December 1899

WOLVES, SMALLPOX, and cowpea subsidies are no longer statewide concerns, but in many ways, Texas today is just like it was one hundred years ago. Sure, the state looked different, but Texans were already dealing with issues such as racism and abortion, murders in the courtroom and the workplace, and a gubernatorial-presidential connection. Perhaps the most glaring difference between then and now is what wasn’t there—oil wells, pickup trucks, the state of Oklahoma (it was still just a territory). As Texans headed into the twentieth century, they fretted little about the future; instead, to quote the Austin Daily Statesman on December 23, 1899, “Hog killing and Christmas parties are the order of the day.”

On the international front, American soldiers attempt to quash an insurrection in the Philippines. Hailed as heroes are the men of Colonel Hare’s Texas Regiment, who win a crushing victory at a place called San Jacinto. The rebel leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, is dubbed Aggie in the Texas papers.

The nation is morally atwitter about polygamy and revelations that a Utah congressman-elect practices “the plural relation.” Congress is debating the gold standard while William Jennings Bryan, a leading silverite and White House hopeful, visits Texas as the guest of a possible running mate, former governor James Hogg. Austin supporters stage a panther hunt in Bryan’s honor.

Courtrooms are hopping. In Palestine state officials press lynching charges against eight white men accused of abducting and hanging a black man and his two sons. In Waco a doctor on trial for murder because he botched an abortion is shot and killed by the brother of the woman who died. And in Columbus a fired railroad worker shoots his former boss.

Horses fall victim to an epidemic of blind staggers, caused by eating spoiled corn.

In Paris storekeepers accidentally sell local children several .22-caliber pistols as toys, but a newspaper correspondent reassures readers that “no casualties have yet been reported.”

A dollar buys a pair of baby shoes, a month of phone service, a bottle of Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People, a bushel and a third of sweet potatoes, a six-volume set of Arthur Conan Doyle, two crockery slop pails, a set of toy instruments (fiddle, horn, and drum), five pounds of redfish, twelve pounds of cotton, fourteen bars of Sapolio soap, or five dozen bottle rockets to usher in the new century with a bang.

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