Texas Ingenuity: Lone Star Inventions, Inventors, and Innovators
By Alan C. Elliott
240 pp, $21.99
The History Press
If the state of Texas could talk, one of the things it might say is “You’re welcome,
Oh, and a little metal thing
In this book, Elliott presents short profiles of the people and things from Texas that have had worldwide
Like how the hotheaded and eccentric Sam Houston first sent Jim Bowie to blow up the Alamo to keep it from falling into Mexican hands (entranced, Bowie chose to defend the doomed mission instead).
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How Gail Borden, whose way of condensing milk to keep it drinkable longer, had a string of business failures preceding him (his tombstone reads “I tried and failed. I tried again and again and succeeded”). How political and social powerhouse Oveta Culp Hobby integrated (somewhat) the U.S. Army with the
Elliott profiles the work of people like these, along with Conrad Hilton, Barbara Jordan and Bette (mother of Monkee Mike) Nesmith; institutions like Southwest Airlines and Neiman Marcus; and general topics like football and oil gushers. And he shows how Texas moxie has a wide-ranging influence, with chapters on some of the aforementioned food and drink items standing out.
Unfortunately, of much less impact is when the book moves to Texas “innovators” in literature (O. Henry), animation (Tex Avery), sports (Jack Johnson, Babe Zaharias) and a string of familiar Texan music makers (Buddy Holly, Willie Nelson, Bob Wills, Scott Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughan). These chapters read like extended Wikipedia entries, with little new info or depth of discussion that readers can’t find in about a million other places.
Still, Elliott has done a solid job in bringing so many disparate Texas-bred things into one place in an easy-to-digest format. And – speaking on behalf of Texas – you are welcome,