The Texas Association of Real Estate Boards was established October 11, 1920. Although most Texans did not know it at the time, that date marked a new era of professionalism and advocacy in Texas real estate. That era continues to this day and into the future.

While Texas real estate agents were making history, what else was going on in 1920?

Growth and reform in Texas

Texas real estate in 1920 was full of promise and challenges. All real estate dealers were unlicensed and unofficially trained. Buyers were at risk of being ripped off by con men known at the time as curbstoners. These were issues that association members wanted to address.

REALTORS® began work to establish a real estate commission and create real estate courses. It would be many years before these goals became a reality.

The average value of a mortgaged home in 1920 was $3,862, with average debt of $1,550.

Texas was home to 4,663,228 people in 1920, and the average salary was $3,208.66. More people were starting to live in larger cities. Mexican immigrants began arriving in Texas in greater numbers.

That year, the state counted 555,615 homes that were not farm properties. Of those, 225,871 were owned, and 55,073 of those properties had mortgages.

The average value of a mortgaged home was $3,862, and the average debt on a home with a mortgage was $1,550. The mortgage holder paid about $122 in annual interest.

The economy was growing. Major oil fields had begun production a few years earlier, and more would start as the decade continued.

“The discovery of oil beneath school and university lands subsequently channeled billions of dollars into public education in Texas,” according to the Handbook of Texas, produced by the Texas State Historical Association.

Spend a Day in 1920

  • If you were born in 1920, you could expect to live 54 years.
  • You might not have had electricity in your home. It would take until 1925 for half of the homes in the U.S. to have electricity. Otherwise, you would use gas light and candles.
  • Your home would still have an icebox. You would pay for a large block of ice, up to 100 pounds, and would store it in a box to keep your food cold. Refrigerators would become popular in the late 1920s.
  • The first commercial radio station began in 1920. By 1922, there were hundreds of stations.
  • You may have been able to put on your favorite record: gramophones had been around since the 1890s. More likely you would have made your own music by singing or playing musical instruments you had at home.
  • While you might not know the weather until you looked out your window, improvements in weather forecasting were on their way. Later in the decade, weather balloons carrying radiosondes—small lightweight boxes with weather instruments and a radio transmitter—would gather temperatures, moisture, and pressure data, according to NASA.
  • If you owned a car, you had one of the 9 million cars on the road that year, and you filled it up with leaded gasoline.

Agriculture expanded significantly, although that market would see booms and busts during the 1920s.

While Texas REALTORS® were lobbying state officials for a real estate license law, Gov. William Hobby’s administration saw the passage of measures for drought relief, runoff requirements in party primaries, and state aid for schools and highways. It would take 19 years of hard work for REALTORS® to realize their goal of a license law that was signed by Gov. W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel in 1939.

Other major issues in Texas politics in the early 1920s included labor, crime, corruption, and the controversy of teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in public schools.

“The dominant theme of state politics in the South in the 1920s was business progressivism, a doctrine that emphasized the old progressive themes of public services and efficiency,” according to the Handbook of Texas. Differences between political factions—even within parties—led to clashes, several stalemates, and failed reforms.

During the administration of Gov. Pat Neff (1921-1925), highways were improved, and a state park system began in Texas.

Innovation and consumption in the U.S.

Many things that would later characterize the 1920s—jazz, flapper fashion, speakeasies, and the works of Lost Generation writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald—were present or just getting started at the beginning of the decade.

In 1920, Americans elected Warren G. Harding to the presidency with 60% of the vote. He campaigned on a return to normalcy following World War I. His administration would be marred by several scandals, most notably the Teapot Dome bribery and corruption scandal. Harding died of a heart attack in 1923 and was succeeded by his vice president, Calvin Coolidge.

By the start of 1920, the U.S. had begun the prohibition of alcohol, and some Texans were producing illegal moonshine liquor to meet demand in the state.

In August, the U.S. ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. The 1920 presidential election was the first national election that included female voters. It was also the first election in which results were broadcast via commercial radio. The technology would skyrocket in popularity during the 1920s.

Renewed cooperation around the world

The association had no female members when it was founded in 1920. Today, 67% of Texas REALTORS® are women. Ebby Halliday of Dallas became the first woman to be named Texas REALTOR® of the Year in 1963, and Virginia Cook was the association’s first female chairman in 1989.

Though there had been an attempt in 1911 to create a real estate association in Texas, it was abandoned as World War I took people’s attention elsewhere. By 1920 when the association re-formed, Europe was recovering from World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, the 1919 formal peace agreement ending the war, was signed by representatives of the Imperial German Government in June 1919.

The League of Nations, a predecessor to the United Nations, was formed in 1920 to resolve international disputes in Europe following the war. The league was championed by President Woodrow Wilson, but Congress voted not to join it.

The 1920 Summer Olympics were held in Antwerp, Belgium. Twenty-nine countries sent a total of 2,626 athletes to participate in the games’ 156 events. The games were noteworthy for being the first to use the symbol of the five interconnected rings.

Today, REALTORS® can look back at a hundred years of shaping Texas and look forward to the association’s continued influence and commitment to professionalism.

Get Involved in Centennial Celebrations

Visit to take part in the festivities:

  • View an interactive version of a 3D art piece created with memorabilia from the association’s first 100 years.
  • Watch a mini-documentary of the first 100 years of REALTORS® in Texas, and see videos of past chairmen discussing important association achievements and milestones.
  • Order a special coffee table book filled with historical photos and accounts of the association’s history. Other commemorative items include lapel pins, keychains, and tumblers.
  • Follow Texas REALTORS® on social media. Add your own memories using #shapingtexas.