Past Gallery Exhibit – Foundations of Influence
A Reflection on Galveston’s Beginnings
Galveston has always possessed remarkable vitality despite the various forces and events that have challenged it. Its citizens were the definition of true Galvestonians whose love and respect for the coastal city’s mercantile and cultural life persevered despite the environmental threats of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Foundations of Influence exhibit included portraits of well known members of Galveston families lining the walls, and special belongings displayed in the elegant hallway cases.
In 1838, Michel B. Menard founded the Galveston City Company on “one league and a labor of land” on the eastern end of Galveston Island. With this company the first citizens of Galveston issued deeds to plots of land to investors, and the City of Galveston was chartered in 1839. As the principal port and gateway to the Southwest, Galveston was able to profit from shipping, mercantile goods, banks, and transportation.
The mid-1870s through the 1890s represented the pinnacle of Galveston’s prosperity. A visitor to the island would have seen a bustling city with paved streets, impressive buildings, and tropical gardens. The Strand, the business district of the island, became a major financial center, and the amassed wealth of its businesses was redistributed through the various city beautification projects. Entertainment in Galveston also tended to be lavish. It was customary for its citizens to throw several balls throughout the year as well as several other functions that participated in “fine food, speeches, and dancing.”
Many charitable groups and volunteer organizations were involved in securing the growth of Galveston. Many of these organizations were geared toward the improvement of the city’s sanitation and were prominent in several beautification projects. Some of these groups included: Galveston Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Health Protective Association, Rotary Club of Galveston, Junior Welfare League of Galveston, Galveston Lions Club, and the Harris and Eliza Kempner Foundation.