The Texas Centennial, marking 100 years of Texas independence, was officially celebrated in 1936, although local observances began in 1935 and the Central Centennial Exposition in Dallas and the Frontier Centennial in Fort Worth continued through 1937. James Stephen Hogg originated the idea of celebrating the anniversary in a speech made about 1900, and concerted action toward carrying out his idea came at a convention of the Advertising Clubs of Texas at Corsicana on November 6, 1923, when the advertising clubs, in association with the Texas Press Association established the Texas Centennial Survey Committee to plan a celebration to commemorate the Texas Revolution and at the same time to advertise Texas to the world. The Texas Centennial Board of One Hundred was established at a meeting in Austin on February 12, 1924. A temporary Texas Centennial Commission was appointed on December 28, 1931, and in 1932 a constitutional amendment authorizing a centennial celebration and instructing the legislature to make adequate financial provision for it was proposed. The amendment passed, and a permanent Texas Centennial Commission was appointed in June 1934. Three Texas cities—Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio—competed to host the central exposition. Although it possessed the least historical background, the commission chose Dallas because it offered the largest cash commitment ($7,791,000), the existing State Fair of Texas facility with provisions for expansion, and unified urban leadership headed by bankers Robert L. Thornton, Fred F. Florence, and Nathan Adams. The Texas legislature and the United States Congress each appropriated $3,000,000 for the project. The United States government issued commemorative three-cent stamps and half-dollars to observe the anniversary. Many newspapers of the state issued special centennial editions.
State-wide observances of the centennial began at Gonzales in November 1935. In December San Antonio held a series of pageants to commemorate the siege of Bexar. El Paso and Livingston featured a Sun Carnival and an Indian Tribal Ceremonial in January 1936. Galveston's Mardi Gras in February featured the centennial. Houston held three celebrations: Texas Independence in March, the battle of San Jacinto in April, and the founding of Houston in August. San Antonio also had special observances in March and April. Next to the central celebration at Dallas, the most widely visited observance was the Texas Frontier Centennial at Fort Worth, which featured the "Winning of the West." The centennial calendar contained events set all over the state throughout the year, and a map designed for centennial tourists furnished a guide to historic spots. The Commission of Control worked with the Advisory Board of Texas Historians, the Work Projects Administration, and the Texas Highway Department to coordinate programs and to provide permanence to the centennial observance by the erection of permanent buildings, monuments, statues, and grave markers. Every county in the state received a marker indicating the date of its establishment and the source of its name. Permanent buildings that received financial assistance from the Commission of Control included the Hall of State at Dallas, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum at Canyon, the Texas Memorial Museum at Austin, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum at Huntsville, the Corpus Christi Centennial Museum, the West Texas Museum at Lubbock, the Big Bend Historical Museum at Alpine, the Alamo Museum at San Antonio, the Gonzales Memorial Museum, the David Crockett Memorial Building at Crockett, the Memorial Auditorium and Stadium at Goliad, the Pioneers, Trail Drivers, and Rangers Memorial at San Antonio, and the San Jacinto Monument and Museum of History near Houston. Monuments commemorated special events; historic buildings and forts were restored; and statues were erected to more than twenty Texas heroes.
The official $25,000,000 central exposition, occupying fifty buildings and billed as the first world's fair held in the Southwest, opened at Dallas on June 6, 1936. It featured a dual theme: history and progress. The "Cavalcade of Texas," a historical pageant depicting four centuries of Texas history, became one of the exposition's most popular attractions. The Hall of Negro Life marked an exposition milestone, the first recognition of black culture at a world's fair. The competing nonofficial Fort Worth Frontier Centennial Exposition, spearheaded by Fort Worth civic leader Amon G. Carter, opened on July 18. While both expositions attracted world-wide attention, Broadway showman Billy Rose, promoter and director of the Fort Worth extravaganza, explained the difference with his advertisement slogan: "Go to Dallas for education; come to Fort Worth for entertainment." The Fort Worth exposition closed on November 14, the Dallas exposition on November 29. Although attendance at both fairs (Dallas, 6,345,385; Fort Worth, 986,128) fell far short of expectations, civic leaders felt the advertisement they brought to both the area and the state was well worth the cost. The Dallas exposition reopened on June 12, 1937, as the Greater Texas and Pan American Exposition, and closed on October 31.
Dallas Morning News, Centennial Edition, June 7, 1936. Kenneth B. Ragsdale, The Year America Discovered Texas-Centennial '36 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987). Harold Schoen, comp., Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence (Austin: Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, 1938). Texas Almanac, 1936.
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