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Galveston: A History of the Island

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  90 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Galveston—a small, flat island off the Texas Gulf coast—has seen some of the state's most amazing history and fascinating people. First settled by the Karankawa Indians, long suspected of cannibalism, it was where the stranded Cabeza de Vaca came ashore in the 16th century. Pirate Jean Lafitte used it as a hideout in the early 1800s and both General Sam Houston and General ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published August 1st 1998 by Texas Christian University Press (first published 1991)
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Liz Musgrove
Jan 03, 2015 Liz Musgrove rated it really liked it
This comprehensive history of the Island covers much of the same ground as other similar works on Galveston history. Cartwright's journalistic style makes Galveston history engaging - I found myself chuckling several times throughout this read. This man is a master of the ironic vignette. His focus tends to settle for a bit too long on the ruling families of Galveston. Nevertheless, the story is compelling enough to expose the underpinnings of Galveston politics in a way that other books do not ...more
Aug 13, 2016 Tom rated it really liked it
In the prologue the author writes that this is a history written by a journalist and not an academic. Cartwright writes in a very engaging way, and I enjoyed the book. The last fifty pages drag as he tells of the legal machinations of the island's ruling families.
Mark Hodges
Dec 05, 2016 Mark Hodges rated it really liked it
Interesting history of the Island and its inhabitants. The narrative was a little too scattered, but the colorful stories made it a worthwhile read.
Jun 09, 2016 Sue rated it liked it
The best part of this book is the gossipy last half that deals with the fortunes of Galveston's elite families - IF you were BOI (born on the island) or ever lived there. Otherwise, it may be the worst part. The book seems to be in two parts: the first half covers the high points of Galveston's colorful history, with an excellent chapter on the 1900 storm. The second part centers on the influences and infighting of the Sealy, Kempner and Moody families. I lived in Galveston and attended high sch ...more
Michelle P
Sep 04, 2013 Michelle P rated it it was amazing
My ancestors moved to Galveston in the mid-1800s and I'm the first generation to never live there. The Island has always had a wonderful mystique to me. When we would visit my grandparents my dad would drive me and my brother around and tell us stories about its colorful history. Somehow I didn't read this book til now. It was a fun and illuminating journey, covering the strange cast of characters that have called Galveston home. The final third or so gets bogged down a bit with the story of the ...more
Aug 25, 2009 Rickeclectic rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I think this is considered one of the basic histories of Galveston. It is written by Gary Cartwright, a long time writer for Texas Monthly. I was somewhat disappointed. The book tends to ramble and tends to get overfocused on certain topics. I think it covers the subject as best I can tell, but it seems like he kind of walked casually through it instead of taking more care or trying to make the prose more interesting. There are a number of topics of interest: the karankawa indians, the 1900 floo ...more
Katherine Phillips
Feb 13, 2016 Katherine Phillips rated it it was amazing
So what if the author is not a historian, as some reviews have complained. This is a rollicking, fun read of a very unique island off the Texas coast. I visited there as a child, and even then sensed it's uniqueness and felt the presence of it's haunted past. From the cannibalistic Indians to the ill-fated Cabeza de Vaca...from Jean Lafitte to the illustrious Moody family...what a ride! There's even a pirate named Crazy Ben. Kudos to the author who is alive and well in Austin, Texas. I didn't mi ...more
Nov 24, 2013 Steve rated it liked it
While living in Dallas, I visited Galveston several times but never relized how important it once was as a port. I also never realized that Galveston in it's hey day was like Las Vegas is today.

Of course, I'd heard of the disasterous storm which raked the island in the early 1900s but didn't realize the magnitude of it until reading this book.

A good learning experience for what was once a vital North American port.
Jan 29, 2012 Trenton rated it really liked it
My family has vacationed in Galveston for 40+ years - I have spent time there every summer of my life. This history of the island is fascinating. Cartwright illuminates the rich history that not many Texas are aware that Galveston has. It makes me love the island even more - and helps me better understand the sense of tragedy and sadness that exists beneath the surface of this place.
Jul 10, 2010 Katrin rated it really liked it
This book is a fascinating history of Galveston, including a lot of information about the hurricane of 1900 that devastated the island. However, it was written in 1991 and therefore doesn't have an update after the more recent hurricane a few years ago.
My sister Nancy gave me this book after we visited the island together several years ago.
Mar 30, 2008 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: texas
Cartwright is a journalist, not a historian. He tells a good story, but I missed the footnotes. And his chronology jumped around a bit. Not a bad book, but not a great book either. It will stay on my shelf though, because of the whole Texas thing.
Jul 31, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
A top notch history of Galveston--lots of new (to me) information, especially on the Native American tribes in early recorded history. I still like "Issac's Storm" best for coverage of the hurricane of 1900, but this covers so much more. He needs to do an update and add Ike?
Jun 23, 2013 RDD rated it it was ok
The information was interesting, but it was poorly organized and it bounced around too much for my taste. If I had not been to Galveston and was not familiar with the area, I don't think I would have found this book interesting.
Elizabeth Grygo
Nov 27, 2013 Elizabeth Grygo rated it liked it
I love the Island, despite the fact that it seems to have been populated by murderers and crazy people who are amazing at overcoming adversity. Oh, and the book was a good easy read and I am very grateful to the owners of our beach house rental for having a copy.
Trish Lefner
Aug 01, 2010 Trish Lefner rated it really liked it
loved it, great Texas history
Dec 21, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing
This book sure made my visits to the Island more fun and more interesting. We have even met some of the characters.
Jan 20, 2009 Walt rated it liked it
One of the few books I found that discusses the Maceo Gambling Empire.
Mar 25, 2012 Gwyn rated it really liked it
Really fun read!
May 14, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing
oh my gosh i wish this man would write my book.its brilliant just amazing!!
Shannon rated it liked it
Mar 07, 2009
Angela rated it liked it
Jul 20, 2013
Bren Blackburn
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Feb 17, 2016
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Oct 04, 2009
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Apr 23, 2015
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Sep 05, 2015
Myra McIlvain
Myra McIlvain rated it it was amazing
Nov 15, 2013
Lois Wauson
Lois Wauson rated it it was amazing
Apr 07, 2016
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Aug 31, 2014
Christopher rated it it was amazing
Aug 26, 2016
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(1934 - February 22, 2017)

Gary Cartwright was an American journalist and writer. He specialized in true crime stories. In the 1970’s Cartwright was among the first writers hired at Texas Monthly magazine. He remained there until his retirement as senior editor in 2010. Cartwright also co-wrote and co-produced movies and television shows. In 1980 his book Blood Will Tell was nominated for an Edgar
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