Scope and Contents
This collection consists of 2.5 linear feet of photographs, correspondence, business records, clippings, and technical papers. The materials are from the Houston-based Kirby Petroleum Company and the records of George Sawtelle, who was president of the company for more than 20 years. The inclusive dates for the materials are 1921-1967, although the bulk of the materials cover the years 1931-1953. The primary correspondents are John H. Kirby, Clint Murchison, Cooper Ragan, and George Sawtelle. This material provides a valuable look at the early days of the oil industry in Texas. In particular it documents through correspondence the concerns and business goals of oil men from the 1920s through the 1940s. In addition, the personal correspondence of George Sawtelle reveals his close ties to family and business colleagues, as well has his charitable work. This collection does not contain significant amounts of published corporate materials, such as annual reports or press releases.
1921-1967, bulk 1931-1953
This material is open for research.
Conditions Governing Access
Stored offsite at the Library Service Center and require 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Permission to publish from the Kirby Petroleum Company / George Sawtelle Executive records, MS 504, must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
The Kirby Petroleum Company/George Sawtelle records offers a glimpse into the early 20th century oil boom in Texas primarily through the correspondence of George Sawtelle, who served as president of the company for more than 20 years. Sawtelle died September 4, 1967.
The origin of the Kirby Petroleum Company can be traced back to 1921 when John Henry Kirby, a pioneer in the development of the Houston business community, formed Kirby Petroleum Company, an oil and gas exploration and development company. Kirby Petroleum Company operated as a Houston-based independent oil and gas exploration and development company until 1956 when, after the sale of its producing properties, the remaining non-producing acreage was merged with three other independent oil and gas companies to form Kirby VenSyn Petroleum Company, a publicly traded company. As a result of the mergers, the Murchison family of Dallas, later noted for its ownership of the Dallas Cowboys, owned approximately 35 percent of Kirby. Kirby VenSyn Petroleum Company changed its name to Kirby Petroleum Co. in 1957 and adopted the name Kirby Industries, Inc. in 1967. As of 2005, the company, still based in Houston, is known as Kirby Corp. although its primary business is transporting bulk liquid products on the Mississippi River System and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Kirby Corporation. (2001). Company History. Retrieved March 23, 2005 from http://www.kmtc.com/corp/history.cfm
George Sawtelle was born in Wheeling Virginia on February 27, 1892. He graduated in 1916 from Lehigh University with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. In 1916, he was in the U.S. Army and stationed on the border with Mexico. During World War I, he served in France in the Seventh Field Artillery Brigade and rose to the rank of captain. His brigade commander thought highly enough of the young captain to write Sawtelle a letter stating that he had been recommended for promotion to major. That letter is located in box 5, folder 4. From 1920 to 1921, Sawtelle, a longtime football enthusiast, served as an assistant football coach at Northwestern University. He joined Kirby Petroleum Company in 1922. In 1924, he was the general manager and chief geologist of the company. Eventually, he rose to the presidency of the company, a position he held for more than 20 years. He resigned as chairman of the Kirby board in 1965. As the result of a heart attack, he died Sunday, September 3, 1967 in Austin, Texas.
2.5 Linear Feet (5 boxes)
Language of Materials