Contrary to popular belief, there's no oil in status-conscious Dallas. Since its founding in 1841 as a prairie trading post, by Tennessee lawyer John Neely Bryan and his Arkansas friend Joe Dallas, successive generations of entrepreneurs have amassed wealth here through trade and finance, using first cattle and later oil reserves as collateral. One early group of European settlers of the 1850s – French intellectuals and artists known as the La Réunion co-operative – had to pack up and move on after a series of summer droughts and a harsh winter; the few who stayed included a future mayor of Dallas. The city still prides itself on its legacy of arts and culture.
The power of money in Dallas was demonstrated in the late 1950s, when its financiers threw their weight behind integration. Potentially racist restaurant owners and bus drivers were pressured not to resist the new policies, and Dallas was spared major upheavals. The city's image was, however, tarnished by the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, and it took the building of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in the 1960s, and the twin successes of the Dallas TV show and the Cowboys football team in the 1970s, to restore confidence. These days its occasional stuffiness is tempered by a typically Texas delight in self-parody – this is the city that calls itself "Big D," after all.