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How Texas Got Its Shape — And How We Celebrate It

If you stay in a hotel in Texas, you should expect your waffles like this.
Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
If you stay in a hotel in Texas, you should expect your waffles like this.

History has molded Texas — literally — to form today's unmistakable shape with its sharp angles of the Panhandle, sweeping curves along Mexico and jagged edges near the Red River and the Gulf.

Now, nearly 170 years since the state's borders were defined, we eat Texas-shaped waffles, swim in Texas-shaped pools and sleep on Texas-shaped pillows.

It's something Texans take pride in and wear as a badge of honor. Plain and simple.

Like everything else, there’s a story behind how Texas got its unique shape.  

Map of the territorial changes from the Compromise of 1850.
Credit Texas Almanac
Map of the territorial changes from the Compromise of 1850.

Let's start on Oct. 2, 1835 — back when Texas was still a part of Mexico. That's when rebels, who came to be known as Texians, refused to return a small, brass cannon to Mexico. 

The phrase " Come and take it!" should ring a bell.

Their defiance sparked the  Battle of Gonzales — considered to be the first of the Texas Revolution. 

Exactly five months later,  Texas declared independence from Mexico.  

The Republic of Texas existed for nine years until it joined the United States on Dec. 29, 1845.

Texas was even bigger back then. It used to cover the entire state plus portions of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.

Today's Texas shape was largely defined by the Compromise of 1850. In that deal, Texas, which was deep in debt, was offered $10 million by the U.S. government in exchange for giving up all land north and west of its modern-day boundaries.

Since then, there were  attempts to divide Texas into smaller states — but none of them were successful.

'This is a foreign country'

Watch a short video from The History Channel on how Texas got its shape and what it means to people who call it home. 

Texans aren't shy about how they feel about their state. And it turns out that things large and small can be reproduced — and Texans would argue made better — in the shape of Texas. Below are just a few examples. 

If you want to contribute your Texas-shaped treasure, tweet us at  @keranews.

You can spot the shape of Texas...

In a crop field

At a swimming pool

On the roof 

In the bathroom

As the letter "O"

As a juicy steak

In a cup of coffee 

On a Texan's body forever

As a bottle of tequila 

On the grill 

In a bag of H-E-B chips

During the total solar eclipse

In a glass of sweet tea

Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit .

Molly Evans is the Assistant Producer of Digital News at KERA. She writes, edits and curates news content on KERANews.org. She also maintains the Twitter feed for KERA News. Molly previously served as Digital Coordinator, maintaining KERA’s websites and various digital platforms as well as designing graphics, participating in digital projects and site builds and offering technical assistance to the staff. She has worked at KERA since January 2015. Before KERA, Molly interned with This Land Press in Tulsa, TulsaPeople magazine World Literature Today in Norman and the Oklahoma Gazette in Oklahoma City, where she also freelanced. She also wrote and edited for The Oklahoma Daily, the award-winning student newspaper at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Molly graduated from OU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in Spanish in December 2014. She was awarded Outstanding Senior in Journalism from the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Molly is a native of Tulsa, Okla.