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Handbook of Houston

Houston is Texas’s biggest city and the fourth largest city in the country. Founded on the banks of Buffalo Bayou in 1836, Houston is a city focused on progress and is always keeping an eye towards the future. But it also has a rich and important history, which has affected the state, the nation, and the world. Houston served as the first permanent capital of the Republic of Texas, hosted the state’s first presidential convention, and built Texas’s first freeway and the world’s first air-conditioned sports stadium. In 1969 “Houston” rang out as the first word spoken from the moon, a nod to its legacy as “Space City.”

Houston’s history is as varied and eclectic as its myriad nicknames, from “Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea” and “Magnolia City” to “Bayou City” and “H-Town.”

Houston leads Texas (and much of the country) in diversity and has offered respite, jobs, and new beginnings to waves of immigrants. This diversity is echoed in the strong cultural history of neighborhoods such as Freedmen’s Town Historical District, the Greater East End, and the Mahatma Gandhi District. Houston’s Texas Medical Center, the largest medical complex in the world, saw the first successful heart transplant in the United States, the first AIDS hospital, and the first major US institute focused on medical ethics.

Thanks to civic leaders like “Mr. Houston” Jesse Jones, Houston’s ship channel, which was the first federal project to include a promise of matching local funds, unloaded the world's first container ship in 1956, and built the first cargo container terminal in Texas in 1977. Houston has played a vital part in the growth and development of Texas and is therefore a natural choice for the first city-focused spinoff of the Handbook of Texas. The Handbook of Houston strives to offer a robust record of the city’s past, and we eagerly look forward to sharing this history with others.

Talk of an encyclopedic-style collection of Houston’s history began in earnest in 2008, when professional and avocational historians started meeting regularly to discuss the idea. A partnership between the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) and Houston History Alliance (HHA) in 2015 made the project a reality, thanks to the generous underwriting of Houston Endowment. The Handbook of Texas includes a number of Houston-related entries, and the Handbook of Houston will incorporate these, along with many new entries, to deepen the reader’s understanding and appreciation for the role Houston played in Texas and US history.

Following the time-honored tradition of the Handbook of Texas, we look forward to making the scholarship of Houston’s history easily available through the TSHA website. Our hope is that we will both enhance the knowledge of Houston enthusiasts and introduce new generations to our great city and its historic past.

Currently the Handbook of Houston is curating new entries and seeking contributors for the project. The new entries represent Houston’s diverse culture and will highlight topics such as historic events and landmarks, businesses and organizations, and biographies on community activists and leaders, to name a few. Contributors need not be professional historians. A passion for history, a keen interest in research, and the ability to produce a fact-based entry are all that are required. If you are interested in contributing, please contact the Handbook of Houston editor(s):

Brett Derbes
Texas State Historical Association

Laurie Jasinski
Texas State Historical Association

Lindsay Scovil Dove
Houston History Alliance

The following documents are meant to assist potential contributors prepare articles for the Handbook of Houston project:

If you do not wish to author an article but would like to suggest a topic that does not already appear in the Handbook of Texas Online, please fill out this Houston topic suggestion form.


Special thanks go to the following people, without whom this project would not be successful: Houston Endowment; TSHA Chief Historian Randolph “Mike” Campbell; TSHA Chief Executive Officer Brian Bolinger; TSHA Handbook Committee Chair Stephen C. Cook; Managing Editor Brett Derbes; Handbook Research Editor Laurie Jasinski; Handbook Assistant Editor Matt Abigail; TSHA former staff members Ann Smith and Gerardo Garcia; HHA board members and supporters Cecelia Ottenweller, Katy Butterwick, Susan Cowles, Tanya Debose, Diana DuCroz, David Falloure, Abbie Grubb, Debbie Harwell, Thomas McWhorter, Miki Norton, Dianne Powell, Gail Rosenthal, Christy Rubenstein, and Eddie Weller; Houston advisory committee members JR Gonzales, Louis Aulbach, Joanna Collier, James E. Fisher, and Barbara Humphreys; early project supporters Betty Chapman, Kemo Curry, Ed Emmett, Sarah Jackson, William Kellar, Philip Montgomery, Annise Parker, Michele Reilly, Liz Sargent, The Heritage Society, Mike Vance, Pam Young, and Kimberly Youngblood; and all of the volunteers and contributors that have committed to upcoming entries for the Handbook of Houston. Without each and every one of you, our hope for this project would be greatly diminished.