How Did the Dallas Fort-Worth Metroplex Get Its Name?

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The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, a vast urban area in the state of Texas, did not receive its widely recognized name by accident. Its designation, often shortened to DFW or simply “the metroplex,” is rooted in the region’s significant growth and the opening of a major infrastructure project. The term “metroplex” is what is known as a portmanteau, blending ‘metropolitan’ and ‘complex,’ and was coined to encapsulate the burgeoning economic and cultural interconnectedness of Dallas, Fort Worth, and the surrounding areas.

The Origin of the term Metroplex

January 3, 2020: The International Space Station was orbiting 260 miles above central Texas when this nighttime photograph was taken of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
January 3, 2020: The International Space Station was orbiting 260 miles above central Texas when this nighttime photograph was taken of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

The inception of this moniker dates back to the early 1970s. A pivotal moment for the area was the construction of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which was a key event that helped to further define the union of Dallas and Fort Worth into a single, expansive metropolitan area.

Harve Chapman, an executive at Dallas’s Tracy-Locke ad agency, coined “metroplex” while working with the North Texas Commission to promote the region. They first copyrighted “Southwest Metroplex” in 1972 to replace  the previous moniker of “North Texas,” a name found to be generally not understood outside of the state. Surveys showed that only 38% could link Dallas and Fort Worth to “North Texas,” with some even thinking it referred to the Texas Panhandle.  Understandable given the size of the state. 

Beyond the airport’s influence, the economic and cultural vitality of North Texas also played a crucial role in defining the region as the Metroplex. Encompassing multiple counties and holding the title as the most populous metropolitan area in Texas, the Metroplex has developed into an economic powerhouse, hosting numerous corporate headquarters and cultural institutions. The historical significance of its core cities, Dallas and Fort Worth, has established the region as a prime hub that continues to attract businesses and residents alike.

Cities and Counties Included in the Metroplex

The metroplex covers 9,286 square miles – thats big like Texas.  That area covers multiple counties and many cities.

The Counties

According to the Texas comptroller the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is split into two sections:

Fort Worth-Arlington Counties:

  • Hood
  • Johnson
  • Parker
  • Somervell
  • Tarrant
  • Wise counties

Dallas-Plano-Irving Counties:

  • Collin
  • Dallas
  • Denton
  • Ellis
  • Hunt
  • Kaufman
  • Rockwall
Some definitions of the DFW Metroplex also include parts of or entire additional surrounding counties, but the above-listed are commonly recognized as part of the metro area.

The Cities

The growth of the metroplex has seen significant growth in its suburbs and core cities as well.  Here are the top cities in terms of population in the metroplex:

  1. Dallas (1.3 million) – The largest city in the Metroplex and the third-largest in Texas.
  2. Fort Worth (900,000) – The second-largest city in the Metroplex, known for its historic stockyards.
  3. Arlington (400,000) – Located between Dallas and Fort Worth, known for its entertainment and sports venues.
  4. Plano (285,000) – A major city in Collin County, known for its corporate headquarters and parks.
  5. Irving (240,000) – Home to the DFW International Airport and a part of the Las Colinas community.
  6. Garland (240,000) – A large city northeast of Dallas, known for its manufacturing industries.
  7. Grand Prairie (195,000) – Situated between Dallas and Fort Worth, known for its parks and entertainment venues.
  8. McKinney (195,000) – The county seat of Collin County, known for its historic downtown area.
  9. Frisco (200,000) – Fast-growing city known for its shopping, sports venues, and many corporate headquarters.
  10. Mesquite (140,000) – East of Dallas, known for its rodeo and strong community feel.
  11. Carrollton (135,000) – Located in the heart of the DFW area, known for its diverse population and schools.
  12. Denton (140,000) – North of Dallas and Fort Worth, known as a college town (University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University) and for its vibrant arts and music scene.

Founding and Growth of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex emerged from a deep history involving early settlements, war, and significant economic development. Its name signifies more than just geographic proximity; it represents a confluence of innovation, determination, and cultural evolution.

Early Settlements and Origin of Names

Dallas and Fort Worth, the two primary cities within the metroplex, have unique origins. Dallas, initially a trading post, was formally founded in 1841. Tarrant County, where Fort Worth sits, was created in 1849. Fort Worth itself, established in 1849 as a military fort to protect settlers, earned the nickname “Panther City” due to a local legend that a panther was seen sleeping downtown. Early settlers were drawn to the area’s opportunity, leading to the growth of both cities.

Civil War and Post-War Development

During the Civil War, Texas seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States, impacting the region. Fort Worth, known as “Cowtown” for its role in the cattle industry, and Dallas both faced economic hardship during this time. After the war, reconstruction and reconciliation commenced, with the region becoming a center for cotton trading and cattle shipping. The arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway in the 1870s supported post-war recovery by boosting trade and encouraging more settlers to make North Texas their home.

Economic Growth and Urban Expansion

The late 19th and early 20th centuries marked an era of substantial economic growth and urban expansion for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Dallas established itself as a leading commercial hub, while Fort Worth remained steadfast in the cattle industry. The Texas oil boom brought profound changes, and innovations in aviation and technology further propelled the metroplex into the spotlight of economic development in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth area’s strategic location solidified its standing as a crossroads of business, culture, and transportation, which continues to shape its dynamic growth today.

Geographical Significance

The Metroplex exhibits a unique geographical significance due to its distinctive topography and climate, as well as its strategic location, which supports a vast transportation network.

Topography and Climate

Housing Costs
Trinity River

The topography in the Dallas-Fort Worth area varies from flat prairie land to gently rolling hills, situated along the Trinity River. This area is part of the larger region of North Texas, which falls under the southern end of Tornado Alley, making it susceptible to extreme weather conditions, including tornadoes. The climate is categorized as humid subtropical, characterized by hot summers and mild winters, which has a direct influence on the area’s infrastructure and growth patterns.

Strategic Location and Transportation Networks

Dallas-Fort Worth benefits from a strategic location that has significantly influenced its development and naming. Centrally located within the United States, this metropolitan area serves as a major transportation and logistics hub. Key to this network is the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, one of the busiest and largest airports in the world. The region’s transportation system includes major highways, railways, and burgeoning public transit options, facilitating commerce and supporting the Metroplex’s role as an economic powerhouse in both Texas and the Southern United States.

Demographics and Culture

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex boasts a rich diversity of cultural influences and a dynamic population profile that contribute to its unique identity.

Population and Diversity

The DFW has witnessed substantial population growth. As of a recent count, the area’s population has surpassed 8 million residents. This growth is partially attributed an expansion of many diverse ethnic groups, contributing to the cultural mosaic of the region. The Metroplex’s demographics are characterized by a blend of urban sophistication and western heritage, reflecting the historical significance of the area as a crossroads of both traditional and contemporary lifestyles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Exploring the rich history and naming of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex illuminates the cultural and economic development of this urban region in Texas.

How was the name ‘Dallas’ originally chosen for the city within the Metroplex?

George M. Dallas

Dallas was named in the mid-19th century, although the exact origin is unclear. Several theories suggest it was named after George Mifflin Dallas, the 11th Vice President of the United States, or maybe after a friend of the city’s founder.

Can you trace the origins of Fort Worth’s name within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex?

Worth at the Battle of Monterrey, 1846
Worth at the Battle of Monterrey, 1846

Fort Worth was named after Major General William Jenkins Worth, a prominent figure during the Mexican-American War. It started as a military outpost in 1849 and evolved into one of the main cities in the Metroplex.

Which of the two cities, Dallas or Fort Worth, was established first?

Fort Worth was established in 1849 as a military outpost to protect settlers from Native American attacks. Dallas was founded later, in 1856, and soon became a center for business and trade.

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