Politics Most leaders elected to public office after the end of Reconstruction were Democrats who generally were conservative. They cut public services and passed laws restricting the rights of African Americans. The new Constitution of 1876 created a government with limited powers.
Restoring law and order after the Civil War was a major accomplishment for the state government. Various communities formed vigilante committees, which punished suspected criminals quickly but harshly. The Texas Rangers joined local officers in pursuing train bandits, bank robbers, and cattle thieves.
By 1900 women in Texas accounted for about half the population but did not enjoy the same legal rights as men. It took Texas women 50 years of hard work to finally win the right to vote. Teaching was one of the most accepted professions open to women at this time. Some women even founded schools.
Progress Before the Civil War, some 400 miles of railroad tracks existed in Texas. By 1900 a railroad network totaling 10,000 miles spread over the state. Cities where several railroads met—such as Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth—became busy centers of commerce. Sidewalks, streetcars, and telephones appeared.
New industries also emerged. Lumbering was the most valuable industry in the state by 1900. Coal, salt, and iron ore all were mined and shipped by rail. As companies became more powerful, however, problems arose. Sometimes several large companies formed trusts, which reduced competition and free trade. Farmers, consumers, and merchants could not protect themselves against the trusts' unfair practices.
The railroads also formed trusts and charged higher rates to farmers and merchants who had to use trains to get their products to market. When the prices of cotton and other farm products went down, farmers found it hard to repay their debts. They organized into groups to gain support for their problems. The legislature responded by passing an antitrust law in 1889. Governor James S. Hogg went a step further by asking the legislature to establish the Texas Railroad Commission. Within a few years, many of the railroads' unfair practices were stopped.