Review by Christopher Dow
Stanley E. Siegel ’53 and John A. Moretta ’86 have a few things in common. Both graduated from Rice University—although nearly 30 years apart—both are professors of history in the Houston area—Siegel at the University of Houston and Moretta at Houston Community College and the UH main campus—and both have written extensively on the history of Texas. All of those aspects come together in their book, Houston: A Chronicle of the Bayou City (American Historical Press, 2005).
Houston is well worth writing about. From its founding near the site of the Battle of San Jacinto to its phenomenal growth as a port, business center, and petrochemical industry leader, Houston is home to NASA, the Texas Medical Center, championship sports teams, some of the oldest universities in Texas, and premier cultural arts organizations and museums. It is, the authors argue, the quintessential American supercity, and their informative text does justice to the city and to the people who helped make it such a remarkable place.
The large-format book has more than 400 black-and-white and color photographs and illustrations that are a history lesson all on their own. One, for example, is a color painting produced by a land speculator to draw Europeans to Houston in the years before the Civil War. The painting shows a placid blue river crossed by a stone and brick bridge and Houston nestled on a verdant hillside just beyond the river, while in the background soars a pretty good-sized mountain.
It’s safe to say that Siegel and Moretta’s history of the unique city of Houston is considerably more accurate, but it is no less compelling.
This review originally appeared in the winter 2007 issue of Sallyport: The Magazine of Rice University.
Houston: A Chronicle of the Bayou City