. Between 1881 and 1883 the Texas Medical and Surgical Record was published in Galveston. Its editor was Cary Wilkinson. The journal was the official publication of the Texas State Medical Association and had considerable influence, especially in shaping professional opinion about the best location for the proposed medical school of the new state university. After 1883 publishing activity shifted to Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin. With the publication of the Texas Courier-Record of Medicine (Fort Worth) in 1883, and Daniel's Texas Medical Journal (Austin) in 1885, medical journalism entered a period of maturity; both journals remained in existence for over thirty years. Dr. Ferdinand E. Daniel's spirited journal (Daniel's was dropped from its title in 1893) also served as the unofficial publication of the Texas State Medical Association.
The Texas Health Journal (Dallas), founded in 1888, became the first specialty periodical and official organ of the Texas State Sanitary Association. Its editor John R. Briggs, M.D., campaigned rigorously to improve public health. In 1897 the Texas Health Journal became the Texas Medical Practitioner, which merged with the Texas Medical News in 1898. Several other journals came into existence in the 1890s: Texas Sanitarian (Austin) in 1891, Southern Medical Review (Houston) in 1894, Southwestern Medical Record (Houston) in 1896, Hygeia (Tyler) in 1895, and Southwestern Medical & Surgical Reporter (Fort Worth) in 1895. The Texas Sanitarian became the Texas Medical News in 1895 and continued its successful existence until 1916. Transactions of the Texas State Medical Association, published from 1869 to 1904, remained the official publication of members of the Texas State Medical Association. It appeared annually and contained minutes and papers presented at annual meetings; it was a rich source of information about medical practice, medical education, and the development of the medical profession in general. In 1905 the association began publishing the Texas State Journal of Medicine, which was renamed Texas Medicine in 1966.
Though early Texas medical journals constitute an important resource for the study of the health sciences and health care, access to these publications is limited. Index Medicus, prepared by the library of the surgeon general's office (now the National Library of Medicine), includes references to only a few periodicals published in Texas. An unpublished, computerized index is available at the library of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, which houses the largest collection of early medical journals in the state.