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New Releases: April 2018

Last year, the Texas Archive of the Moving Image took the Texas Film Round-Up to Fort Bend County. One of the collections we were most excited to receive came from the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation, promising not only home movies documenting the area but also industrial and promotional materials from the Imperial Sugar Company. After months of careful processing and research, we are thrilled to finally share a few collection highlights.

The city of Sugar Land now occupies the site that once encompassed the Oakland Plantation. It was there in 1843 that Samuel May Williams installed a commercial sugar-grinding mill, leading to a rapid shift from cotton to sugar cane as the area's dominant crop. In 1905, the surrounding sugar plantations were acquired by the Kempner family, who dubbed their company the Imperial Sugar Company. Though the original plant ceased production in 2003, the company's headquarters remain in Sugar Land, making Imperial Sugar Company the oldest extant business in Texas.

Produced by the Dallas-based Jamieson Film Company, this 1960s industrial film gives in-depth look at sugar production and the Imperial Sugar Company. Following a brief history of the company, the film reviews refining operations, tracing the journey of an Imperial sugar granule from sugar cane in Puerto Rico to table sugar in Texas. Unlike similar films in the collection, this one concludes with a jazzy music video about the prevalence of sugar in all types of food and everyday items.

Several of the films in the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation Collection were directed by filmmaker Bob Bailey. Bailey began his career in still photography, transitioning to industrial and educational filmmaking of the Houston area by the 1930s. His film subjects include the gas and petroleum industry, real estate business, natural disasters, and sports. This footage goes behind-the-scenes with the Imperial Sugar packing department.

Beyond industrial and educational films, the collection also includes its fair share of marketing materials. Of the many featured television commercials, this is perhaps our favorite. To celebrate Imperial’s long history, the company produced a series of advertisements in 1981 with the tagline, “The Grandmother of Texas Sugars.” Real Texas grandmothers naturally starred as the company’s spokeswomen. “Whether you bake a little or a lot,” the commercials’ twangy jingle sings, “use the sugar the pros use.”

Explore the entire Sugar Land Heritage Foundation Collection, including home movies of Sugar Land encased in ice and awkward teen dances, here.