Texas Big Wigs: A Preview of the Most Texas Texans in Texas History

Texas Ingenuity cover.

Texas is a different kind of place. It was born out of its own revolution that in many ways parallels the American Revolution. Texas heroes like Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and William B. Travis have their names plastered on schools, public buildings and highways in the same way Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin celebrated throughout the US. This unique heritage for Texas resulted in the formation of a particular mind-set for Texans that some call swagger. A Texas truism says to never ask a stranger if he’s from Texas. If he is he’ll tell you, if he isn’t you don’t want to embarrass him.

The origins and consequences of Texas swagger is captured in my book Texas Ingenuity: Lone Star Inventors, Inventions, and Innovators. It’s a collection of engaging and sometimes quirky stories about noteworthy products, inventions, innovators, and companies that were born and bred in Texas. Each story emphasizes a Texas connection and shows how Texas inventiveness, determination or sheer dumb luck made the innovation or innovator famous and successful.

Stories and personalities include:

The Chuckwagon – The on-the-trail invention of Colonel Charles Goodnight in the 1870’s—and how cowboy cooking inspired the uncountable Tex-Mex restaurants that occupy every busy street corner in Texas today

Pig Stand – The most innovative restaurant in history—home of the carhop, the onion ring, Texas toast, the drive-in restaurant, the drive-thru restaurant, and more.

Neiman Marcus – The store that put Texas on the world’s fashion map.

Conrad Hilton – Who turned a small-town flophouse into a world-wide hotel empire.

The Hamburger – The sometimes-disputed but always appetizing 1904 invention of the hamburger in Athens by Fletcher Davis.

Dr. Pepper – Charles Aldetron’s 1885 Waco concoction and the legendary love story that may have given it its name.

Liquid Paper – The timesaving invention by Bette Nesmith (and how her son became a Monkee).

Mary Kay Cosmetics – The company that gave thousands of women a chance to make a pretty penny in the business world.

Kilgore Rangerettes – How Gussie Nell Davis gave a kick-start to the concept of the college drill team in Kilgore, Texas and changed half-time shows forever

 And the list continues…

Texas Ingenuity invites the reader to pull up an easy chair, pour a frosty glass of Dr. Pepper, and learn about the ingenious and imaginative people that made the Lone Star State the best place to live this side of heaven.

This post was written by Alan Elliott for Texas Ingenuity: Lone Star Inventions, Inventors & Innovators (The History Press)