Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


In 1936 the Amarillo Globe said of the legendary publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "West Texas is bound on the north by Colorado and Oklahoma, on the west by New Mexico, on the south by Mexico, and on the east by Amon Carter." Thirty years earlier there had been only two newspapers in Fort Worth–the morning Telegram and the morning Record. Then in 1906 young Amon Carter agreed to become advertising manager of a new evening newspaper, the Star.

Initially, the Star floundered, and it never managed to break even. Then in 1909, in an audacious move, the near-bankrupt Star bought the larger and much more successful Telegram, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was born, with Amon Carter as primary owner and publisher. Together, the new publisher and his newspaper were to become a major force in shaping not only Fort Worth but all of West Texas and eastern New Mexico–a sizable chunk of the Great Plains.

Until then, West Texas had been largely ignored by everybody. However, Amon Carter had a much different vision of the future of this vast expanse of hot, dry, windy plains. That future was to include a great oil boom and irrigated croplands to supplement the historic cattle industry. As Amon Carter would tell audiences, West Texas is larger than New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland combined. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram embraced the residents of West Texas, and the citizens of West Texas embraced the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The newspaper would eventually serve an area of 350,000 square miles and deliver copies every day to homes up to 700 miles west of Fort Worth, well into New Mexico. It dominated the market in such West Texas population centers as Amarillo, Abilene, Lubbock, Midland-Odessa, and El Paso. By 1913 it had become the fourth-largest newspaper in Texas, with a circulation of 40,000. By 1918 its 66,000 subscribers made it the largest newspaper in all of Texas. Then in 1923 circulation reached 115,000, and it was the largest newspaper in the southern United States– larger than the Dallas Morning News or the Houston Chronicle or the Atlanta Journal. Much of this growth came from subscribers in West Texas and eastern New Mexico. It wasn't until midcentury that newspapers in much larger cities finally passed the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in circulation.

The decline of home-delivery circulation throughout West Texas and eastern New Mexico began in the second half of the century. Passenger trains that had delivered the newspaper to those far-flung towns stopped running, and there was no other economical way to spread the newspaper throughout this vast region. People in isolated West Texas communities had used the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's ads from large Fort Worth department stores to order merchandise for mail delivery. When department stores–both independent and chain–began to open in West Texas they reduced the need for mail-order shopping, which in turn reduced the value of West Texas subscribers for the Fort Worth stores. Finally, as cities grew, the newspapers in West Texas began to improve and expand. In a way, the successful development of West Texas that had been fostered by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram helped reduce the need for that newspaper in much of the region.

On June 23, 1955, Amon Carter died, and his son, Amon Carter Jr., became publisher. Then in 1974 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was purchased by Capital Cities of New York, and in 1996 Capital Cities/ABC merged with the Walt Disney Company. Within a year, Disney/ABC's publications, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Kansas City Star, were purchased by Knight-Ridder, the second largest newspaper group in the country.

By the end of the twentieth century, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had changed its focus from West Texas to the Fort Worth metropolitan area and eastward into the rapidly growing Arlington and Mid-Cities area between Fort Worth and Dallas. But no story of the West Texas region of the Great Plains would be complete without the newspaper that "discovered" West Texas, nurtured it, promoted it, and served it so well for most of the first half of the century.

See also CITIES AND TOWNS: Fort Worth, Texas.

Gerald L. Grotta Texas Christian University

Flemmons, Jerry. Amon: The Texan Who Played Cowboy for America. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1998.

Meek, Phillip J. Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Where the West Begins." New York: Newcomen Society in North America, 1981.

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