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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cunningham's Grit

I found this lengthy article in the December 31, 1888 edition of The Fort Worth Daily Gazette.  (It was in fact a reprint of an account that appeared a two days earlier in The San Antonio Express.) The report details Edward H. Cunningham's adoption of new (actually experimental) diffusion technology in his sugar operation here in Sugar Land.  The article is well-rounded, giving a good account of the man, his approach to business, the state of sugar technology at the time, and the ground-breaking nature of what Cunningham was attempting.

Kempner and Eldridge deserve credit for their innovation and business acumen, but Cunningham was their equal as a visionary and risk taker.  He made some mistakes and suffered some bad breaks that weren't his fault (like floods, fires, and crop disease), but he was adaptable and alert to future business opportunities.  For example, he recognized the demand for refined sugar and the potential of foreign imports before most other businessmen.  His experiment with sorghum (mentioned in the article) didn't pay off, but he didn't let one set back put him off his course.

In the end, his age, lack of a successor, and depleted working capital, among other things, drove him into bankruptcy, but that shouldn't erase his achievements.

Here's an excerpt that profiles Cunningham the man.

Here's an excerpt giving a brief description of Sugar Land back in 1888.

Click here to view the complete article.  I think I'll have a little more on it next week.