Sweet, Alexander Edwin (1841–1901)

By: Ernest B. Speck

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

Alexander Edwin Sweet, son of James R. and Charlotte (James) Sweet, was born in St. John's, New Brunswick, Canada, on March 28, 1841. In 1849 the family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where James Sweet was later mayor. Young Sweet attended school at College Hill in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1857–58 and subsequently spent three years at the Polytechnic Institute in Karlsruhe, Germany, where he married Marie Zittel; they had five children. On his return to Texas in 1862, Sweet joined Col. James Duff's Thirty-third Texas Cavalry regiment. After the Civil War he studied law in the office of Thomas J. Devine and then practiced with little success. During Reconstruction, as a staunch Republican supporter of the Edmund J. Davis regime, he was the party whip in San Antonio for James P. Newcomb, secretary of state under Davis. Sweet was elected city attorney of San Antonio in 1879, but he had already gone into journalism. Sweet went to work for the San Antonio Express in 1869, and from that time his rise as a humorist and journalist was meteoric. He served as an editor on both the San Antonio Express and San Antonio Herald. An alliterative editor started heading Sweet's column "San Antonio Siftings." He made his national reputation on the Galveston News, to which he began contributing in 1878. In 1880 he moved to Galveston to become an editor on the News and gained nationwide fame for the paper with his column "Galveston Siftings."

In May 1881 Sweet moved to Austin and with John Armoy Knox started his famous weekly humor magazine, Texas Siftings. The publication soon had a national circulation, and early in 1884 Sweet moved it to New York. In 1887 a London edition of Siftings was started. Sweet sold the paper in 1895, after the circulation had begun to fall off, and returned to Texas. He started another weekly, the Texas Sifter, which lasted for only a few weeks. Sweet then returned to New York and became an editor on the Tammany Times. In his career he contributed to other periodicals, notably the New York Weekly, the largest weekly magazine of the period. He was the only wholly Texan humorist in the nineteenth century who achieved international recognition. His book Through Texas on a Mexican Mustang, first published serially in Siftings in 1882–83, was an immediate success, and in England it was being reprinted as late as 1905. It was also translated into German. Sweet's column of letters from "Col. Bill Snort," a regular feature after 1887, contained some of the best political satire of the day. Two other features that he wrote, the "Rev. Wangdoodle Baxter Sermons" and the "Johnny Chaffie Letters," were almost equally famous. A collection of Sweet's columns, Alex Sweet's Texas, edited by Virginia Eisenhour, was published in 1986. Sweet died in New York City in 1901.

Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 6. C. W. Raines, Year Book for Texas (2 vols., Austin: Gammel-Statesman, 1902, 1903). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in America, 1899.
  • Journalism
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Humorists
  • Peoples
  • English
  • Authors and Writers
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government

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

Ernest B. Speck, “Sweet, Alexander Edwin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/sweet-alexander-edwin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995