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City of Innovation



The Alamo.
The River Walk.
The missions.

San Antonio is a city of the Alamo, Fiesta, and Tejano; however, the city is also one of the nation’s platforms for science and technology R&D. The city’s story of innovation takes off on March 2, 1910. On this day, Lt. Benjamin Foulois leaped into the air in Aeroplane No. 1 from the Parade Ground at Fort Sam Houston forever changing the economic trajectory of the Alamo city.

Benjamin D. Foulois & Philip Parmalee - 1911

IMAGE - Library of Congress Collection, 9-17-07 in

San Antonio, the Alamo City, is regarded as the Heart of Texas. Visitors by the millions are drawn to the city's meandering River Walk, the eighteenth-century Spanish missions and the Alamo where Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis and 185 others made their last stand in the name of freedom but did you know:

  • The first US Astronaut to walk in space is from the Alamo city?
  • One of the top ten patents of all time, the Palmaz-Schatz Heart Stent, flows from the city's medical-military history dating to 1929 and the School of Aviation Medicine?
  • San Antonio’s metropolitan area is home to 14 colleges and universities and approximately 118,000 college students and a burgeoning youth population?
  • San Antonio's Datapoint (CTC) created the world's first Personal Computer (PC) and the first Internet of Things (IoT) protocol, ARCNET?
  • In 1948, one year after the formation of the US Air Force, Harry Armstrong organized a panel in the city to explore the aeromedical implications of space flight and the city became home to the Air Force Security Service--birthplace of electronic warfare?

For over 11,000 years Native American hunter-gatherers utilized the lush and varied ecosystems of San Antonio's Olmos Creek basin, the fresh water springs, and rivers leaving evidence of tools and technology here for millennia. San Antonio's story of innovation, resilience, and Maverick innovators is not new, it is part of the legacy and hertitage of what it means to be a San Antonian.


San Antonio de Béxar Presidio, the center of Spanish defense in western Texas, was founded by Martín de Alarcónon May 5, 1718. San Antonio has a recorded history starting in 1691 with the St. Anthony day mass through numerous immigrations, its selection as the Texas state capital in 1773, opening the first school in 1789, Battle of the Alamo in 1836, Bexar County organized and city incorporation 1836-1837.

Battle of the Alamo, Mexicans and Texans fight to the death


Image & Caption Source: Moran, Percy, artist. "Battle of the Alamo." Reproduction of an original painting. Joliet, Illinois, Gerblach Barklow Co., copyright 1912. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress in Digital History, Explorations - Remembering the Alamo

In 1869, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word journeyed from Galveston on a bumpy stagecoach ride to the Alamo city. Sisters St. Madeleine Chollet, St. Pierre Cinquin and St. Agnes Buisson were undaunted by a fire that destroyed their first center. Determined, they opened Santa Rosa Infirmary, San Antonio’s first private hospital still operating today as Santa Rosa Hospital. (Mary Pat Moyer, PhD, A Brief History of San Antonio’s Medical, Life Sciences, and Convergent Technologies Industries, Pre-1970s History - Part I, 2009).

Santa Rosa Hospital, 1930


IMAGE - Moyer, 2009

The Army brought medicine (1879), aviation (1910), cyber (1948) and space (1948) research, development and intellectual capital. The story of the Alamo city's military history of medical and bio-life science begins in 1879 when the US Army opened a small medical dispensary, in a single story, wooden building. During the early years the Fort Sam Houston Post hospital was housed in temporary structures. The first permanent hospital was built in 1886. In 1907, an 84 bed Station hospital was constructed on the west side of the Post. (US Army Medical Department, About us)

The Army medical presence would grow to become AMEDD, the U.S. Army's health care organization and massive construction project yielding the San Antonio Military Medical Center in 2012.

Fort Sam Houston Quadrangle, 1890

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries

San Antonio's original tourism economy was based on health resorts and chronic disease recovery from the late 1800s until it declined after World War I and prohibition. In 1853 the Bexar County Medical Society (BCMS) in San Antonio was the first county medical society formed in the state of Texas. San Antonio's tourist economy began with medicine. Early examples include the Terrell Wells Preventorium, Hot Wells Lodges and Harlandale Hotel and Bath. The Hot Wells Lodge was a lavish, four-story, 200-room, Victorian style, resort hotel. Built in 1886 along the San Antonio River on South Presa Street, Hot Wells featured pools, a bathhouse and spa fed by hot sulfur spring water (Moyer, 2009). Health tourism is a growing segment returning to the San Antonio economy in the 21st century as people visit San Antonio for healing, health rejuvenation and relaxation.

Hot Wells Lodges


Hot Wells Bath Hotel

Image - Edwards Aquifer

Hot Wells Bath House

Image - Edwards Aquifer

In 1910 the United States was experiencing the end of the third industrial revolution. Factories, machine automation on the assembly line, exploitation of chemicals, urban migration and the birth of aviation all characterize this period. The Fort Sam Houston flight would forever change the possible futures available to San Antonio. Foulois' flight laid the foundation for aviation and created a path to advanced communications, medicine, health care, engineering, information technology, science, space, human performance, construction, architecture and business in the Alamo city.
The Alamo city's medical and military initiatives would eventually converge with aviation and technology to transform the city and its urban landscape. The story begins on March 2, 1910 with Lt. Benjamin Foulois' first flight in Aeroplane No. 1 on the Fort Sam Houston Parade Grounds. On this historic day, the Lieutenant experienced his first solo flight, first takeoff, first landing and first crack-up by afternoon ( After a trying day, Foulis received instruction by the Wright brothers via Pony Express. From 1910-1912, Foulois made modifications and demonstrated the use of the Wright B aircraft for aerial mapping, photography, reconnaissance and the use of the radio while airborne. He substituted wheels in place of skids, and installed the first seat belt. (Aerospace San Antonio)

1st Lt. Benjamin, Benny, Foulois, Fort Sam Houston, First Aero Squadron, Foulois pictured with a radio by his side, San Antonio, Texas.


The Entire Army Air Corps in 1910, Foulois pictured second from right, The Wright Brothers & the Birth of Military Aviation, Institute of Texan Cultures and National Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Southwest Texas, Tom Crouch, Sr. Curator National Air & Space Museum, AIAA Celebration of the Centennial of Military Flight.

In a career spanning six decades, Foulois would usher in the new era of air superiority--a Revolution of Military Affairs (RMA). Aeroplane No. 1 remained in active service until 1911, it now shares honors with other early aircraft in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington ( March 2, 1910 marks the birth of San Antonio as a city of innovation. From this date forward, aviation and its accompanying spirit of innovation are the platform upon which virtually all San Antonio technology-based industries are built.

Today, Fort Sam Houston is home to the US Army Medical Department and San Antonio’s new San Antonio Military Medical Center. Lackland Air Force Base is the home of Security Hill and Air Force cyber. Randolph AFB is home to US pilot instructor training and combat systems officer training. Camp Bullis, in the hill country, is where mission support and training readiness begin for medics in the field. The Alamo city is a nexus for first responders--medical, cyber, biological and air transport. The city's history of military medicine, space, aviation, cyber and scientific research and development, create a mature foundation for both capital- and knowledge-based economic growth in commercial and government sectors.

When Lt. Benjamin Foulois arrived in town in 1910, the Star Film Ranch would begin staging the first documentary film about the Alamo. Set up on the edge of Hot Well Springs, the film company was run by Georges Méliès’ son, Gaston Méliès. 

Gaston Méliès moved from Paris France to the United States to protect his father's work from copyright piracy (Wikipedia_Star_Film_Company). Georges Georges Méliès is the subject of Scorsese' new movie Hugo, in theaters December 2011. The senior Méliès was a film magician who pioneered the use of multiple exposures and the “stop trick” still used in special effects today. Gaston's films, mostly documentaries, were not successful. His film,The Immortal Alamo (1911), is the first on the topic of the Alamo sacrifice. The movie starred Francis Ford.

THE IMMORTAL ALAMO. Francis Ford, at right with white sombrero. Gaston Méliès, San Antonio, TX

The Star Film Ranch in San Antonio was the first film studio in the State of Texas. Gaston Melies, William Haddock, Francis Ford, Edith Storey and other pioneers gathered there to make nearly eighty one-reel westerns, comedies and stories of Old Mexico (Immortal Alamo Dreams of Making a Movie in 2012). Today, in San Antonio, the magic of special effects for movies and television is practiced by NewTek’s Jim Jenison and his brand of lightwavers. NewTek has won dozens of Academy and Emmy awards for technical arts. On November 10, 2011, Actor Jeri Ryan and special guest Dick Van Dyke joined industry icons and VFX artists to celebrate the amazing work of the Alamo City's NewTek LightWave artists.

NewTek's Lightwave software is a staple in the CGI, video post-production and effects community worldwide. Movies garnering awards for artistic and technical achievement attributed in part to the company’s software and human talent include Star Wars, Gladiator, Jimmy Neutron, the Titanic and Avatar among dozens of other movies. NewTek’s Lightwave Virtual Art Department for 3D was used to create the planet Pandora's stunning look in Avatar. The movie won the 2010 Academy for Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction, partially attributed to NewTek software tools and Lightwave animators.

Scene of Avatar’s planet Pandora created with Lightwave Virtual Art Department rom NewTek in San Antonio, TX.

Image: Twentieth Century Fox Film

Tim Jenison is the creator of the PC video revolution. Jenison founded NewTek in 1985, and led the way in the development of a series of highly successful products, including DigiView, the first video digitizer for a computer, DigiPaint, and the Amiga Video Toaster. Tim is a Renaissance man who naturally connects electronics, music, film and video ((NewTek, Tim Jenison).

Commodore Amiga computer commercial from old VHS tape aired in 1985 during The Tonight Show's 23rd anniversary special starring Johnny Carson. The modern derivative of the Video Toaster is NewTek’s TriCaster, released by the company in 2005. The TriCaster delivers today for a couple thousand dollars the capability of a television-live broadcasting truck from 1985. In 2005, the TriCaster received five best-of-show awards from publications and professional organizations at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention.

Following the Srar Film Ranch start in San Antonio, in 1927, the film Wings was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Production for the film year 1927/1928. Wings also won a second Academy Award for Engineering Effects. Starring Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen and Gary Cooper, in a bit role, the film completed with a budget of $2 million in San Antonio. Gary Cooper would be the only one from the first "brat pack" to go on to fame in the talkies. The movie featured scout aircraft including Thomas-Morse MB3s and Curtis PW-8s. (Wikipedia, Wings_film)

Wings, the only silent film to win an Academy Award, filmed in San Antonio, Texas

In 1927, San Antonio also served as host to Gutzon Borglum, designer of Mt. Rushmore. Borglum wintered in San Antonio at the Menger Hotel while the Black Hills were overtaken by snow. He enjoyed the culture and hospitality of the city, on the San Antonio River, situated on the banks of what is Brackenridge Golf Course today.

Gutzon Borglum works on a clay model for Mount Rushmore, in his studio, on the Brackenridge Park Golf Course, in San Antonio, Texas.

Image and Caption - Texas Public Radio

Gutzon served as a chairman of Central Park in New York and gave his support to San Antonio’s preservation of the historic Missions and meandering river for future generations (Gene Elder, Emergeoning). San Antonio has a rich heritage of conservation including one of the first public parks in the nation and Botanical culture connected to the Battle of Flowers tradition.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Unveils Mt. Rushmore


At San Pedro Park, springs and a small natural lake nearby were a favorite meeting place and campsite for Native Americans for thousands of years. The bones of mastadons, giant tigers, dire wolves, Colombian elephants, and extinct horses have been found here, along with projectile points and stone tools. In early historic times, a band of Coahuiltecan Indians known as Payayas called the Springs and their village there Yanaguana.

San Pedro Park Springs

 Image and Caption - Edwards Aquifer

San Antonio is a city of parks, festivals, flowers, trails, rivers and springs. Food, culture, music and the arts community thrive in the Alamo city. The Symphony, Fiesta pageantry, playhouses, sporting venues, and history all provide a robust culture for tourists and locals alike.

Ever since Foulois’ first leap into the air at Fort Sam Houston, necessity has accompanied the need for invention. San Antonio’s ambitions; however, have always been inspired by an old-west, can-do attitude and goals that often reach beyond the grasp of what is thought to be possible. Our legacy of science and technology innovation is rooted in 1910 but San Antonio’s spirit of innovation was forged by a struggle for independence and the realities of a rugged existence that required vision, integrity and ingenuity to survive. This is the spirit of San Antonio—the spirit that transformed a once agrarian and military town into a world class center of science and technology innovation--the spirit of the Maverick.