The Unknown City, 1836-1946
Texas History
7 x 10, 464 pp.
74 b&w photos. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 12/15/2011
Sara and John Lindsey Series in the Arts and Humanities
Price:        $29.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

To Receive E-News

1993 Heart of Houston Award, presented by the American Heart Associaton Guild of Houston
1992 Ottis Lock Award, presented by the East Texas Historical Association
1991 Ima Hogg Historical Achievement Award, presented by the Winedale Historical Center


The Unknown City, 1836-1946

By Marguerite Johnston

In their willingness to leave home and country to create a new city and a new nation, the first Houstonians were a special breed. They were adventurers and builders; they were citizens of the world. This is the story of these people, their descendants and like-minded successors, and their city, up to the end of the Second World War.

It is a history marked by murder, mutiny, and the ironies of war, by comedy and high jinks, by heroism and a remarkable generosity. This fascinating social history grew out of Marguerite Johnston's forty years of friendship with the city and its people. It traces Houston's first families through interlinking marriages, charitable associations, and business partnerships.

In this book, Johnston brings to light unpublished letters and diaries from those who served with Perry in Japan, who helped Maximillian design Mexico City, who acted for Woodrow Wilson at Versailles, who helped Roosevelt restore the national economy, and who, by conceiving and negotiating the Marshall Plan, saved Western Europe from collapse. She also sketches in warm detail the gentle life of a Southern town and portrays a people of intellect and a natural elegance.

Ima Hogg, Houston philanthropist and patron of the arts, once said that Houston was lucky because the first Houstonians who got rich gave their money for schools, parks, hospitals, and the arts. "This set the pattern," she said. "This is what Houstonians do once they get a little money." Since 1836, their continuing philanthropy has totaled more than a billion dollars, yet remains personal. It has created a lively cultural scene, a prestigious educational establishment, a pace-setting medical center, and a gracious life-style.

Old Houstonians rarely speak of themselves as Texans--they are Houstonians. Their story--not without problems, challenges, and conflicts--is the story of people who have shaped a major American city and who from it, have influenced lives around the world.

MARGUERITE JOHNSTON, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, was Washington bureau chief for the Birmingham News and London Daily Mirror in 1945-46. In 1948 she covered the U.N. Conference on Freedom of Information and the Press in Geneva for Editor and Publisher and the Houston Post, for which she wrote a daily column from 1947 to 1968. Now a resident of Houston, she is also the author of a previous book, A Happy Worldly Abode, the history of Houston's oldest church.

What Readers Are Saying:

"If a city could write its autobiography, this is the one that Houston would proudly produce.."--Houston Post

"Houston: The Unknown City, though it provides a general history, is as much a history of families who shaped Houston: the Andersons, Bakers, Browns, Claytons, Cullinans, Cullens, Hughes, Hobbys, and Hoggs. . . . [Johnston] did a good job showing how people can affect their chosen city."--Austin American-Statesman

" . . . does include chapters and references to black Houstonians, relating their accomplishments despite the discrimination they endured in a highly segregated society. . . . It is Johnston's ability to sustain a historical narrative which prevents the social notes and details from sounding like gossip-column copy." --Review of Texas Books

" . . . Johnston's book is a rich and colorful mosaic of mini-biographies of those who gave to the city, whose names are identified with many of its greatest institutions. . . . But there are other reasons for relishing Johnston's book: not only the personal details on these folks, but also the wealth of detail on popular culture, trivia in the happiest sense of the word."--Texas Books in Review

" . . . a popular history of the city up through the end of World War II. . . . The visual impact of the volume augments her approach, for the book contains seventy-one short, journalistic chapters, printed in double columns and amply documented with numerous photographs. The freshness of light reporting makes the book easy reading."--Southern Historian

" . . . a genuine pleasure to read and is a welcome addition to the literature on the Bayou City."--Houston Review

" [The result  is] Marguerite Johnston's rich chronicling of the early days of Houston and the people who imbued it with a unique heritage and flavor. . . . "--Houston Chronicle

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