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The Underwood Family Collection, no. 2 - West Texas Compress and Warehouse Company

Jane Underwood Henry

Silent | c. 1945

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    This footage captures scenes of the West Texas Compress and Warehouse Company in Lubbock, Texas. The footage begins with images of the company’s workers with its facilities and equipment, sweeping views of the company property, and the construction site of a new all-steel cotton warehouse, which was pioneering building design at the time. Following are scenes of fire patrol trucks and a fire engine demonstrating their capabilities to extinguish both small and large fires at the cotton warehouse.
    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.  
    Avalanche Journal
    Lubbock, Texas
    November 25, 1945
    All-Steel Cotton Warehouse Is Being Built By Compress Here; To Install Sprinkler Unit
         Out in the industrial section of southeast Lubbock there is being erected an all-steel structure which is pioneering cotton warehouse construction. It is being built for the West Texas Compress and Warehouse company and is the largest all-steel building ever constructed here. 
         It contains 50,000 feet of floor space and is built of all structural steel framework with galvanized iron sidewalls with a metal roof decking over steel purlins. An asphalt and gravel roof and insulation will be laid on the metal decking.
    Concrete Floor Foundation
         The building has a concrete floor and foundation.
         The idea and design was developed by the Capital Steel and Iron company of Oklahoma City, working in conjunction with the cotton engineering and inspection service, the Texas Inspection Bureau and the Grinnell company to perfect the structure which meets all the insurance requirements and permit a minimum of cost for sprinkler installation. A sprinkler system is being installed in the building, which, coupled with the all-steel construction, will make it carry one of the lowest cotton warehouse rates in the Southwest. 
         The all-steel structure also reduces the cost of depreciation and upkeep.
    May Revolutionize Construction
         In the past wood and corrugated iron construction has been used almost exclusively in cotton warehouses and Arch S. Underwood, president of the compress firm, sees the possibility of the Lubbock building revolutionizing this phase of the industry.
    A building of similar construction was erected by W.O. Fortenberry, Monroe cotton man and ginner, in his gin in Monroe. It is also practically fireproof.