Imperial Sugar Company

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

Imperial Sugar Company, a major American sugar producer, was established in 1905 by Isaac H. Kempner (and other family members) and William T. Eldridge in what is today Sugar Land, Texas, a small community about 25 miles southwest of Houston.

Sugarcane had been grown in the area since the 1830s, when settlers found that the soil and climate, especially along the Brazos River, were conducive to its cultivation. See sugarcane and sugarcane agriculture. Samuel M. Williams and his brother grew sugarcane on their plantation on Oyster Creek, and in 1843 they produced enough to warrant construction of a small sugar mill on their property. This mill refined small quantities of sugar and also produced blackstrap molasses. See molasses. Ed Cunningham subsequently acquired the Williams property and built a much larger refinery; in 1905 Isaac H. Kempner acquired the property in turn, naming his business the “Imperial” Sugar Company and expanding and diversifying its operations into areas unrelated to sugar refining. He even opened a bank. Kempner also built houses and stores for his workers in the company-owned town, which he named Sugar Land. The Imperial Sugar Company was incorporated in 1907, two years after its founding.