Scope and Contents
This collection consists of correspondence, personal records, photographs, genealogy books, e-mails, audio and visual materials, other books, memorabilia, and ephemera. Three generations are represented, particularly in the correspondence and photographs. The extensive correspondence portion is made up of letters of family members, friends, and business associates. Personal records include estate documents of various family members. Also included are business correspondence and publications about J. S. Cullinan’s several oil companies, as well as material related to James Rorick Cravens and Cravens, Dargan, and Company. The photographs are comprised of both family photographs at home and pictures taken in various vacation settings in both the U.S. and abroad.
The person who primarily preserved the items in this collection is Nancy Cravens Chamberlain, born in 1932 to Mary Cullinan and James Rorick Cravens. Mary Cullinan Cravens was one of five children born to Joseph Stephen Cullinan, founder of oil companies culminating with what became Texaco, early civic leader in Houston, and resident of the Shadyside development, one of the original houses being his.
J. S. Cullinan was born on December 31, 1860 near Sharon, Pennsylvania, the oldest son and second of eight children. Beginning to work in the Pennsylvania oilfields at the age of fourteen, he learned essentially every task associated with oil production. At the age of 22 he joined Standard Oil and held several management positions before leaving in 1895, at the age of 35, to form his own company, Petroleum Iron Works, which manufactured steel storage tanks.
When oil was discovered in Corsicana, Texas, in 1894, Cullinan was sought out for advice on production and marketing techniques. In Corsicana he formed a company in his own name, which later became the Magnolia Petroleum Company. Cullinan was instrumental in introducing oil as a fuel for locomotives, the use of natural gas for heating and lighting, and using oil to settle dust on streets. In 1899 he constructed a refinery south of Corsicana, the first such facility west of the Mississippi. Also in 1899 he had an important role in persuading the Texas legislature to enact the state’s first statute for petroleum conservation.
Shortly after the Spindletop discovery in 1901 Cullinan moved to Beaumont, where he founded the Texas Company (later Texaco). In 1905 he moved the Texaco headquarters to Houston. Losing his controlling interest of Texaco stock in a proxy fight with eastern investors in 1913, Cullinan resigned as president but remained active in the industry. He was instrumental in developing the Sour Lake, Humble, and East Texas oilfields.
From 1913 to 1919 Cullinan served as president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce and supported development of the Houston Ship Channel. In 1922 he was responsible for construction of the North Side Belt Railway around the city. He served as special advisor to the Food Administration under Herbert Hoover during World War I. Beneficiaries of his philanthropy were the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the Houston Negro Hospital. He served as chairman of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Committee from 1928 to 1933. In 1937 while visiting his friend Herbert Hoover in Palo Alto, California, Cullinan died of pneumonia on March 11.
Members of three generations are represented in this collection: Nancy’s grandfather’s, J. S. Cullinan’s; her parents’, the Cravens’; and the generation of Nancy and her siblings, Anne, James “Chico,” and Patsy Cravens. Nancy was married to Charles Devere Chamberlain, Jr. from 1954 to 1974. The span of time represented in the collection is 1907 to 2003. Nancy Cravens Chamberlain died in 2010.
As the eldest surviving child of Mary and James Cravens, Nancy was the preserver of records, photographs, and memorabilia from the two preceding generations as well as her own. In addition to, effectively, being family historian, Nancy earned a bachelor’s degree in 1975 and a master’s in English in 1980 from the University of Houston. She became known for generous volunteer work teaching adult literacy classes for ten years. She also tutored children at Gregory Lincoln Elementary School and counseled alcoholics and drug addicts.