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Joseph S. Cullinan Papers

Identifier: 2006-009

Aside from its obvious use as a significant source for those persons interested in the petroleum industry, this collection covers a wide range of other research topics.  Business and economic historians will be interested in the extensive financial records and correspondence of such companies as the Petroleum Iron Works Co., Producers Oil Co., the Texas Company, Farmer's Petroleum Co., and the American Republics Corporation.  The collection includes records of the land division of the Shadyside subdivision, accounts of the construction of Cullinan's Shadyside residence, and the building and maintenance of his Pasadena farm. These particular documents provide a wealth of information for architectural and agricultural historians. Finally, historians of the City of Houston will be able to make use of the records of Cullinan's integral involvement with the improvement of the city through such efforts as the Houston Negro Hospital, the Northside Belt Railway, and the founding of the Museum of Fine Arts.  Political scientists will find his participation in politics on the local, state, and national level as well as his involvement in Irish affairs and other international issues of particular interest.


  • 1893-1939


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.


70.00 linear feet

Biographical Information

Oil magnate Joseph Stephen Cullinan was born on December 31, 1860 in western Pennsylvania, the second eldest among eight siblings. In 1891, Cullinan married Lucy Halm, with whom he had five children.

Cullinan began working in the Pennsylvania oilfields at age 14 and joined Standard Oil in 1882. After rising to management positions at Standard Oil, Cullinan left to establish his own company, Petroleum Iron Works, in 1895. With the discovery of oil in Corsicana, Texas, Cullinan moved his operations there and founded the J.S. Cullinan Company (later renamed the Magnolia Petroleum Company) in 1898 –- the first pipeline and refining company in the state. He further contributed to the Corsicana oil industry by introducing ways to increase oil consumption in the days before widespread use of the automobile: oil as fuel for locomotives and as an agent to tamp down the dust on city streets.

Soon after the Spindletop oil discovery in 1901, Cullinan moved to nearby Beaumont, Texas and founded the Texas Company (later named Texaco) for storing and transporting oil. He helped establish Houston as the epicenter of the oil industry in the southwestern United States by moving his Texaco headquarters to the city in 1905. In the ensuing years, he acquired new oil field leases in the area, built refineries at Port Neches and Port Arthur, and founded ten more companies that focused on exploring, producing, refining, and marketing Texas oil.

As president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce from 1913-1919, Cullinan threw his support behind the continued development of the Houston Ship Channel, and later built the city's North Side Belt Railway in 1922. He donated $25,000 towards the construction of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 1926, as well as $80,000 to help the Houston Negro Hospital build its new facility, which opened to the public in 1927. Cullinan died on March 11, 1937.


Cullinan, Joseph Stephen, Handbook of Texas Online

Chronology, Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Custodial History

The Joseph S. Cullinan Papers were reacquired for the University of Houston Libraries for the Houston History Archives initiative in partnership with the UH Center for Public History.

Digital Collections

Houston Negro Hospital digital collection

Guide to the Joseph S. Cullinan Papers
Samantha Herber, Mikaela Selley, Sara Follin, Craig Childs, Teresa Tomkins-Walsh, and Bobby Marlin
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA