A Guide to the José San Román Papers, 1823-1934
José San Román (1822–ca.1895) was a merchant, banker, and broker in the contraband cotton trade of the Civil War. San Román, born in Spain, moved to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in 1846 and established a dry-goods firm. San Román was quite successful in this venture, and by 1850 the business extended across the Rio Grande to the newly incorporated town of Brownsville, Texas. Furthermore, his business expanded into commercial credit, trustee holdings, real estate, and cotton brokerage. He moved to Texas in 1860.
As a broker, San Román facilitated the smuggling of cotton through the Union Blockade during the Civil War. In the early 1860s he began selling cotton to foreign countries as well as to New York, and in this way became one of the wealthiest men in South Texas. After the war San Román took on an apprentice, Simón Celaya, with whom he opened a large mercantile firm in Brownsville and began a partnership. San Román assisted with the building of, and the new charter for, the Rio Grande Railroad, from Point Isabel to Brownsville. In addition, he and Celaya were involved in the Tamaulipas Zona Libre bill of 1870, which concerned the transportation of goods from Texas to Mexico.
Source: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "San Román, José," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsa16.html (accessed June 3, 2010).
The papers of José San Román, 1823-1934, include correspondence, letter press books, notebooks, sales ledgers, purchase and cash journals, receipts, checks and check stubs, insurance policies, books, circulars, bulletins, price lists, clippings, passenger registers, decrees, summons, suits, powers of attorney, contracts, money, maps, and broadsides. The papers concern a dry-goods business started by San Román in Matamoros and Brownsville, which extended into banking and the importation of cotton, tobacco, and dry-goods.
The papers also relate to French and Spanish vice-consular circulars concerning port tariffs and importation regulations in Texas ports, the presence of United States troops in Matamoros (1846–47), José María Carbajal's rebellion and instigation of expeditions against Cuba, and the Battle of Saltillo (1855). Additionally, the papers concern the Panic of 1857 in New York banks and its effect on cotton importation, the threat of French occupation of Matamoros, Juan N. Cortina's revolt (1859) and occupation of Matamoros, and the blockade running of cotton, arms, drugs, and medicine for the Confederate States of America. The papers also include documentation of a surprise attack on Bagdad (1866), and how this affected the illegal cotton trade, and concern the threat of European war to the cotton market. Furthermore, the papers relate to the establishment of Helena Acadamy at Karnes County, the Tamaulipas Zona Libre bill of 1870, which affected the transportation of goods from Texas to Mexico, and negotiations to sell the Buenavista Hacienda (1880-1886). Materials are written in Spanish and English.
This collection is open for research use.
Portions of these papers are stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.
José San Román Papers, 1823-1934, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Ed Sevcik, May 2006.
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