On this day in 1879, the state of Texas authorized selling state land for fifty cents an acre. Half the proceeds were to go for reduction of the public debt and half to pay into the Permanent School Fund, established in 1876. The state sold 3,201,283 for $1,600,641.55 in fifty-two West Texas counties. On January 22, 1883, the Fifty Cent Act was repealed as a public necessity resulting from fraudulent speculation in the land.
On this day in 1938, Howard Hughes and a four-man crew landed their specially equipped Lockheed 14 in New York City, having circled the globe in three days, nineteen hours, and seventeen minutes. Along the way, they cut in half Charles Lindbergh's record for crossing the Atlantic. Hughes, born in Houston in 1905, inherited a fortune when he was orphaned at the age of eighteen. He moved to Hollywood in the 1920s to produce, and then direct, movies such as Hell's Angels (1930) and Scarface (1932). An aviation enthusiast since boyhood, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Company in the 1930s as a division of Hughes Tool Company and set two speed records as a pilot. In the 1940s, he landed several contracts to produce military aircraft, but with mixed results, as in the case of the famous HK-1 flying boat (the "Spruce Goose"). He remained active in the film and aeronautics industries in the 1950s and 1960s, but by 1970 he had become increasingly reclusive and conducted most of his business through memos. He died in 1976 on a plane from Acapulco, Mexico to Houston.
On this day in 1890, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway went into receivership, with Benjamin F. Yoakum as one of the two receivers. The SA&AP was chartered in 1884 to connect San Antonio with Aransas Bay, a distance of 135 miles. Uriah Lott was the principal promoter of the line, and Mifflin Kenedy was contractor for virtually all of the mileage built before 1900. The SA&AP, which eventually built hundreds of miles of track in South and Central Texas, was a competitor in many areas with various Southern Pacific lines and was acquired by the SP in 1892. The Railroad Commission brought suit in 1903 because the SP's ownership violated the law which prohibited common ownership of parallel and competing lines. As a result of the suit the SP sold its stock in the company, but was required to continue to guarantee the bonds of the SA&AP. In 1934 the remaining 819 miles of SA&AP track was merged into the Texas and New Orleans Railroad Company.