Harris and Eliza Kempner Collection

About the Kempner Family

One of Galveston's most iconic families, the Kempner family influenced the social and philanthropic landscape of Galveston, and its members created an expansive economic empire. The Kempner family of Galveston began with Harris Kempner (1837-1894), who emigrated from Poland in 1854 and settled in Cold Spring, Texas. In 1858, he opened a general store and established the firm that still bears his name. Harris, foreseeing the growth of Galveston, moved his business to the seaport around 1868 and enlarged his interests as a cotton factor and commission merchant. He also entered a partnership with M. Marx to build a wholesale grocery business. Marx withdrew from the business in 1886, but Harris continued the firm and extended his range of operations into finance. He served as the president of Island City Savings Bank. Harris organized and directed some thirty-five banks throughout Texas, especially in smaller cities that lacked adequate banking facilities.

After Harris Kempner's death in 1894, his widow, the former Miss Eliza Seinsheimer of Cincinnati, preserved the estate. The line of trusteeship passed to Harris and Eliza's four sons: Isaac H. Kempner, Daniel W. Kempner, Robert L. Kempner, and Stanley E. Kempner. Isaac Kempner and his family purchased controlling interest in what later would become the United States National Bank in 1902. Isaac, who was born in Cincinnati in 1873 but received his early education in Galveston, later became president of the bank. He also served as president of the Galveston Cotton Exchange from 1905 to 1919.

The trusteeship later passed on to Harris and Eliza's two grandsons: Harris L. Kempner and Isaac H. Kempner, Jr. The Kempner family built a fortune not only through ventures in cotton and banking, but also in railroading, land development, ranching, oil, and sugar. The Kempner family partnered with William T. Eldridge and bought plantations in the area southwest of Houston between 1906 and 1908. This area, known as Sugar Land, became the base of production for the newly formed Imperial Sugar Company. The Kempner family became the sole owners of the sugar firm in 1946. Sugar Land, Texas operated as a company town for employees and became incorporated in 1959.

About the Physical Collection

The Rosenberg Library in Galveston maintains an extensive amount of Kempner family business records and personal papers The collections include a wealth of documentation relating to the Kempner family's involvement in business and industry, especially regarding the H. L. Kempner Company and the Imperial Sugar Company. Personal papers from dozens of Kempner family members may also be found in the collections. These papers reflect the family's extensive philanthropic activities and engagement in local, national, and international affairs.

Some additional materials are held by the Kempner Foundation.

About the Digital Collection

This digital collection contains a selection of materials drawn from the larger tangible collections.



At a Glance



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Counties (expand list)

Fort Bend County, TX
1,035
Galveston County, TX
771
Harris County, TX
177
Grimes County, TX
163
Houston County, TX
131
Austin County, TX
130
Bexar County, TX
43
Dallas County, TX
20
Orleans Parish, LA
16
Kinney County, TX
14
Los Angeles County, CA
14
Tarrant County, TX
14
Bell County, TX
13
Cook County, IL
13
Jefferson County, TX
13
Bergen County, NJ
12
Smith County, TX
12
Bosque County, TX
11
Brazoria County, TX
10
McLennan County, TX
9
Greene County, AR
8
Brazos County, TX
7
Hidalgo County, TX
7
Essex County, NY
6
Bolivar County, MS
5
Nueces County, TX
5
Deaf Smith County, TX
4
Providence County, RI
4
Sedgwick County, KS
4
Travis County, TX
4
Victoria County, TX
4
Alameda County, CA
3
Cameron County, TX
3
Carter County, OK
3
Denver County, CO
3
El Paso County, CO
3
Hays County, TX
3
Hudson County, NJ
3
Jasper County, TX
3
Lavaca County, TX
3
Pecos County, TX
3
Reeves County, TX
3
Suffolk County, MA
3
Val Verde County, TX
3
Allegheny County, PA
2
Caddo Parish, LA
2
Colorado County, TX
2
Denton County, TX
2
Edwards County, TX
2
Hill County, TX
2
Jackson County, MO
2
Jefferson County, AL
2
Montgomery County, TX
2
Palo Pinto County, TX
2
Parmer County, TX
2
Santa Cruz County, AZ
2
Santa Fe County, NM
2
Taylor County, TX
2
Atlantic County, NJ
1
Blaine County, OK
1
Branch County, MI
1
Briscoe County, TX
1
Bristol County, MA
1
Brooks County, TX
1
Broward County, FL
1
Burleigh County, ND
1
Chaves County, NM
1
Coryell County, TX
1
Cumberland County, NC
1
Cuyahoga County, OH
1
Dane County, WI
1
Des Moines County, IA
1
Dunklin County, MO
1
Eau Claire County, WI
1
El Paso County, TX
1
Essex County, MA
1
Essex County, NJ
1
Fulton County, GA
1
Greer County, OK
1
Hamilton County, OH
1
Haskell County, TX
1
Jones County, TX
1
Kendall County, TX
1
Kern County, CA
1
Kerr County, TX
1
LaSalle County, IL
1
Lake County, IN
1
Latimer County, OK
1
Leavenworth County, KS
1
Lee County, IA
1
Lee County, TX
1
Limestone County, TX
1
Linn County, IA
1
Lubbock County, TX
1
Lyon County, KS
1
Marion County, IN
1
Matagorda County, TX
1
McCurtain County, OK
1
Medina County, TX
1
Mercer County, WV
1
Mesa County, CO
1
Miami County, IN
1
Minnehaha County, SD
1
Mississippi County, AR
1
Mobile County, AL
1
Montgomery County, KS
1
Multnomah County, OR
1
Osage County, OK
1
Pierce County, WA
1
Potter County, TX
1
Presidio County, TX
1
Pulaski County, AR
1
Refugio County, TX
1
Richland County, SC
1
Rock Island County, IL
1
San Diego County, CA
1
San Jacinto County, TX
1
Sangamon County, IL
1
Santa Barbara County, CA
1
Shawnee County, KS
1
Spokane County, WA
1
Stanislaus County, CA
1
Tom Green County, TX
1
Tulare County, CA
1
Waller County, TX
1
Washington County, OK
1
Wayne County, IL
1
Webster County, IA
1
Wichita County, TX
1
Woodbury County, IA
1
Woodward County, OK
1
Worcester County, MA
1