Calcasieu Lumber Company Records
An Inventory of the Collection
In 1883, two brothers, William Sherman Drake and Carl F. Drake opened the lumber company Drake Brothers in Austin, Texas. The brothers soon changed the name to Calcasieu Lumber Company, named after the top-quality lumber that came from Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. In 1890, William S. Drake bought out his bother's interest and took over the company as a private business. The business regularly expanded and by 1905 the lumberyard occupied four city lots. In 1910 the company added additional building materials (paint, glass, roofing products, etc.) to its inventory and had to expand again covering three more city lots. During this time Calcasieu also established numerous branch lumber yards in surrounding Central Texas towns under the name Mutual Lumber Company.
In the 1920s Drake introduced a monthly installment plan to finance homebuilding for customers that already owned a lot using low-interest loans. The company employed builders and became a one-stop shop for those looking for a new home. During Austin's residential building boom in the 1920s Calcasieu built many of the homes that created the subdivisions surrounding downtown Austin.
William S. Drake died in 1934 and the family chose R. G. Mueller to run the company. The company continued to expand and in 1940 they widened the scope of their activities by building a two-story mill to fabricate building supplies as well as adding appliances and air conditioning to their list of home equipment. The quest to become a complete home center was fulfilled in 1947 when William Drake's son Bill Drake, Jr. became president of the company and opened 72,000 square feet, 3-story retail building on West Second and Lavaca Street. Bill Drake added free home planning, home decorating and kitchen planning services to aid both the amateur and professional builder.
In 1949 a huge fire at the West 2nd Street storeyards caused an estimated $500,000 worth of damage. Calcasieu had all of its departments up and running within 48 hours. The company cleared the rubble and used the opportunity to build a service center to service the appliances and other home equipment sold by the company. In the 1950s Calcasieu was operating out of 19 building in Austin with 17 subsidiary lumber yards in Central Austin, employing over 300 people in its local plants. During this time period Calcasieu also began a furniture production business named Austin Industries.
The company eventually moved its operations out of the downtown area and by its 100th anniversary in 1983 Calcasieu had established itself in Southeast Austin where they expanded the lumberyard, showroom, and offices to 32 acres. In the mid-1990s there was talk of selling the company when it was determined that there was an imminent succession problem at Calcasieu, where ownership would be passed onto a fourth generation, none of whose member would have owned more than two percent of the company. T. N. "Nick" Morris, grandson to the founder of the company, bought out 70 other family members on August 15, 1997 to become the president and CEO of Calcasieu Lumber. The company topped the $100 million sales mark for the first time in 1998 and employed 1000 people. In 2000, with annual sales of over $120 million, Carolina Holdings purchased Calcasieu Lumber.
The Calcasieu Lumber Company Records measure approximately 2.4 linear feet and span the years 1882 to 1967. The collection primarily contains material relating to the development and progress of the company during its early years from the late 1800s to the 1950s. The Records are arranged into nine series: History, Board of Directors, Correspondence, Financial Records, Legal Documents, Marketing and Publicity, Personnel, Mutual Lumber Company and Photographs.
The first series, History (1885-1896, 1949, undated), contains two documents written to chronicle the history of the company and newspaper clippings. Also included is a daily report from the night watchman on duty when the 1949 fire broke out and photographs of the fire and damages. The Board of Directors series (1884-1906) consists of three ledgers: one spans the dates 1884-1894; the other 1904-1906; with the third being a typed, partion version of the first ledger. The ledgers contain the Charter and Bylaws of the Calcasieu Lumber Company and minutes of the annual stockholders meetings that include the Report of the Treasurer and election results for officers and directors.
Two letter books as well as some loose letters make up the Correspondence (1884-1944) series. The letter books date from February of 1884 to December of 1885 and each includes an index of the correspondents. Most of the correspondence in this series reference financial transactions with customers and creditors. The Financial series (1883-1942, undated) is an assortment of day books, annual inventories, balance sheets, check stubs, invoices, bills and receipts and price lists for Calcasieu products. Of most interest are the day books (1883-1884) and the annual inventories (1884, 1915, 1916, 1922, 1932) as they document how the business evolved through the years.
The Legal Documents series (1882-1917) mainly consists of documents pertaining the sale and purchase of property in Austin. Also of interest is an agreement between W. S. Drake (vice and acting president of Calcasieu Lumber Company) and Carl F. Drake (president of The Drake Lumber Co.) signed in 1901 to not enter the territory of the other and engage in the wholesale sash, door or blind business or the retail lumber business. The Marketing and Publicity series (1887-1904, 1931-1959, undated) consists of advertising materials generated by Calcasieu, advertising cuts and newspaper clippings. Notable is a scrapbook created by the company in 1956 that documents the company's marketing strategy and includes examples (print and photographs) of the advertising Calcasieu employed including newspaper, radio, television, fence signs, direct mail, contests, and exhibits.
The Personnel series (1890, 1915-1967) includes newspaper clippings about employees, notices to employees, and a letter sent out by Calcasieu to the families of its former employees serving in World War II requesting their addresses. There are also photographs of staff parties, as well as candid shots and portraits dating primarily from the 1940s and 1950s. The Mutual Lumber Company series (1906-1938) includes materials that document the activities of the branch lumber yards in surrounding Central Texas towns that operated under the name Mutual Lumber Company with W. S. Drake as the first president. Included are a Board of Directors minute book that includes the minutes from the first annual meeting in 1906 to a special meeting called in June of 1938; stock certificates dating from 1906-1914; correspondence including letters from W. S. Drake to the various lumberyard managers evaluating their performance; marketing materials published in both English and German; and personnel lists. The majority of the photographs in the Photographs series (circa 1890-1957, undated) are dated from the 1940s and 1950s and document the buildings and worksites of Calcasieu Lumber Company.
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This collection is a combination of several donations starting with a donation from W. S. Drake, Jr. in 1967. Further details about which materials came from what donor are available in the donor file (DO/1967/013).
Calcasieu Lumber Company Records (AR.F.004). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
Donor #: DO/1967/078
Donation Date: 1967, 1973, 1976
The collection was originally processed in the 1970s. Subsequent donations and changes in arrangement and description procedures made reprocessing the collection a necessity. Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults in 2011. Updated by Kelly Hanus in 2018.
Detailed Description of the Collection