While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »

HIDE AND TALLOW TRADE

Hortense Warner Ward

HIDE AND TALLOW TRADE. Hide and tallow factories flourished on the Texas coast, particularly in Aransas County, from 1840 to 1880, but chiefly from the Mexican War to 1875. Those in existence before 1845 were of negligible importance. An English firm, Jones and Company, did business at Liberty Landing in 1840, about the same time that Richard Grimes and his son, Bradford, had another packery on Trespalacios Creek in Matagorda County.

During the Mexican War and the Civil War herds of cattle and horses roamed untended upon the coastal prairies. By 1865 they represented the war-ravaged Southwest's only negotiable medium, but transportation difficulties and lack of markets made shipment of stock unprofitable. The cattlemen discovered the eastern market for hides, bones, tallow, and horns, items then far more valuable than the animal on the hoof. No shipping difficulties were involved, since transportation was by water. Every cattleman of any importance soon built a factory to process not only his own herds but those of smaller ranchers. Rockport and Fulton were the centers of greatest activity.

Carcasses of hundreds of thousands of cattle and mustangs were reduced to tallow in the great boilers. Hides were cured and shipped east with the bones and horns. Occasionally attempts were made to preserve some of the meat, but lack of refrigeration made this part of the business impractical, although factories, at times, were referred to as packeries. By 1870 the factories were slaughtering thousands of head of stock every month, and newspapers carried warnings to cattlemen that their herds were in danger of depletion. Nature took a hand to end the uncontrolled slaughter. The winters of 1872 and 1873 were of unprecedented severity, and thousands of cattle died. Hide peelers added to the destruction by despoiling the diminishing herds. The slaughter continued unabated, however, until 1875, when it was apparent that there were no more heavy cattle to supply the boilers. Many factories were abandoned and left to fall into ruin, though some continued operation on a small scale until 1880. By 1991 production had revived, and Texas exported tallow and lard valued at $68.6 million. Cattle were also included in the $237 million earned in the hide and skin export business.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 
Cattleman, February 1948. C. L. Douglas, Cattle Kings of Texas (Dallas: Baugh, 1939; rpt., Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1968).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Hortense Warner Ward, "HIDE AND TALLOW TRADE," accessed July 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dfh01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...