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The John Henry Kirby Family Collection - New Years Eve Party

Kathleen Chandler Kirby Young

Silent | 1920s

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  •  John Henry Kirby joins the party’s host, Mrs. Rawcliffe 
  •  Rawcliffe with John Henry Kirby II 
  •  Dancing around a bonfire 
 
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This 1920s film captures a Native American-themed New Year’s Eve party. Houston entrepreneur and lumber man John Henry Kirby and his son, John Henry Kirby II, are in attendance. Guests enjoy a meal before dancing around a bonfire. Please note: This film depicts the appropriation of Native American culture. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image does not condone this exploitative practice, but presents the film as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as to claim this behavior never existed. Cultural appropriation involves the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of a dominant culture without consent. These elements are often trivialized or used outside of their original cultural context, resulting in the loss or distortion of their true meaning. In some instances, cultural appropriation is considered not only disrespectful and offensive but also a form of desecration. Feathered headdresses, for example, bear spiritual and ceremonial significance in Native American culture, with only certain tribal members earning the right to wear them.
Born in 1860, John Henry Kirby was a famous entrepreneur and timberland owner in Houston, Texas. Known to his peers as “The Prince of Pines” and “The Father of Industrial Texas,” Kirby became one of the leading lumber manufacturers in East Texas. 
 
Kirby’s parents raised him with minimal means in Peach Tree Village, a small town in Tyler County. He spent s short period of time studying law at Southwestern University in Georgetown before practicing law in Woodville, Texas. There he met his wife Leila Stewart, and the two had their daughter Bessie May. Kirby and his new family moved to Houston, where they spent the rest of their lives. 
 
Throughout his life, Kirby managed numerous businesses, some of which prospered and others of which floundered. Along with a group of Boston investors, Kirby founded the Texas Louisiana Land and Lumber Company and the Texas Pine Land Association. Both companies provided Kirby with a small fortune, which eventually enabled him to build the Gulf, Beaumont and Kansas City Railway in 1896. 
 
In 1901, Kirby tried his luck in the oil industry and created the Houston Oil Company with Patrick Calhoun. The two also founded the Kirby Lumber Company in the same year. Although the relationship eventually deteriorated, the Kirby Lumber Company controlled more than 300,000 acres of East Texas pinelands. 
 
John Henry Kirby died in 1940, but his legacy and name live on. The John Henry Kirby State Forest in Tyler County, Kirby Drive and Upper Kirby in Houston, and Kirbyville in Jasper County are all named after him.