The British ‘Beef Bonanza’
The cattle ranching boom so essential to the development of the American West was, for a time, also a British affair.
Spurred in the late 1800s by the best-selling book The Beef Bonanza, or How to Get Rich on the Plains, capitalists in England invested heavily in the U.S. cattle industry. By 1885, most major ranches were owned by syndicates rooted in Europe and headquartered in the U.S. – often Kansas City. The largest, London’s Capitol Freehold Land & Investment Company, operated the 3-million-acre XIT Ranch in West Texas, getting the land in exchange for building a new capitol building in Austin.
Kansas City native Michael Grauer of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, discusses this (mostly futile) British effort to cash in on cattle. The event coincides with the Library exhibit Cattle, Cowboys, and Culture: Kansas City and Amarillo, Building an Urban West.