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The John Henry Kirby Family Collection - Rice University

Kathleen Chandler Kirby Young

Silent | 1920s

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  •  Rice University campus 
  •  Lovett Hall, formerly known as the Administration Building 
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This 1920s home movie captures the Kirby family at home in Houston. First, family members play in the front yard of their historic Midtown mansion. Then, the camera tours the campus of Rice University (then known as the Rice Institute).
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.