Though the main mission of the State Archives is to preserve the records of state government, we also collect, maintain, and make accessible records of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations, including paper, digital, prints and photographs, video and sound, and artifacts at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC). All together, these treasures represent a rich and ever-expanding collection of materials that provide snapshots of Texas history and culture from every area of the state and every period of its colorful history.
This includes records relating to iconic Texas businesses; we have particularly robust holdings documenting local food companies and breweries through the years, especially in the 20th century, and through photograph collections—many of which have gone on to become major national and international brands, recognizable far beyond Texas’ borders.
The Frito Company got its start in San Antonio in 1932 with its recipe for fried corn chips, which began production in the kitchen of one C. E. Doolin’s mother. The operation quickly expanded first to the house next door and then to a plant in Dallas in 1933, diversifying to include potato chips and cheese cracker sandwiches. Throughout the next decades, Fritos products gained popularity, and by the time of Doolin’s death in 1959, the company was valued at $60 million in annual sales.
Two historic Texas breweries documented in the State Archives are the Pearl Brewing Co. and Lone Star Brewery, both founded in San Antonio. Both made it through Prohibition in the 1930s and expanded to national distribution later in the century. Pearl Brewing Company was founded as the San Antonio Brewing Company in 1883 by a group of local business investors. The first kegs of Pearl, based on a foamy German brew called “perle,” hit the market in 1886. The Lone Star Brewery, built in 1884 by Adolphus and Ernst Busch, was the first large, mechanized brewery in the state. Their lager bearing the recognizable Lone Star label has been produced since 1940.
Did you know that Adams Extract has been produced in Texas since the business was founded by Michigan native and Beeville transplant John Anderson Adams in 1905? His son Fred, the first person to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas in 1916, purchased the company in 1922 and relocated production to Austin. In the intervening years, operations have moved a couple more times—always within Texas—and the company’s lines of vanilla extracts, food colorings, and spices have been produced in Gonzales since 2002.
Another historic and recognizable Texas business linked to downtown San Antonio is Pioneer Flour Mills. The company was originally founded in Gillespie County in 1851 by another German immigrant, Carl Hilmar Guenther, who noticed a paucity of grain milling in Central Texas. In 1859, he moved operations to San Antonio, where the facility became a meeting point and community space for other German immigrants. The iconic, seven-story mill building, still visible from all over the southern part of the city, was constructed in 1922 and is still a major San Antonio landmark—and supplier of pancake mix to another iconic Texas food business you may have heard of called Whataburger. You can even buy the mix for home use from yet another San Antonio-based Texas company—H.E.B.
This is just a small taste of materials preserved at the State Archives. Researchers and the public are invited to visit in person at the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building in Austin, next door to the Capitol. View the six flags flown over Texas, our six Texas seal mosaics, the panoramic Texas history mural in our lobby, and our Texas history exhibits. Open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (research hours 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.). Beginning in 2022, reading rooms are also open the second Saturday of each month from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Visit our website 24/7 at www.tsl.texas.gov.