Dallas History

The city of Dallas, Texas, was founded in 1841.

John Neely Bryan, a trader and lawyer from Tennessee, is often credited as the founder of Dallas. He first visited the area in 1839, searching for a place to establish a trading post that could serve people traveling along the Preston Trail (a key route at the time) and the Native American tribes in the region. He returned in November 1841 to permanently settle on the east bank of the Trinity River, setting up a trading post and plotting out a small town.

Bryan's tiny settlement slowly grew as more settlers were attracted to the area due to the fertile soil, the river, and later, the construction of railroads. The city was formally incorporated in 1856. Over time, Dallas expanded and developed into one of the major economic and cultural hubs in the United States.

John Neely Bryan (1810–1877) was a Tennessee-born farmer, lawyer, and tradesman, most famously known as the founder of the city of Dallas, Texas.

In 1839, Bryan visited the Dallas area and was captivated by the potential of the spot where the three forks of the Trinity River converged. Recognizing the site's strategic benefits for trade, he envisioned it as an optimal location for a trading post, and possibly a town, that could serve both American Indian tribes and settlers moving westward.

Bryan returned in 1841 and established a permanent settlement on the east bank of the Trinity River. He plotted a small townsite and laid the groundwork for what would eventually become the city of Dallas. In 1856, the city was officially incorporated.

Beyond his role in founding Dallas, Bryan also served as its first postmaster, established a ferry service across the Trinity River, and pursued various business ventures. Unfortunately, his personal life was marked by hardships, including financial struggles and mental health issues.

Despite these challenges, Bryan's contributions to the city's early growth were significant. His legacy continues to be recognized in Dallas today, with various landmarks and memorials bearing his name.

Dallas, Texas, in the 1800s was a place of transformation and growth. It developed from a tiny settlement on the banks of the Trinity River into a bustling and influential city.

Early 1800s - Founding: In the first half of the 19th century, the area that would become Dallas was inhabited primarily by Native American tribes, with few permanent European-American settlers. John Neely Bryan, a trader and lawyer from Tennessee, founded the city of Dallas in 1841. He set up a trading post and plotted out a small town, choosing the location due to its proximity to the Trinity River and its potential as a trading hub.

Mid 1800s - Incorporation and Growth: Dallas was officially incorporated as a city in 1856. Its population began to grow with the arrival of new settlers drawn by the fertile land and the potential for trade. The city became a center for the local agricultural community, where farmers could trade their goods.

Late 1800s - Expansion and Modernization: The arrival of the railroads in the 1870s transformed Dallas into a transportation and business center. The Texas and Pacific Railway, as well as the Houston and Texas Central Railway, intersected in Dallas, promoting its growth and making it a major hub for trade and migration in the region. With the railway came a population boom and an expansion of the city's boundaries.

Dallas was further transformed with the growth of its cotton and wheat industries. It became a major center for the cotton trade, hosting the largest inland cotton market in the United States. The city was also a significant wheat market due to the surrounding farmland. During this period, various businesses and services began to emerge, including banks, stores, hotels, and schools.

Late 1800s - Societal Issues: Despite its growth and prosperity, Dallas in the 1800s also faced challenges. Racial tensions were high during the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War, and societal inequality was prevalent. Additionally, the city faced a devastating fire in 1860 and an outbreak of yellow fever in 1873, both of which tested the resilience of the growing city.

By the end of the 19th century, Dallas had become a thriving and bustling city with an economy centered around agriculture, trade, and commerce. Its growth during this century laid the foundation for it to become one of the largest and most influential cities in Texas in the 20th century.


From 1900 to 1950, Dallas, Texas, continued to grow and transform into a key economic and cultural hub. Below is a general overview of this period:

Early 1900s - Growth and Development: Dallas continued to grow rapidly during the early 20th century, due in part to the thriving cotton and railway industries. In the 1920s, the discovery of oil in Texas led to an economic boom that helped further the city's development. Dallas became a center for banking and insurance companies supporting the oil industry.

1920s - Architectural Expansion: With the economic prosperity brought about by the oil boom, Dallas saw a surge in architectural expansion. A number of iconic buildings were constructed during this time, including the Magnolia Building (now the Magnolia Hotel), which was the city's first skyscraper, and the Dallas Power & Light Building.

Great Depression and New Deal: Like the rest of the country, Dallas was hit by the Great Depression in the 1930s. However, the city's economy was somewhat buoyed by the oil and gas industry, which remained relatively stable. Additionally, New Deal programs brought federal funds to the city for public works projects, which provided jobs and helped stimulate the local economy.

World War II and Post-War Era: During World War II, Dallas served as a manufacturing center, with numerous defense plants contributing to the war effort. This resulted in a boost to the local economy and a surge in population as workers flocked to the city. After the war, Dallas continued to grow and industrialize.

Late 1940s - Early Signs of a Tech Hub: By the late 1940s, Dallas started seeing early signs of becoming a tech hub. Texas Instruments, originally founded in 1930 as Geophysical Service Incorporated to provide seismic exploration services for the petroleum industry, started diversifying into electronics, a move that would play a significant role in Dallas's future growth and reputation as a center for technology and innovation.

The 1950s was a decade of significant change and growth for Dallas, Texas. Here are some of the key features of the city during this period:

Economic Growth and Diversification: The 1950s saw Dallas continue its transformation into a major economic and business hub. The oil and gas industry continued to be crucial to the local economy, but other sectors started to take on increasing importance. The city began to diversify into different industries, such as banking, commerce, and technology. Texas Instruments, originally founded as Geophysical Service Incorporated, cemented its position in the technology sector with the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958, which laid the groundwork for the modern digital era and elevated Dallas's reputation as a burgeoning tech hub.

Suburbanization and Urban Development: The post-World War II economic boom and the rise of the automobile led to significant suburban growth in Dallas during the 1950s. Many residents moved to new suburban areas, while downtown Dallas continued to develop as a business and retail center. Iconic structures, such as the H.L. Green Building and the Republic National Bank Building (then the tallest building west of the Mississippi), were constructed during this period.

Infrastructure Improvement: Major infrastructure projects were undertaken in the 1950s. The Central Expressway, a crucial north-south route through the city, was constructed, facilitating transportation and suburban expansion. Love Field Airport also underwent expansion and modernization, cementing its role as the city's primary airport until the opening of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the 1970s.

Cultural and Education Expansion: The 1950s saw the growth of Dallas's cultural and educational institutions. Southern Methodist University continued to expand, and in 1957, the Dallas Civic Opera (now the Dallas Opera) was established, enhancing the city's cultural scene.


The 1960s was a transformative and challenging decade for Dallas, Texas. A period of significant growth and change, it was also a time of deep national tragedy that directly impacted the city.

Economic and Industrial Growth: The 1960s continued the economic and industrial growth of the 1950s. The oil and gas industry remained significant, but Dallas further diversified into technology, finance, and other sectors. Texas Instruments became increasingly prominent in the technology sector, contributing to the growth of the city as a technology and innovation hub. Additionally, several corporations moved their headquarters to Dallas, further boosting its reputation as a business center.

The Kennedy Assassination: The most notorious event in Dallas during the 1960s was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. This tragic event shocked the nation and the world, and it cast a long shadow over the city. The Texas School Book Depository, from where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy, later became the Sixth Floor Museum, dedicated to preserving the memory of Kennedy and examining the impact of his assassination.

Civil Rights Movement: The 1960s was a pivotal decade for civil rights across the United States, and Dallas was no exception. The city, like much of the South, was marked by racial segregation and discrimination. During this decade, African Americans and civil rights activists challenged segregation and discrimination through protests and legal action. In 1961, a racial desegregation lawsuit was filed against the Dallas Independent School District, leading to the gradual integration of public schools.

Cultural and Infrastructure Development: The city continued to grow culturally and infrastructurally. Dallas established the Dallas Theater Center in 1959, which would become a significant cultural institution in the city. The DFW International Airport began its initial stages of planning and construction, although it would not officially open until the 1970s. The Southland Center (now the Sheraton Dallas Hotel), a major downtown hotel and office complex, was also built during this decade.

Urban Planning and "The Dallas Plan": In the late 1960s, the city adopted an ambitious urban design plan known as "The Dallas Plan", which sought to modernize the city's downtown and improve urban infrastructure. The plan proposed the creation of pedestrian-friendly spaces, improved public transit, and the preservation of historic buildings.

Overall, the 1960s was a decade of growth and change for Dallas, as it further solidified its status as a major economic and cultural hub. However, it was also a period of social tension and tragic events that left a significant impact on the city.

The 1970s was a decade of change and growth for Dallas, Texas, characterized by significant development and an increasing prominence on the national and international stage. Here are some of the key features of Dallas during the 1970s:

Economic Expansion: Despite national economic challenges during the 1970s, such as the oil crisis and inflation, Dallas continued to expand economically. The oil and gas industry, while impacted by national events, remained significant. However, the city's economy diversified further, with growth in sectors like banking, real estate, and technology.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport: One of the most transformative developments of the decade was the opening of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in 1974. This new, expansive airport positioned Dallas as a major transportation hub and fueled economic and population growth.

Television and Popular Culture: Dallas gained national and international recognition through popular culture when the television show "Dallas" first aired in 1978. This soap opera, depicting the lives of a wealthy and feuding Texan oil family, the Ewings, captivated audiences worldwide and shaped global perceptions of the city.

Skyscrapers and Urban Development: The Dallas skyline dramatically changed during the 1970s as numerous skyscrapers were erected. Notable additions included the Renaissance Tower, the Elm Place, and the iconic Reunion Tower.

Civil Rights and Social Change: The civil rights movement of the previous decade led to significant societal changes in the 1970s. Dallas schools underwent further desegregation following federal orders, a process that faced significant challenges and tensions.

Sports: Dallas's sports scene also grew during this period. The Dallas Cowboys, already one of the NFL's top teams, won their first Super Bowl in 1972. Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks NBA team was founded in 1980, at the close of the decade.

Public Transport: In response to the rapid expansion and growing traffic problems, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) was created in 1983 to establish a broad network of bus and light rail services.

Recession and Real Estate Bust: However, the late 1970s and into the early 1980s were challenging economically. Overbuilding led to a glut in the real estate market, and falling oil prices hurt the energy sector. These factors contributed to a significant recession in Dallas and across Texas.

The 1980s was a tumultuous decade for Dallas, Texas, marked by economic challenges, ongoing development, and cultural evolution. Here are some key aspects of Dallas during the 1980s:

Economic Challenges and Recovery: The early 1980s brought economic hardship to Dallas. A nationwide recession coupled with a slump in oil prices, a backbone of the Texan economy, led to significant economic downturn. Additionally, a crash in the real estate market exacerbated the economic challenges. However, towards the end of the decade, Dallas began to recover, with the local economy continuing to diversify away from its dependence on oil and real estate. The tech industry, led by companies like Texas Instruments and EDS, grew in importance.

Urban Development and Skyline Transformation: Despite the economic challenges, the Dallas skyline continued to transform. Major architectural projects included the JPMorgan Chase Tower, which became the tallest building in Dallas when completed in 1987, and the iconic Fountain Place.

DART and Infrastructure: In 1983, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system was created to manage public transportation in Dallas and 12 surrounding cities. However, it would be another decade before DART's light rail service began operation.

Cultural Boom and "Dallas" TV Show: The cultural life of Dallas thrived in the 1980s, with a flourishing arts scene and a growing reputation as a food and fashion hub. The Dallas TV show, which began in the late 1970s, was in full swing, significantly impacting the city's image at home and abroad.

Sports Success and Challenges: The Dallas Cowboys remained a dominant team in the NFL, while the Dallas Mavericks navigated their initial years in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Dallas Sidekicks, a major indoor soccer league team, were founded in 1983.


The 1990s was a transformative decade for Dallas, marked by significant growth, diversification, and technological advancements. Here's an overview of the city during this period:

Economic Expansion and Diversification: The 1990s was a period of economic recovery and expansion for Dallas. Following the economic challenges of the 1980s, Dallas continued to diversify its economy, moving away from a reliance on oil and real estate. The technology and telecommunications sectors grew significantly, earning the city and its surrounding area the nickname "Silicon Prairie". Companies like Texas Instruments and the newly-formed EDS continued to drive innovation and job growth in the city.

Infrastructure and Development: Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) initiated its light rail service in 1996, improving public transportation and connectivity within the city and its surrounding suburbs. The 1990s also saw the addition of the American Airlines Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars, which further spurred the city's development.

Cultural and Educational Growth: Dallas continued to grow as a cultural and educational hub in the 1990s. Institutions such as the University of Texas at Dallas expanded their offerings and research capabilities, contributing to the city's reputation as a center for education and innovation.

Sports Achievements: The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed considerable success in the early 1990s, winning the Super Bowl in 1992, 1993, and 1995 under the leadership of players like Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin. The Dallas Stars also saw success, entering the NHL playoffs multiple times throughout the decade.

Population Growth: The city's population continued to grow during the 1990s, with many immigrants contributing to the city's cultural diversity. Dallas's position as a hub for business and transportation, combined with a relatively low cost of living, made it an attractive destination for both domestic and international newcomers.

The early 2000s continued the pattern of economic and cultural growth for Dallas, Texas, but it was also marked by changes and challenges. Here are some significant aspects of Dallas during this time:

Economic Resilience and Diversification: In the early 2000s, the U.S. economy was hit by a recession, and later, the financial crisis of 2008. Dallas, like other cities, was affected. However, the city's economy showed resilience. Its diversified economy, which had expanded into sectors like technology, telecommunications, financial services, and healthcare, helped Dallas weather these economic storms. Companies like Texas Instruments, AT&T (which relocated its headquarters to Dallas in 2008), and a host of smaller tech and telecom firms helped drive economic growth during this period.

Urban Development and Infrastructure: The development of Dallas's infrastructure continued in the early 2000s. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail system was extended, improving the city's public transportation. Additionally, significant development projects such as the Victory Park mixed-use development near downtown and the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Arts District were initiated or completed.

Cultural and Arts Scene: The early 2000s saw Dallas's cultural scene continue to flourish. The opening of the Nasher Sculpture Center in 2003 and the expansion of the Dallas Museum of Art helped solidify Dallas's position as a leading arts and culture hub.

Sports Highlights: In sports, the Dallas Mavericks emerged as a top team in the NBA under the ownership of Mark Cuban and with star player Dirk Nowitzki. The team reached the NBA Finals in 2006, although they fell to the Miami Heat. The Dallas Stars continued to perform well during the early 2000s, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2000.


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