“See Texas First” is a travel insert in Texas newspapers that’s published in the spring and the fall each year, sponsored by the Texas Travel Industry Association. The phrase is about 100 years old and was clearly inspired by another advertising campaign—“See America First.”
In the late 19th century, people who could afford to take vacations were taking transatlantic trips to Europe. A formal campaign began in 1906, telling people to “See Europe, if you will, but see America first.” The original tourism campaign promoted the natural beauty of America, west of the Mississippi River. The Great Northern Railway promoted the “See America First” slogan in 1906, but the National Park Service (below) is incorrect that the slogan was coined by the railroad’s official photographer, Fred Kiser. “See America First” appeared in an advertisement as early as 1902.
“See Texas First” was an idea that followed soon after “See America First.”
Texas Travel Industry Association
“See Texas First” Newspaper Insert
Distributed annually to more than one million households in Texas and surrounding markets, the Sunday newspaper insert provides TTIA members with direct access to travelers. Written in “advertorial” form, the insert allows participants to send exactly the message they want. A response card generates direct inquiries from potential visitors. Distributed twice a year, in the spring and fall, this program typically generates in excess of 300,000 responses.
See TEXAS First
National Park Service: See America First!
Landscape painters and photographers were hired to promote the spectacular scenery along the rail routes and lure tourists away from Europe. The newly established national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake featured prominently in rail advertising by 1900, but many Americans continued to spend their summers in mountain resorts across the Atlantic. This began to change when the Great Northern Railway adopted the “See America First” slogan in 1906 to promote their budding resort facilities in northern Montana.
The slogan was suggested by the railroad’s official photographer, Fred Kiser. Some of his work was subsequently exhibited at the U.S. Capitol and allowed the railroad to secure passage of a bill establishing Glacier National Park.
24 July 1895, San Jose (CA) Mercury News, pg. 2:
THERE are thousands of people wandering over Europe and trying to enjoy its discomforts for the half dozenth time who know comparatively little of the grandeur and beauty of their own country, says the Inter Ocean. It is a fad and a fashion. Let the boys and girls see America first; then if they have the time and means look at Europe and all the East. We cultivate un-American ideas in rushing them off to Europe as the one thing needful in their education.
27 November 1902, Philadelphia Inquirer, pg. 7 ad:
See America First
Particularly Great Southwest and California. Titanic chasms, petrified forests, sky-high peaks, prehistoric ruins, Pueblo Indians, giant redwoods and old missions. Europe afterwards. Travel on the CALIFORNIA LIMITED. Ask for illustrated books.
OTTO FAAS, Passenger Agent,
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R’y.
711 Chestnut St., Philadelphia
24 October 1905, Salt Lake (UT) Herald, pg. 1, col. 7:
“SEE Europe, if you will, but see America first,” is to be the motto of the Commercial club committee arranging for the great western state conference, and Thursday, Jan. 18, 1906, is to be the date of the first session of the conference in Salt Lake City.
9 November 1905, Idaho Daily Statesman, pg. 2:
IDAHO JOINS IN
WILL CO-OPERATE IN PLAN TO
DIVERT TO THE WEST THE
TIDE OF EUROPEAN TRAVEL.
To divert into western channels a part of the tide of tourist travel now flowing from America to Europe is the aim of a conference of governors of western states to be held at Salt Lake on January 18. The plan is being fathered by the Salt Lake commercial club, which has adopted the slogan, “See Europe if you will, but see America first.” The Salt Lake club will have a definite, comprehensive and detailed plan to submit to the conference on January 18, the dominating idea of which is to draw attention to the resources of the west, without presenting the claims of any particular locality to the disadvantage of other localities.
17 November 1905, Chillicothe (MO) Morning Constitution, “SEE AMERICA FIRST,” pg. 10, col. 2:
The Commercial Club of Salt Lake City has inaugurated a movement to direct American travel from Europe to that part of the United States west of the Mississippi. The watchword of the movement is “See Europe if you will, but see America first.” In an explanatory letter to the newspapers the special committee in charge of this movement says that conservative estimate, made by reliable authorities, places the amount of money spent by American sight-seers in foreign countries the season of 1904-5 at $150,000,000 and adds:
“This great sum was paid in large part by men and women in search of health, pleasure or recreation, who, though native to the United States, were in comparative ignorance of the scenic, climate and industrial advantages of that portion of our country lying west of the Mississippi River.”
The committee believes that there will be always much American travel to Europe, and says this is right and proper, but adds:
“As conditions now exist many of our people are heard raving over the beauty of the Trossachs, the glory of the Rhine, the magnificence of the Alps, who have never seen and have but small conception of the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains or the splendor of the Columbia river.”
And at this the committee has not told half the story. There are plenty of people who go abroad every year who have never heard of the petrified forests of the southwest, who know nothing of the Yosemite valley and the Yellowstone park. If they did they would know that there is no scenery in all the world to equal that afforded by the western half of the United States.
9 December 1905, Ogden (UT) Standard, “SEE AMERICA FIRST,” pg. 4, col. 1:
The latest evidence of Oregon’s goodwill comes in the form of a hearty recommendation in behalf of the “See America First” convention to be held in Salt Lake City on January 25:
2 June 1912, Dallas Morning News, “Suggests New Slogan, ‘See Texas First,” part 4, pg. 3:
C. H. Verschoyle, one of the thirteen directors of the American Automobile Association, is enthusiastic over the loving cups that are being offered by The Galveston-Dallas News for the best suggested one, two and seven-day automobile trips in Texas.
“This generous offer,” he said, “is what has long been desired by the automobilists of our States to stimulate them to do a little exploiting on their own account and in print tell of the many delightful nooks and beauty dimples that they have discovered in their pilgrimages over the State. It certainly is appealing to all of us and I hope that there will be a general response. Our slogan should be “See Texas First,” and this proposal is calculated to encourage such an impulse.
8 August 1913, Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, pg. 8:
News comes that the admonition of the State Highway Association, “See Texas first,” has found considerable favor with motorists this summer. That is as it should be. Texas offers much that is interesting. To know Texas is to increase state as well as home town pride. “See Texas first.”
The Yale Book of Quotations
edited by Fred Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
Pg. 830 (Woodrow Wilson):
“Our whole duty, for the present, at any rate, is summed up in the motto, “America first.”
Speech, New York, N.Y., 20 April 1915
20 July 1917, Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, “See Texas First” by Phebe K. Warner, pg. 8:
How many of us have ever seen the wealth, the beauty, the grandeur of our own Texas? We preach buy it Made-in-Texas. But we seldom ever take for our text “See It Made in Texas” or “Visit in Your Own Home,” “Get Acquainted With Your Own State” or “See Texas First.”
10 September 1924, Dallas Morning News, part 2, pg. 22:
“SEE TEXAS FIRST,”
GOVERNOR EXTOLS STATE’S
SCENIC BEAUTY; TELLS OF
PROPOSED PARK SYSTEM.
9 January 1960, Dallas Morning News, section 1, pg. 6:
A “See Texas First” program to acquaint Texans with the recreational and historical spots of the state was approved Friday by the board of the Texas Press Association.
15 June 1975, Dallas Morning News, section C, pg. 12:
See Texas First
Gov. Dolph Briscoe has proclaimed the summer vacation period through Aug. 15 as See Texas First Days.
He also reminds Texans that the Bicentennial celebration does not center just on the original 13 colonies but the other 37 states as well.
The See Texas First travel campaign was kicked off in Austin Wednesday at the State Capitol by Frank Hildebrand, executive director of the Texas Tourist Development Agency, and Don Epperson, executive director of the Texas Tourist Council.