In a grand gesture on Independence Day 1876 B. B. Paddock’s Daily Democrat introduced a double-duty nameplate atop its front page: First, the nameplate celebrated Fort Worth’s imminent coming of age with the arrival of the first train (see Part 1). Second, the nameplate proudly displayed the “Where the Panther Laid Down” nickname that had been born in 1875 with a belittling yarn in the Dallas Daily Herald by Dallasite Robert Cowart. At the eight o’clock position on the circle can be seen a train, its engine billowing black smoke. At the six o’clock position can be seen a panther at rest.
Part 2 of this three-part post concentrates on the Democrat’s celebration of Fort Worth’s coming of age.
This is an excerpt from a longer Democrat article of July 4 explaining the new logo. Fort Worth may have been a sleepy “suburban village” “where the panter laid down” in 1875, but the railroad would soon transform Pantherville into “the most prominent place in Northern Texas.”
On July 5 the Democrat declared Fort Worth to be “Red Hot.” “By the 18th inst., the steam horse will be blowing his hot breath into the faces of our people”—people who will “ride upon the waves of prosperity into the haven of wealth, affluence, and power.”
On July 13, as the railroad bridge over Sycamore Creek was being built three miles away, the Democrat pondered how best Fort Worth should stage a “grand jollification” to celebrate “the most important event that has ever occurred in our city since ‘the panter laid down’ here.”
On July 15 the Democrat chided its readers for being slow to plan a celebration. And lo, the Democrat did wax biblical (with a dig at the Sodom thirty miles downstream): “The Israelites of old had but little more reason for joy at their deliverance from Egyptian bondage than this people have for their emancipation from the thraldom exercised over them by the cross roads village of Dallas, to whom we have been compelled for three years to pay tribute of the most exorbitant kind.”
But finally, on July 18—the eve of “emancipation”—the Democrat reported that a citizens meeting would be held at 4 p.m. that day to plan a “grand jollification” in the form of a barbecue to welcome the Texas & Pacific railroad to Fort Worth.
Apparently when the first train arrived on July 19 it did not reach the site of the planned passenger depot at the foot of Main Street because on that day the Democrat wrote: “In eight days the railroad will reach its depot grounds, and in eight days Fort Worth will be wild, mad with excitement. We congratulate her in attaining her long labored for event.” The editorial ended with a special recognition of editor Paddock.
On July 20 the Democrat briefly answered the journalistic five Ws of the first train’s arrival on July 19 and then rolled out the purple prose and let ’er rip after three long years of “doubt, despair, sore disappointment, and darkest gloom.”
(The Democrat’s coverage of this monumental event shows us how much newspapers have changed. Back then local news was seldom on the front page, which instead was devoted to local advertisers and out-of-town news by telegraph. With the exception of two articles, all the articles in these three posts were on inside pages. Most news stories of the era were set in a single column and topped by a headline whose font size is small by today’s standard. Illustrations were confined to ads.)
As the celebration—much of it conducted in saloons—began, Paddock cautioned: “Our police officers should exercise discretion . . . D.D.’s [drunk and disorderlys] must be treated with leniency for a few days.”
Also on July 20 the Democrat printed a flowery entreaty by “one of the watchmen on the tower” who signed with the initials “R.M.N.” R.M.N. urged citizens to keep working, to “pace gently down the home-stretch.”
By July 25 the writers at the Democrat, possibly including B. B. Paddock himself, seemed positively drunk with glee. In this exchange, the Jefferson Jimplecute congratulated Fort Worth and singled out editor Paddock. The Democrat’s sassy reply reflects the rising self-esteem of a cowtown on the ascendant.
On July 29—just ten days after the first train arrived in town—the Democrat reported the numbers for the final herd of the cattle drive of 1876. Cowtown’s first big deal—the cattle drives—would soon yield to Cowtown’s second big deal—the railroads. It just made more sense to ship cattle to northern markets by train than by trail. Yes siree Bob, for Cowtown, the railroad was going to change everything.