A Chamber of Commerce publication from 1919.

A Chamber of Commerce publication from 1919.

Fort Worth is prospering beyond any city of her class in America. She is crowded to the gates with newcomers. Her bank resources are multiplying. Realty values have soared. She is building more rapidly than any city in the South. Thousands of new citizens and scores of new industries are being absorbed.

The country at large has never had a proper appreciation of this new Southwestern metropolis. Fort Worth was known first as a cattle town. Later the vast oil production of the surrounding territory gave her wide publicity.

But she is neither a “cow-town” nor an “oil-town.” Since the establishment of the military post known as Fort Worth, she has been a trading and supply point for the vast domain of North Central and West Texas. But long ago she doffed the chaps and spurs.

Today she stands forth as a center of education, art and music; a city of beautiful homes, pleasant parks, wide streets and magnificent churches – a modern, law-abiding and progressive city, young, vigorous, bustling and businesslike

Man, that is some rockin’ economic development-type prose about Fort Worth. What brilliant scribe has summed up Fort Worth’s current economic situation succinctly and to the point?

Sad to say, unless he or she wrote this at age 4 or 5, they are unlikely still with us. This was from a publication from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce in 1919. Yep, that’s right, a century ago we were grappling with some of the same issues we bemoan today.

The chamber then, by the way, was led by William Monnig, a downtown merchant and namesake of the current William Monnig Middle School.

I found this treasure in the The Portal to Texas History, a site with rare, historical, and primary source materials from or about Texas that is created and maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries. I’m sure I was looking for something else and ran across this, totally forgetting about what I was initially searching for.

It’s remarkably prescient. You could have taken these four paragraphs, plopped them down at the beginning of the new Economic Development Strategic Plan presented in 2017 and no one would have been the wiser.

This week we are presenting our Top 100 issue where we give an accounting of some of the top businesses and leaders in Fort Worth. One of those companies, Tandy Leather, is in fact 100 years old. Fort Worth’s cattle industry focus spawned Tandy Leather, which, under Charles Tandy’s guidance, spawned Tandy Corp., RadioShack and basically the modern city we live in today.

Precedent or not, reading further through the chamber’s 1919 report, titled Fort Worth: The Billion Dollar Circle: Cotton, Cattle, Grain, Oil, you can find that some things have changed. In 1919, bank deposits were a whopping $34M. One of our smallest banks in the area last year had deposits of $136M. Bank clearings then were $900M. I’m not sure what that is, but we don’t measure them anymore that I can see.

The 1919 report also makes a big deal of Post Office Receipts of $947,220. Got no idea what that is or why it’s important.

The publication says Fort Worth has 500 oil companies. That could be a stretch, but since the Ranger strike west of here took place in 1917, it could be there were 500 companies hoping to strike it rich. Fort Worth also was strong with oil field equipment supply companies, something for which we’re still known. We also had a large number of refineries around the city.

The Billion Dollar Circle makes note of Fort Worth’s place as a rail center, and justifiably so. It’s a bit heartbreaking to read about our “Electric street railway service to all parts of the city and suburbs.” Yeah, wish we had that one back.

To finish up, here are some lines from the closing graph of the book:

“Come to Fort Worth to live. Locate your business here. Establish your factory or your distribution house. You will be most heartily welcomed, for blended with the Western hustle of our people is the warm hospitality of the South.”

If you wonder why so many people are now coming to Fort Worth, it’s because we’ve been inviting them for over 100 years.

(3) comments

Jack L Smith

"Bank clearings then were $900M" is basically a measure of how much money was passed from bank to bank through the clearinghouse here in Fort Worth. For $900M to pass through means that if your example of a good sized bank of $36M would turn there money at a healthy rate.

"Post Office Receipts of $947,220" indicates how much was spent on one of our primary mode of shipping small amounts and corresponding in the day. I don't remember when postage went up from 1 cent to 2 cents per letter, but I think it was in the 1920's. I have no idea how much it cost to ship a package, but I imagine that you could ship a fairly heavy package for under a dollar, so that amount says that Fort Worthians were sending mail at a brisk pace.

Jack L Smith

Also having 500 oil companies only means that anyone who had an interest in a well could have their own company.

What interests me is what would be the value of the golden circle today? And what other statistics have changed to.


In reading through the report, what I found interesting is that none of the attributes of the City were shown to relate to the WWI mobilization. Many of the businesses like cold storage, cattle market, factories, cotton mills, flour mills, and such all expanded exponentially because of Camp Bowie and the three Royal Flying Corps Air Fields that were built here. The four-year expansion of the City that was directly attributable to the WWI effort is not even mentioned. The military and aviation had their genesis here by 1919 and the long-term impact of those sectors is still with us and sustains us today. Come out to the Fort Worth Aviation Museum to learn more.

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