A Look Behind
What Travel Writers Thought of Austin in 1883
by Anna Andersen
While making this issue, I stumbled upon a terrific book of travel writing on Texas from 1883. The authors of the book, “On a Mexican Mustang Through Texas: From the Gulf to the Rio Grande,” remarked that “Texas is the broadest, widest, deepest, and most intensely gorgeous State in the Union” and seemed especially taken by Austin, noting that “the scenery in Austin is the most beautiful and picturesque in Texas.” As the following passage suggests, they also appreciated the more straight-laced qualities of a city that now prefers to keep things weird.
“Austin is most emphatically a pretty city, perhaps the prettiest in Texas. In some respects it has advantages over San Antonio. There is, in the first place, the beautiful mountain scenery. Then the location of the city on a number of hills is calculated to please the eye, particularly as these heights are crowned with family residences, the architecture of which is infinitely superior to that observable in the Alamo City. In San Antonio, when a man builds a fine house, he selects a piece of ground to fit the house (that is, of about the same size); and consequently he has to hang the family clothes out on the shrubbery in the front yard, the possible object being to astonish the passer-by with the amount of underclothing the proud proprietor can boast of. In Austin, however, the people do not appear to be so ostentatious (no intentional perpetration of a pun is designed): there appears an unwillingness to inform the public as to the extent and variety of their underwear. Possibly the Austinites do not wear many clothes in summer; but, at any rate, they build their houses on large lots, and have ample room for backyards and clotheslines.”