Panther City

May 24, 2024 | About Me, Texas

During my research on Fort Worth’s history, I discovered that in the 1870s, this rough-and-tumble frontier town had won the moniker of Hell’s Half Acre. What I didn’t know was that Fort Worth was also called Panther City. It turns out that many locals had either forgotten or never even knew how Fort Worth came to be known by this nickname. I had a hard time believing that panthers once stalked the bottoms of the Trinity River, so I dug deeper. 

I did know about the long-standing rivalry between Fort Worth and their neighbor to the east—Dallas— having read quite a bit about the historical spats that surrounded the location and building of the DFW International Airport. In fact, their rivalry goes back decades, beginning with competition for rail lines.

In 1875, the Dallas Daily Herald published a column about an alleged scandal in “our suburban village of Fort Worth.” The satirical article, written by a lawyer named Robert Cowart, “who didn’t have too good of a feeling about Fort Worth,” commented that Fort Worth was such a sleepy city that nobody noticed a huge, dangerous panther napping in the middle of downtown.

The insult from Cowart, a recent transplant from Fort Worth to Dallas backfired. Instead of triggering a negative response, the reaction from Fort Worth residents was extremely positive. The town—long known for its rodeos, barbecue, and honky-tonks—embraced their new icon—the panther—as a symbol of hope and strength. 

Today, the majestic cat’s presence is everywhere within the city limits. There’s Panther Island Pavilion, Panther Island Brewing Company, and the ambitious Panther Island/Central City Flood Project, as well as statues of the panther quietly sleeping among the hustle and bustle of downtown Fort Worth. 

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