The Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition formed in 1931 with a goal in mind to encourage and promote the breeding, raising and marketing of cattle and livestock. The organizers gave special attention to F.F.A. and 4-H clubs as a means of engaging local youth in agriculture and farming. Staging fairs and exhibitions of the stock and various farm products seemed to be a successful strategy, as the temporary buildings being used on the grounds of Sam Houston Hall in 1932 were no longer able to hold the crowds by 1938. Organizers then looked to the newly erected Sam Houston Coliseum, but the attendance continued to grow and by 1947 the leadership of the non-profit were shopping again.
The answer this time was a 165-acre tract of land on South Main, which they quickly bought. Though the property had been purchased, the challenges of the next decade meant that progress on this project was neither quick nor easy. Only when the demand for professional sports franchises took hold of Houstonians did the Exposition leaders see an opportunity to finally get adequate space for the popular annual event. In 1966 a new Exhibition Hall was completed next to the Eighth Wonder of the World: The Astrodome and the now named Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was able to move out of Sam Houston Coliseum.
Influential in sealing this deal was Leopold Meyer. Renowned in Houston for his business ventures (including the Meyer Brother retail operation) and his philanthropic support of Texas Children's Hospital, Meyer spent a significant amount of his life sitting on the executive board and various committees of the Exposition. The Leopold L. Meyer Papers (MSS 0067), housed at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) archives, includes documentation of the growth and development of our Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. If you'd like to learn more, make a reference appointment with HMRC staff today by calling 832-393-1662 or by filling out an email reference form.
Meyer's rodeo papers (1944-1975) include:
- News clippings
- Budgets and operations costs
- Lists of board members
- Facts and figures
- Corporate by-laws
- Proposed coliseum plans
Processing Archivist, HMRC
**Information and images taken from Leopold Meyer Papers, MSS 0067, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library**