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The Underwood Family Collection, no. 1 - West Texas Compress and Warehouse Company

Jane Underwood Henry

Silent | 1940s

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    This footage captures scenes of workers at Lubbock’s West Texas Compress and Warehouse Company. Workers use the large compress to bale cotton, tie it on the assembly line, take the bales to a weigh station, then stack the bales for distribution using tractors and forklifts.
    Lubbock cotton industry giant Arch Underwood was born in 1893 in Hillsboro, Texas. His father, Harris F. Underwood, was a pioneer of the Texas cotton industry, establishing some of the first cotton compresses and warehouse facilities in the state. Arch worked as a day laboror in his father's compress in Athens in his 20s and joined his father in Lubbock in the 1920s where Harris anticipated a boom in cotton production. When his father died in 1929, Arch took over the business and turned it into a near-empire of the Texas cotton compress industry with plants in 27 locations throughout West Texas. Underwood also lobbied for the rights of interior compress operators at a time when most cotton compress companies were portside, resulting in a well-known Supreme Court case against Panhandle and Santa Fe Railroad. Among other plants and warehouses, Underwood's holdings included 8 of the 18 largest firms in the nation that stored Government-owned cotton: Panhandle Compress and Warehouse Co., Union Compress and Warehouse Co., Western American Warehouse Co., Texas Compress and Warehouse Co., United Compress and Warehouse Co., Trinity Compress and Warehouse Co., and Western Warehouse Co., and parent company, West Texas Compress and Warehouse Company. Underwood came to have political influence, reportedly a confidant to Presidents FDR, Truman, LBJ, and Speaker Sam Rayburn, but was still known to all as a humble and generous man that continued to support his community. Underwood brought his sons and sons-in-law into the family business throughout the 1950s, retired in 1967, and passed away in 1972.