Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:2 (Fall 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


While historians have richly documented Texas's economic growth through its cattle industry and the petrochemical industry, they have paid scarce attention to the US government's major role in that growth as a result of its infusion of capital through the US Army in Texas. According to Thomas T. Smith, the Army channeled its budget from the US Treasury through quartermaster contracts into the hands of civilian vendors, creating an "exponential benefit" for the rest of the frontier community as a consequence of the multiplier effect of the market. Thus, the US Army decisively supported and conditioned the civilian frontier economy of Texas in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The author's specific purpose is "to determine a solid estimate of the bottom line" of total monies contributed to the Texas economy by the US Army in the latter half of that century. Smith's main thesis, however, holds that the Army was a major collaborator in the struggle to build a community on the Texas frontier. "The sword plants the banner," US Army Quartermaster Capt. Samuel G. French observed, "and a city is built around it."