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Oleander Odyssey: The Kempners of Galveston, Texas, 1854-1980s (Kenneth E. Montague Series in Oil and Business History)

Harold M. Hyman

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ISBN 10: 0890964386 / ISBN 13: 9780890964385
Published by Texas A&M University Press, 1990
Used Condition: Good Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Oleander Odyssey: The Kempners of Galveston,...

Publisher: Texas A&M University Press

Publication Date: 1990

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

Edition: 1st - may be Reissue.

About this title


When Harris Kempner arrived at Ellis Island in 1854, he was an uneducated

immigrant teenager escaping anti-Semitism and conscription into the czar's army. When he died forty years later, he was a millionaire and had instilled in his descendants the ideals of private enterprise, public service, and harmonious family cohesion that have made the Kempner family a major force in Galveston for a century.

After establishing himself as a peddler in East Texas and later expanding his business as a cotton factor and wholesaler and relocating to Galveston, Kempner had risen high in Island business and social hierarchies when he died prematurely, in 1894. Harris's twenty-one-year-old son Ike became head of the family along with his mother, and he expanded the business to include international trade in cotton, plus subsidiaries in banking and insurance. The family transformed Sugar Land, Texas, and the Imperial Sugar Company from a notoriously abusive operation to a model company town and successful business.

The Kempners' main center of operations was Galveston, which survived the devastating Great Storm of 1900 substantially because of the initiative and leadership of Ike Kempner, who directed relief efforts and instigated plans for the seawall, the causeway to the mainland, and the grade-raising project to elevate the city.

The complete archives of the Kempner family papers housed at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston provided the primary source material for this work, and Harold Hyman's further research provides a backdrop of social, political, and religious factors affecting four generations of Kempners in Galveston. The result is a story about large, diverse family businesses, Progressive urban reform and community development, the acculturation of American and Southern Jews, and the dynamics of life, politics, and the economy in Southeast Texas.

About the Author:

Harold M. Hyman is William P. Hobby Professor of History and Director of the Center for the History of Leadership Institutions at Rice University in Houston. He has written numerous books and articles on United States history.

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