Happy 178th birthday, Austin! But why is your flag so pretentious?


Christmas and Hanukkah are over, but there’s an important birthday this week: The city of Austin turns 178. Here are some fun facts about our little village since its incorporation Dec. 27, 1839.

Why Waterloo?

When plans began to turn a little settlement into a capital city in 1838, settlers called it Waterloo. By 1839, the planned city had been renamed for “Father of Texas” Stephen F. Austin. Why was it first Waterloo? No historians could say.

Earlier California influence

Though it doesn’t wave from every building, Austin has a municipal flag — designed by a Californian. Ray F. Coyle of San Francisco won a $50 competition in 1916 with a red, white and blue shield under the Capitol, Stephen F. Austin’s coat of arms and an orange “lamp of knowledge” to represent the University of Texas.

178 years of boom

Longtime Austinites decry the city’s recent population boom, saying this used to be a sleepy college town without traffic. Maybe. But it’s almost always been fast-growing. The population jumped 20-fold from 1840 to 1880. It then doubled every 15 to 25 years. It was 22,258 in 1900, hit 186,545 in 1960, then 373,541 in 1983 and 750,525 in 2008. Now, it’s 947,890.

Tech capital of Texas

Providing a bragging point for Mayor Steve Adler, Austin had 180.8 startups per 100,000 people in 2015, outpacing Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Austin entities were the state’s largest recipients of venture capital funds and led the state in overall patents.



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