A Guide to the Swenson Land and Cattle Company Papers, 1902-1932
The Swenson Land and Cattle Company, formerly SMS Ranches, occupies considerable portions of twelve counties in the lower plains area of West Texas and comprises more than 300,000 acres. The name SMS comes from the initials of the founder, Svante M. Swenson who moved to Texas from Sweden in the 1830s. Swenson began shipments of Texas pecans to the North and East and in 1850 established himself in the general merchandise and banking business at Austin. However, his greatest interest lay in the accumulation of land.
After the Civil War Swenson moved his family to New York City, where he founded a private banking house known as S. M. Swenson and Sons, a precursor to the present First National City Bank of New York, but continued an active interest in Texas. In the 1880s S. M. Swenson leased his holdings to his sons, Eric Pierson Swenson and Swen Albin Swenson, who operated them under the name of Swenson Brothers Cattle Company. The SMS brand, consisting of an extended M sandwiched between two reversed S's, was registered by the Swensons in the spring of 1882.
In 1899 the Swensons enticed the Texas Central Railroad to build through their land and laid out the town of Stamford, which became the nucleus of their West Texas interests. In 1902 the brothers hired Frank S. Hastings as manager of their far-flung ranches. Under Hastings’ direction the SMS was among the first to engage in the "mail order" calf business. In 1926 the Swensons were running 28,000 cattle on 390,000 acres and the business was reorganized as the Swenson Land and Cattle Company. By 1989, an average of 8,500 cattle, mostly Hereford and Angus stock, were sold annually. In addition, hundreds of acres of SMS ranch land were cultivated in hay, oats, and milo, and there were also some oil interests.
Source: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "SMS Ranches," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/aps1.html (accessed October 13, 2009).
The papers consist of printed material, ledgers and diaries related to the business of the Swenson Land and Cattle Company between 1902 and 1932, including a memoir by ranch manager Frank S. Hastings. The records additionally address theories and experiences in raising, marketing and shipping Hereford cattle and the economic, political ad social aspects of the area as they affected the cattle industry.
Swenson Land and Cattle Company Papers, 1902-1932, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers