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



Cite This Collection

Here is our suggested citation. Consult an appropriate style guide for conformance to specific guidelines.

Harris and Eliza Kempner Collection in The Portal to Texas History. University of North Texas Libraries. https://texashistory.unt.edu/explore/collections/KEMP/ accessed July 6, 2020.


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Counties (expand list)

Fort Bend County, TX
5,339
Galveston County, TX
3,965
Harris County, TX
1,599
Grimes County, TX
356
Travis County, TX
205
Dallas County, TX
136
Los Angeles County, CA
97
Hidalgo County, TX
69
Bexar County, TX
66
Brooks County, TX
49
Orleans Parish, LA
48
Cook County, IL
36
Brazoria County, TX
34
Tarrant County, TX
34
Greene County, AR
33
Jefferson County, KY
24
Essex County, NY
23
Reeves County, TX
22
Somerset County, NJ
22
Victoria County, TX
20
Colorado County, TX
18
Jefferson County, TX
17
McLennan County, TX
17
Suffolk County, MA
17
Nueces County, TX
16
Kinney County, TX
15
Cameron County, TX
14
New York County, NY
14
Smith County, TX
14
Bell County, TX
13
Starr County, TX
13
Waller County, TX
13
Bergen County, NJ
12
Bosque County, TX
12
Brazos County, TX
12
Fulton County, GA
10
Caddo Parish, LA
9
Denver County, CO
9
Dimmit County, TX
9
El Paso County, TX
9
Pecos County, TX
9
Shelby County, TN
9
Bolivar County, MS
8
Lubbock County, TX
6
Taylor County, TX
6
Wayne County, MI
6
Wharton County, TX
6
Wichita County, TX
6
East Baton Rouge Parish, LA
5
Jackson County, MO
5
Jefferson County, AL
5
Austin County, TX
4
El Paso County, CO
4
Gregg County, TX
4
Lavaca County, TX
4
New Castle County, DE
4
Oklahoma County, OK
4
Providence County, RI
4
Santa Fe County, NM
4
Sedgwick County, KS
4
Val Verde County, TX
4
Alameda County, CA
3
Broward County, FL
3
Carter County, OK
3
Chatham County, GA
3
Denton County, TX
3
Hamilton County, OH
3
Hays County, TX
3
Hudson County, NJ
3
Jack County, TX
3
Jasper County, TX
3
Kent County, DE
3
King County, WA
3
Marion County, IN
3
Milwaukee County, WI
3
Monroe County, NY
3
Montgomery County, TX
3
Palo Pinto County, TX
3
Philadelphia County, PA
3
Potter County, TX
3
Presidio County, TX
3
San Jacinto County, TX
3
Shawnee County, KS
3
Tuscarawas County, OH
3
Allegheny County, PA
2
Comanche County, OK
2
Cuyahoga County, OH
2
Dane County, WI
2
Edwards County, TX
2
Erie County, OH
2
Fayette County, KY
2
Franklin County, OH
2
Hill County, TX
2
Lake County, IN
2
Lee County, TX
2
Montgomery County, PA
2
Muscogee County, GA
2
Muskegon County, MI
2
Muskogee County, OK
2
Parmer County, TX
2
Santa Cruz County, AZ
2
Talladega County, AL
2
Tom Green County, TX
2
Webb County, TX
2
Alcorn County, MS
1
Angelina County, TX
1
Arlington County, VA
1
Atlantic County, NJ
1
Baltimore County, MD
1
Blaine County, OK
1
Branch County, MI
1
Briscoe County, TX
1
Bristol County, MA
1
Brown County, WI
1
Burleigh County, ND
1
Chaves County, NM
1
Cherokee County, TX
1
Coryell County, TX
1
Cumberland County, NC
1
Davidson County, TN
1
Des Moines County, IA
1
Douglas County, NE
1
Dunklin County, MO
1
Duval County, FL
1
Eau Claire County, WI
1
Essex County, MA
1
Essex County, NJ
1
Frederick County, VA
1
Grand County, CO
1
Greer County, OK
1
Hardin County, TX
1
Harrison County, TX
1
Haskell County, TX
1
Hennepin County, MN
1
Iowa County, IA
1
Jasper County, IA
1
Johnson County, TX
1
Jones County, TX
1
Kaufman County, TX
1
Kendall County, TX
1
Kern County, CA
1
Kerr County, TX
1
Kingfisher County, OK
1
LaSalle County, IL
1
Latimer County, OK
1
Leavenworth County, KS
1
Lee County, IA
1
Liberty County, TX
1
Limestone County, TX
1
Linn County, IA
1
Lyon County, KS
1
Madison County, AL
1
Marin County, CA
1
Mason County, TX
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
Miami-Dade County, FL
1
Minnehaha County, SD
1
Mississippi County, AR
1
Mobile County, AL
1
Montgomery County, IL
1
Montgomery County, KS
1
Multnomah County, OR
1
Nash County, NC
1
Okfuskee County, OK
1
Orange County, NC
1
Orange County, TX
1
Osage County, OK
1
Parker County, TX
1
Passaic County, NJ
1
Pierce County, WA
1
Prince George's County, MD
1
Pulaski County, AR
1
Ramsey County, MN
1
Refugio County, TX
1
Richland County, SC
1
Rock Island County, IL
1
Rockbridge County, VA
1
Rockingham County, VA
1
Rutland County, VT
1
Sacramento County, CA
1
San Diego County, CA
1
San Saba County, TX
1
Sangamon County, IL
1
Santa Barbara County, CA
1
Santa Clara County, CA
1
Spokane County, WA
1
Stanislaus County, CA
1
Summit County, OH
1
Titus County, TX
1
Trinity County, TX
1
Tulare County, CA
1
Vanderburgh County, IN
1
Walker County, TX
1
Warren County, VA
1
Washington County, MD
1
Washington County, OK
1
Washoe County, NV
1
Washtenaw County, MI
1
Wayne County, IL
1
Webster County, IA
1
Winnebago County, WI
1
Wood County, TX
1
Woodbury County, IA
1
Woodward County, OK
1
Worcester County, MA
1