University of Texas San Antonio

A Guide to the Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company Records, 1896-1988

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company.
Title: Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company Records
Dates: 1896-1988
Creator Abstract: Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company, based in San Antonio, was famous for Eagle Brand Chili Powder.
Content Abstract: The records include advertisements, publicity photographs, and administrative material.
Identification: MS 44
Extent: 11.6 linear feet (11 Boxes)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

Historical Note

Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company had its beginnings in a small restaurant in New Braunfels, Texas, where Willie Gebhardt added a secret ingredient to his dishes. Mr. Gebhardt moved to San Antonio in 1890 and registered Eagle Brand Chili Powder in 1896. In 1911 the company, then called Gebhardt Chili Powder Company, received a meat license, which allowed the company the chance to expand its product line to include items such as tamales and chili. In 1959, Gebhardt Chili Powder Company became an independent division of the Beatrice Food Company of Chicago. By 1984, the renamed Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company had grown to five times its size before the merger. In the 1980's Texas accounted for about 60% of Gebhardt's sales, where its Eagle Brand Chili Powder was the dominant brand, however, at the same time business in California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington State was increasing. In 1986, Beatrice Foods was acquired by Kohlburg, Kravis and Roberts and it became part of the Beatrice/Hunt-Wesson division. Conagra Incorporated, a food production company headquartered in Omaha Nebraska, bought Beatrice/Hunt Wesson in 1990. As of 1997, Gebhardt Mexican Foods was part of Hunt Foods, a division within Conagra Incorporated.

Scope and Content Note

The Records of Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company date from 1896-1988 and consist of correspondence, financial records, newspaper clippings, printed material, film, sound recordings, photographs, plaques and banners. The records are divided into four series: Administrative, Publicity, Photographs and Awards.

Selected material in this collection has been digitized and is available in our digital collections.

Series List

Administrative, 1896-1982
Publicity, 1923-1988
Photographs, 1931-1971
Awards, 1961-1985


Access Restrictions

This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.

Usage Restrictions

Permission to publish material from the records must be obtained from University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Index Terms

Beatrice Foods Company.
ConAgra, Inc.
Gebhardt Chili Powder Company.
Chili powder--Manufacture and refining--Texas--San Antonio.
Food industry and trade--United States.
San Antonio (Tex.)--Commerce.
Local Subjects
San Antonio History
Cooking/Culinary History

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company Records, MS 44, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Acquisition Information

The records were donated in 1989 (Acc 1989-004).

Processing Information

Processed by Eric Hartmann, Processing Archivist, April 1998.

Additional material encoded by Tatina Wulzer, Collections Assistant, March 30, 2009

Detailed Description of the collection

Administrative, 1896-1982

Material documenting the day to day operation of Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company is located in the Administrative series. Most of the material is from the company's early years, when it was called Gebhardt Chili Powder Company. This series includes a ledger dating from 1896.
Arranged by type of material and organized chronologically.
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence, 1948-1982
2 1896
3 1917-1962
4 Miscellaneous, 1950-1982

Publicity, 1923-1988

The Publicity series concerns Gebhardt's promotion efforts. Samples of advertisements are included, as are recipes for various dishes using Gebhardt products. The advertisements are in various formats, including print, film and sound recordings.
Arranged by type of material and organized chronologically.
Box Folder
1 Advertising
5 undated
Box Folder
2 1 1940-1984
2 History, 1960-1988
3 Labels, undated
View Contents
4 Films, undated
5 Records, undated
6 Slides and audio tapes, undated
7 Awards, 1960-1988
8 undated
Box Folder
3 1 1923-1983

Photographs, 1931-1971

Images in and around the Gebhardt Mexican Food Plant on Laredo Street comprise most of this series. There are also photographs of displays of Gebhardt products. An outsize folder contains large photographs. Shots in and around the processing plant provide insight into the working environment of Gebhardt. In addition, there are photographs of displays in grocery stores and other promotional photos. The majority of the photographs are not dated.
Arranged by subject and organized chronologically.
Box Folder
3 2 Advertising, undated
View Contents
3 Awards, 1964-1971
View Contents
4 Grocery Stores, undated
View Contents
5 Gatherings
View Contents
6 People 1931 - 1933 and undated
View Contents
7 Plant Exterior, undated
View Contents
8 Recipes, undated
View Contents
9 Scrapbook, 1974, 1975
View Contents
10 Products, undated
View Contents
11 Plant Floor, undated
View Contents
12 Tour by Mexican Official, undated
View Contents
OM8 Oversize photographs


Series contains an assortment of plaques given to the Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company and three banners.
Box Folder
OM1-OM6 Plaques, 1961-1985 and undated
Box Folder
OM7 Banners, undated