7.3 Southwest Legal History: Grappling with Growth (1900-1930)


 

 

1900

(45 states)

1920

(48 states)

1940

(48 states)

Texas

3,048,710

6th

4,663,228

5th

6,414,824

6th

New Mexico

195,310

 

360,350

43rd

531,818

41st

Arizona

122,931

 

334,162

45th

499,261

43rd

California

1,485,053

21st

3,426,861

8th

6,907,387

5th

% of U.S. population

 

6.4%

 


8.3%

 


10.9%

 

 
 

Cities among the 25 largest U.S. cities:

1900

1920

1940

San Francisco

342,782

12th

506,676

12th

634,536

12th

Los Angeles

 

 

576,673

10th

1,504,277

5th

Houston

 

 

 

 

384,514

21st

 
Key events that shaped law and society:
  • The Southwest grew dramatically during the early 20th century.  Waves of immigrants from the east and from Mexico flocked to the region, attracted by the milder climate and what appeared to be boundless economic opportunity. 
  • Texas’s oil industry took off with the tapping of the Spindletop oil field, the state’s first great field, in 1901, and by the end of the era Texas was the leading oil-producing state in the Union, a position it has maintained ever since.  Texas’s oil boom occurred at exactly the right time to serve the burgeoning auto industry and to take advantage of many industries’ conversion from coal to oil.
  • The state also diversified economically and geographically.  Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio continued their march into the ranks of the nation’s leading cities and led the way in developing a diversified industrial base, although cattle and farming continued to play major roles in the state’s economy.  Texas culture continued to reflect a mix of Southern and Western influences.
  • California followed the same pattern.  The state’s vast resources began to be fully developed for the first time:  California took full advantage of the new refrigerated railroad cars, which allowed long-distance shipment of perishable fruit and vegetables, and of large-scale agricultural development in the Central and Imperial Valleys and became a leading food supplier to the rest of the nation.  The growth of agriculture and cities caused demand for water to skyrocket and made water rights more of an issue than ever.  California ports, particularly San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach and San Diego, became major hubs of American trade with east Asia.  California and Texas became increasingly urban, and Los Angeles joined San Francisco as one of the nation’s major cities.
  • California and Arizona were heavily influenced by Progressive sentiment and by the proposed Progressive government, workplace and other reforms that were receiving attention throughout the nation at the beginning of the 20th century.  .  Under Governor Hiram Johnson (1911-17), California became one of the leading states in the development of Progressive reforms, particularly provisions for direct voter enactment of laws which have heavily shaped the state’s course ever since.   Texas, reflecting to some extent the pattern of other Southern states (see § ___), enacted only modest reforms.  But in 1913 Texas responded to calls for regulation of the petroleum industry by enacting a pioneering series of laws regulating oil and gas development and allocation of rights among oil patch landowners.
  •  Recreation also came to play an important part in Southwestern life.  California attracted an ever-larger number of tourists attracted by its mild climate, beaches, redwood forests, mountains and other natural attractions.  The movie industry began in southern California about 1905, grew rapidly, and made the state famous throughout the world.  California also developed a broad variety of more traditional industries as well.
  • Arizona and New Mexico finally became states in 1912.  The two new states were overshadowed by California and Texas but they grew and prospered during the era, albeit at a more modest pace.        
 

New states:

New Mexico (1912)

Arizona (1912)

Spindletop [Spindletop, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and vicinity, Texas - oil industry].
Spindletop oilfield, Beaumont, Texas (1901) - courtesy Library of Congress

File:SealBeach-1920.jpg
Seal Beach, California (1920) - courtesy Los Angeles Public Library and Wikimedia Commons