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Austin Beginnings

An Exhibit of Memorable Austin Firsts

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First Year Firsts : 1839

Education and Religion
Leisure and Amusements Business
Communications  Government Services
Transportation Civic Life


  • Many newspapers had come and gone since 1836, but in 1871 a long association began between Austin citizens and one particular newspaper. July 26, 1871 was the first run of the newspaper that is still with us as our major daily--variously called the Statesman, the Democratic Statesman, the Austin Statesman, the Weekly Democratic Statesman, the Austin Weekly Statesman, the Weekly Statesman and Diversified Farmer, the Daily Democratic Statesman, and the Austin American-Statesman. In that issue, there were no less than three apologies for the lack of current information, and also three assurances that future papers would be much improved.

    "Our Beginning. In the lack of all 'exchanges,' in the making up of the present number of this paper, our readers will, perhaps, see a valid excuse for the want of that variety of matter they may expect here after." Democratic Statesman, July 26, 1871, p.1.

    "An Apology--Deeming it highly important a paper of the character of the Democratic Statesman should be issued at once, we are compelled to commence publication on such old material as we could secure in the city; but if our patrons will be lenient towards us, we will soon present them with an excellent paper printed on new type, and one which shall contain much more reading matter than the present number." Democratic Statesman, July 26, 1871, p.3.

    "This first number of the Democratic Statesman is sent to a great number of persons, who are not as yet subscribers, in the the hope that they may become such. This number is not a 'fair specimen' of what we hope to make it hereafter. We decline to make rash promises in advance, but we do assure our readers that we have some good reasons for believing that many local difficulties in the way of our enterprize [sic] will gradually disappear, and thus we shall soon be able to make this paper useful to the country, and creditable to the Democratic party of this State." Democratic Statesman, July 26, 1871, p.2.

  • The first experimental telephone conversation held in Austin, or Texas, or the Southwest, was on December 9, 1877, on the wires between the telegraph office (at the corner of Congress and Pecan [6th] upstairs), and Dr. Clark's store (near St. Elmo)--a distance of about six miles. The experiment included the singing, from the St. Elmo end, of "Almost Persuaded" by a minister's daughter. On June 24, 1881, the Statesman reported 17 businesses with working telephones. By 1916, there were 4,886 telephones, enough to warrant this room full of busy telephone operators.

    "For a week past men have been busy in the streets of Austin putting up the thirty-five-foot long poles for the telephone exchange. It is considerable of a job to raise up a huge cedar pole of those dimensions, and there is always a crowd standing on the sidewalk volunteering suggestions." Texas Siftings, June 4, 1881.

    "The following points now have telephones and can send orders to each other and save walking: Comptroller's office, Miller's stable, Andrews' cotton warehouse, Central depot, International depot, Bertram, Bruggerhoff & Moeller's wareroom, Forster & Co.'s Bank, Swindell's printing office, Western Union Telegraph office, Ben Radkey's store house, Marshall Thompson's residence, Mr. Dagnan's stable, the police station, Koeber's wool and cotton house, Firebaugh & Co.'s hardware house, John Bremonds dry goods house and Mr. Carother's residence. Others are being put up as rapidly as possible, and soon fifty or sixty will be in operation. Austin Statesman, June 24, 1881.

  • Daily airmail service began in Austin on Monday, February 6, 1928. Pilot L.S. Andrews arrived at 10:35 a.m. at the Austin Air Service field. The Austin High School band played while Pilot Andrews handed the pouches of mail to Postmaster J. Lynn Hunter and Superintendent of Mails Adolph Koch. The airmail plane then headed for San Antonio with seven escort planes. Hundreds of school children met the postal plane on its return at 5:08 p.m. At both arrivals, police had to keep the crowd from surging up to the plane.

    "Perhaps the day will come when new merchants and industries will decide their locations according to aerial express and mail facilities of the cities, just as they today select cities with the most favorable railroad outlets. We all seem to agree that this new mode of transportation is in its infancy and expect the morrow's developments to bring us colossal passenger-carrying pullmans of the clouds." Austin American, February 6, 1928.