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Minetta Altgelt Goyne

AUSTRIANS. Although there are no Austrian settlements in Texas, the state has attracted numerous emigrants from the Hapsburg empire and, later, from the Republic of Austria. The history of Austrian nationality has long been problematic and confusing. During the nineteenth century, "Austrian" usually referred to the German-speaking residents of the western portion of the Hapsburg empire, generally those living in the traditional hereditary lands of the Hapsburg dynasty, now roughly the area within the borders of the present Republic of Austria. However, the term has been used both as a geographic and ethnic description. Thus, the German-speaking residents of Bohemia, Moravia, and Galicia were sometimes referred to as Austrian, and the designation "Austrian" was even occasionally used-incorrectly-to refer to anyone living within the Hapsburg empire, regardless of nationality. Moreover, German-speaking Austrians have frequently been referred to or identified themselves simply as Germans. United States census forms in the nineteenth century, which listed national origin, did little to clear up the confusion, since those who came from the region were alternately listed as Germans, Bohemians or "other." Because of this it is impossible to known precisely the number of Austrian immigrants to America, although it was certainly much smaller than that of other Central European groups.

Numerous residents of the multinational Hapsburg empire immigrated to Texas during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including sizable numbers of ethnic Czechs, Poles, and Italians. After 1845, small numbers of German-speakers from the region began moving to the state and often settling in predominantly German towns and areas. The 1860 census for Comal County, for example, shows that some two dozen Austrians (including German-speakers from Bohemia) were living there, among them four farmers, a stockman, a wagoner, and three laborers. Other Austrian immigrants to Texas included Jan Reymershoffen, a former legislator in his homeland, who operated an import-export business in Galveston, and Moritz O. Kopperl, who served as a legislator and president of the Texas National Bank. Perhaps the most prominent immigrant from Austria in antebellum Texas was Vienna-born George Bernard Erath, who fought in the Texas Revolution and later, as a legislator, played an important role in promoting the annexation of Texas by the United States. After the Civil War, the flow of immigration from the Hapsburg empire (after 1867 officially known as Austria-Hungary), increased. Among the most prominent emigrants from the region were Rudolf Gunner, who had served for a time as a naval officer in Mexico under Maximilian, settled in Dallas, and in 1895 established a thriving bookstore; Michael Perl, a former assistant army surgeon from Vienna who lived for a time in Mexico City and Matamoros before settling in Houston, where he practiced medicine and carried out horticultural experiments; and George Dullnig, who founded the Alamo National Bank and helped establish the San Antonio and Gulf Railroad. Anthony Francis Lucas (born in Hvar, Dalmatia), mining engineer and erstwhile Austrian naval officer, discovered fabled Spindletop.

In 1916 a small group of immigrants from Austria-Hungary in San Antonio, led by Ernst Raba, formed the Österreichisch-Ungarischer Verein, or the Austro-Hungarian Association. The group sent clothes, groceries, and even cattle fodder back to their former homeland, held periodic picnics and dinners, and occasionally put on stage shows; it continued to exist until the 1950s. More recent immigrants from Austria include Theodore W. Alexander, producer of annual German plays at Texas Tech from 1947 to his retirement in 1984, George W. Hoffman, cofounder of the department of geography at the University of Texas at Austin, and Paul Weiss, a researcher and pioneer in nerve regeneration. In 1990 some 2,500 Austrians lived in Texas. San Antonio and Houston both had Austrian clubs. So well assimilated are most contemporary Austrian Texans that many profess no awareness of compatriots, past or present, in the state.


Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; rpt. 1964). The Czech Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1972). Minetta Altgelt Goyne, Lone Star and Double Eagle: Civil War Letters of a German-Texas Family (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1982). Glen E. Lich, The German Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1981).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Minetta Altgelt Goyne, "AUSTRIANS," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pna01.

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on October 23, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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