Scope and Contents
Correspondence, contracts, credit reports, and leases in this collection document the business of Houston, Texas based Merchants & Planters Oil Company, particularly during the last period of its existence, 1930 through 1941. The largest of the four series is the first, Correspondence (1931-41), relating to product orders, inventory, billing, and railroad transportation of goods for clients such as wholesale grocers and other businesses, in Texas, Louisiana, and other U.S. states. Small maps and blueprints of various sections of Houston date from 1908-1927, and are located in IV. Leases (1893-1934).
This material reflects the cottonseed market workings of the early 20th century, including relations between growers, brokers, and manufacturers of various cottonseed products. Additionally, a close connection between the company and Rice Institute existed, in that William Marsh Rice, founder of Rice Institute, owned the company at the time of his death, after which the new Rice Institute became responsible for the management of the company. As a result, many of the papers and contracts were sent to the Institute for signature.
1894 - 1945
Majority of material found within
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Permission to publish material from the Merchants and Planters Oil Company archives must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.
Merchants and Planters Oil Company, manufacturers of cottonseed oil, oil cake, meal and linters, based in Houston, Texas, was founded in 1890. The business was one of a number of cotton-based businesses owned by Rice Institute founder, William Marsh Rice at the time of his death in 1900. On September 8, 1900, a powerful hurricane struck the Gulf Coast, causing severe damage to one of the company's warehouses and inventory. The business manager telegraphed Rice stating that the company needed money for repairs; the sum nearly equaled the total of Rice's most liquid assets. This financial turn of affairs accelerated an already brewing plot to murder Rice for his extensive fortune, and indeed Rice was killed on September 23, 1900 by his valet and a lawyer marginally associated with Rice. (See Rice University Archives and general Rice University histories for further information on the story of William Marsh Rice.)
At that time B.B. Rice, the youngest son of William Marsh Rice's brother F.A. Rice, was the secretary and treasurer for the company. Probably shortly after his uncle's death, B.B. Rice became the Vice President and general manager of the company, a position he held until the company's demise in 1941. In some correspondence, William Marsh Rice II, an older brother of B.B. Rice, is referred to as president of the company, although it remains unclear who actually was president. The Rice Institute Board of Trustees were members of several governing boards and both W.M. Rice II and B.B. Rice were members of the Board of Trustees. By the terms of his will, the Institute inherited all of William M. Rice's businesses, and the Board of Trustees was ultimately responsible for the management of those businesses. Therefore, a close connection between the company and Rice Institute existed, with many of the company's papers and contracts being sent to the Institute for signature.
The company bought cottonseed and manufactured various products such as Polar White shortening for retail sale through brokers. Having persevered through the Depression, a December, 1940 cottonseed storage and equipment warehouse fire put the company out of business.
The history of the company is very hazy, little is known about the years before 1935. Papers pertaining to prior years have been lost or destroyed. This void may be explained by business practices of keeping only a limited number of previous years' records.
18 Linear Feet (18 boxes)
Language of Materials