Saturday, January 31, 2015

President Hogg? Senator Hogg?

       After he left office, ex-governor Jim Hogg, the eloquent, rotund Texas politician, had a national reputation. William Jennings Bryan, who became a good friend, once told him, “I believe that you have all the qualifications necessary for president and there is no man I would rather support than yourself.”
       The U.S. Senate seat could easily have been Hogg’s. In those days senators were elected by the state legislatures. Jim Hogg wrote to his brother John that he was being urged to run for the Senate, but he was not going to:

Nothing distresses me more than to have my friends on the one side appealing to me to make the race and my little ones on the other begging me not to. This time I feel that I should side with my children for I am due to them a double service--that of father and mother.

       Besides that, his law practice was bringing in twice what his salary as a Senator would have been. Senators then made $7,500 a year. So $15,000 in those days would be, let us say, about $400,000 in today’s dollars. Not bad, for a former printer’s devil and sharecropper.
       This is the man who made the most his 300-pound girth and his country roots when it suited him, but he was also a gifted speaker, an eloquent writer, and a talented lawyer. That is why his daughter adored him.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Did Jim Hogg really blow up an ostrich?

       Newspapers could not leave ex-governor Jim Hogg alone. In 1900 a Kansas newspaper carried the following story:
       Ex-Gov. James Stephen Hogg went from Austin to San Antonio, Tex., with the Texas university students to see the fair. The big ex-governor said he went over to have some fun at the expense of the pickpockets who, as he had heard, were infesting the fair.
       He had a mild infernal machine arranged inside of a watch case, and with what seemed to be a $400 chronometer in his vest pocket he strolled about the grounds in the thickest crowds, and with feelings akin to those of a man who carries a chip on his shoulder.
       While he was looking at a menagerie of animals, an ostrich spied the bulging pocket, and deftly lifted the timepiece. A ten-foot string attached to the watch, on pulling taut, was to set off the machine.
       “By Gatlings, light out, boys!” roared the big ex-governor, as the ostrich gulped down the timepiece. There was an explosion and a stampede on the midway. The manager of the show put on his armor and buckler and hunted the fair grounds many times over for the man who he thought has fed a dynamite cap to his star bird. But ex-Gov Hogg of Texas was then well on his way to the city to keep a pressing engagement with his friend and colleague, Senator Horace Chilton.
--The Chanute [Kansas] Times, January 26, 1900.

       Poor ostrich! The irony was that Jim Hogg had a pair of ostriches named Jack and Jill as pets at home in Austin. As Ima recalled, “Father always fed these ostriches with his own hands. They were always rather wild but came to him whenever he called.” 
       Not this one.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

So there, Rick Perry: Jim Hogg had his enemies, too.

        Longtime Texas Governor Rick Perry might like to think of another ex-governor: After he left office in 1895, James Stephen Hogg’s political enemies would not leave him alone.
        In florid prose, a Galveston newspaper quoted a New York paper in 1896:

" 'It was the Hon. James Stephen Hogg, then governor of Texas, who prophesied that the sky-abrading towers of Chicago would be besprent with the livers and lights of plutocrats if these persons kept on in their plutocratic career,' observes the New York Sun. Yet, in the last campaign, he spoke a kind word for the plutocrats.
He is rapidly becoming a plutocrat himself, and now he knows how much circumstances alter cases."
--The Galveston Daily News, Nov. 29, 1896

     But a Houston paper gave Hogg a pat on the back, praising him for “the wonderful hold he has upon the favor and affections of the people, a hold that no abuse or assaults from his enemies can shake.”

--The Houston Daily Post, Aug. 22, 1897

Saturday, January 10, 2015

River Oaks 1925: Houses for $7,000---and up.

     You bought your lot, but you could not build just any kind of house on it. There were regulations and restrictions. First, your house had to cost at least $7,000 (in today’s dollars, that would come to over $90,000). A panel of architects and citizens had to approve its design. If you built on Kirby Drive your house could be only English Tudor or American Colonial, and it had better be grand. (Drive down Kirby Drive today, and look at the results.)
      Elsewhere on other streets in River Oaks, there were homes of other styles. There were modest Cape Cod cottages, and massive mansions, Regency, Spanish Colonial, Georgian. There were Mediterranean-style villas. There were Olympic-sized swimming pools (one paved with imported Italian mosaic tiles), there was a Lalique crystal stair rail with a matching chandelier, and other such high-end touches.
       On the largest of the lots in River Oaks, fourteen and a half acres, the Hoggs built their own house in 1927.
       Ima called it “Bayou Bend.”

Saturday, January 3, 2015

“An intelligent, refined, and chivalrous society”

       That was what the promotional brochure said about Houston’s River Oaks, Houston's new residential area. The first house built there in 1925, at 3376 Inwood Drive, became the home of William Lockhart. Clayton, who, with his brother-in-law, Monroe Dunaway Anderson (think M.D. Anderson) founded the largest cotton-trading company in the world.
        Eventually River Oaks would be home to the legendry oil tycoon, Jim “Silver Dollar” West, business wizard Hugh Roy Cullen, and other founders of Houston fortunes. These were the big rich, but there were also the famous: Hollywood star Gene Tierney, astronaut Alan Shepherd, heart surgeon Denton Cooley, political headliners like John Connally and Oveta Culp Hobby, and a roster of other celebrated names.
       And last, but not least, were the Hoggs. By the 1920s, their oil fields were making them independently wealthy.
       They, too, would make River Oaks their home.