What’s the definitive book about Texas?
Works from iconic Texas authors like Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy may come to mind. But venture into the reference section and you’ll find a special tome – and like Texas itself, it’s always changing and evolving.
First published in 1857 by The Galveston News, the Texas Almanac has evolved and changed hands several times – through the early years of Texas statehood, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the 1900s oil boom, dozens of busts, and the state’s ascent as an economic powerhouse.
The almanac includes snapshots of each of Texas’ 254 counties, plus information on government, natural resources and statistical data. It a reliable reference for researchers, educators, journalists and anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the Lone Star State.
In 2008, the nonprofit Texas State Historical Association assumed the responsibility of publishing the Texas Almanac. Managing editor Rosie Hatch joined the Standard to talk about the newly released Texas Almanac 2024-2025, which is available from booksellers and direct from the TSHA Press.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: For folks out there who may not have encountered the Texas Almanac – and it’s hard to believe there are many longtime Texans who haven’t – how would you describe the almanac? What’s in there? How do people use it?
Rosie Hatch: Well, I’d say everything’s in there. Obviously not everything, or else it would be three times as long. But if you have a question about Texas, the answers can be found in the almanac.
Let me ask you about the desire to stick with a physical book. Why, these days? Is it because people have often collected past editions; you look at it, it’s like an encyclopedia of Texas almanacs. And now you’re on the 72nd edition, is that right?
That’s right. Yeah. I think it’s tradition more than anything else. It’s a little hard to give up something that has, like you said, been published since 1857. But it definitely has to evolve more with the times. And that’s something we’re going to be looking into.
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Well, it seems like it’s already evolving, because I know that when I need some information about Texas real fast, I’ve often gone to Texas Almanac online and found the answers I’m looking for. How do you make the decision about what to include and what not to include? That’s got to be tough.
Yes. What we’re trying to do more with the book is make it less of an encyclopedia – dry and just pages and pages of tables of numbers. We’re trying to add stories and commentary about what has been happening in Texas during the past two years and what kind of challenges is Texas facing while this next book is going to be, you know, the fresh new one?
So I was really honored and excited this year for the 2024 edition. I made some friends over at The Texas Tribune, and they were able to give us some features for a couple more chapters. And they’re just short essays about what Texas has faced in the past two years; what’s on our minds in a couple of different topics. We have sports, which is obviously just who won, who lost.
But it’s a big deal here in Texas.
Absolutely! We have one about climate because we have a weather chapter, obviously. But, you know, just showing different temperatures isn’t always going to tell the whole story. And then obviously, education. We have a politics section, a politics essay by The Texas Tribune. So I’m trying to kinda make the book more of a story.
What else has changed in the new edition of the Texas Almanac? I know that some things don’t change. You have 254 counties, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. But there must be other things where you go back through old newspapers, or look for events or things that may have come up in the past couple of years.
Not events so much. We obviously have an obituary section, so we always keep track of what’s going on. What I would say is changing is the way we present the information. And if we find that there’s a topic that we have ignored in the past, we try and make space for it.
Are there any particular topics in the Texas Almanac that stand out as your favorites in this new edition?
I really, really love our feature article this year written by Nora Ankrum. She works for the University of Texas Energy Institute. She kinda wrote three articles, and one of them is a brief history of the wind power industry in Texas.
Yeah, we’re No. 1 in wind power, for those who don’t know.
That’s right. And before it was an industry, it was just windmills on people’s farms, and it was still very important to Texans.
And then there’s another shorter article about natural gas, because obviously that one is also big and it’s changing a lot of the coastline. My family is down from by Corpus Christi. So we keep watching this new bridge go in and missing the Harbor Bridge. It’s such an icon. It won’t be there for very much longer.
And then the other article is a basic history – and where we might be headed – of the energy industry in Texas. It touches on both how the electricity grid was developed, including how LBJ was so impactful in rural Texas, and why it is the way it is today. We also talk about Spindletop and what kind of forms of energy will be we possibly talking about in the future – like geothermal and some other ones that they want to give a try in Texas.