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LUFKIN INDUSTRIES

LUFKIN INDUSTRIES. Lufkin Industries was originally known as the Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company. The company is an international supplier of oilfield-pumping equipment and a diverse product line that includes truck trailers, industrial and marine gears, steam drilling engines, chain saws, and refinery equipment. It has branches or sales divisions throughout the United States and is headquartered in Lufkin, Texas. The firm ships materials via Houston and New York, where it maintains export and sales offices. The Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company, a pioneer in industrialization in Angelina County, was established in 1902 by a group of five East Texas and Louisiana lumbermen who built a machine shop to repair sawmill machinery and later to manufacture it. Among the company's founders were Angelina County Lumber Company founder Joseph Hubert Kurth, Sr., who served as the company's first president, and machinist and foundry owner Frank Kavanaugh, Sr. Walter Charles Trout, a former sawmill-machinery salesman for the firm that became Allis-Chalmers Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, joined the company in 1905. At the time the company employed thirty-five workers, many of whom walked to and from the factory and farmed on the side. Trout is credited with bringing important patents for sawmill equipment to the firm and developing it into one of the area's first to manufacture sawmills and sell sawmill supplies, as well as to provide locomotive and sawmill repairs. Though money panics, crowded factory circumstances, and World War I produced instability before 1920, the company's value doubled between 1914 and 1919. As East Texas timber supplies dwindled and the sawmill business declined, the company continued to grow by moving into the production of lucrative drilling rigs and refinery equipment for a burgeoning Texas oil business. In the 1920s Trout developed an oil-well pump unit for Humble Oil Company (now Exxon Company, U.S.A.). It was perfected and used in the Goose Creek oilfield on the Gulf Coast and other area oilfields. By 1925 the firm had branch offices in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, and Tulsa and had begun to explore markets in South America.

A peak year in 1929 and sales of pumping units to developers of the newly discovered East Texas oilfield helped Lufkin to survive the Great Depression, despite its bad investment in the Lufkin Gin Company, which failed as cotton prices fell. Trout became president in 1931 following Kurth's death, and the business began to expand again in 1934 with the opening of a sales-division office in Dallas. By 1939 annual business topped $5 million, and the firm's Gray Iron Foundry was producing 100 tons of iron products daily. In that year Lufkin developed commercial gears for paper machines of the Southland Paper Mills, purchased the Martin Wagon and Trailer Company, and established the Lufkin Trailer Division to manufacture truck trailers. In World War II Lufkin did over $20 million in government business, employed women to operate machines, supplied gears for tanks, landing craft, and engine parts, and received an Army-Navy E Award and three stars for excellence in production. By 1943, 85 percent of Lufkin's production went to the war effort, and the firm employed more than 1,000 workers. The company got new funding in 1947. Though production of pumping units declined, growth continued, as sales of trailers and industrial gears increased during the 1950s; the company organized a foreign subsidiary in Venezuela. Trout was succeeded after his death on April 24, 1947, by his son, Walter W. Trout, who served as president from 1948 until 1967.

Labor relations at Lufkin reflect the repeated formation and dissolution of union ties. Despite Christmas bonuses and other employee benefits that prompted them to reject the idea in 1947, employees established a union in 1949, and the firm faced a 100-day strike in 1951 and another in 1966. The company sponsored foundry baseball teams, company picnics, and annual Christmas banquets, published the Lufkin Roundup and Lufkin Line for its employees, and implemented its first pension plan in 1954. Nonetheless, only with the 1966 strike, which took workers out for five months and was resolved with a two-year contract, did labor conflict end.

In 1970, as the foundry declined in importance, the company reorganized into three divisions-machinery, trailer, and automotive and industrial supplies-and took the name Lufkin Industries. A trailer plant was completed on 400 acres south of Lufkin in that year. In response to growing environmental concerns in the 1970s, Lufkin installed new equipment to improve air quality and meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. By 1973 Lufkin had produced more than 100,000 pumping units. In the early 1980s the company employed 3,800 workers, had sales of over $364 million, and had acquired a cast-iron foundry in Arkansas and a new plant in Canada.

Lufkin Industries has contributed significantly to its local community. J. H. Kurth and George A. Kelley, a company officer and Lufkin mayor, built the Hotel Angelina, and the firm maintained the Piney Point clubhouse on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Kurth willed a significant amount of money to the public library named for him, while Trout served as president of the trustees of the Lufkin Independent School District in 1913, sponsored ball teams and bowling teams, and raised funds for the Memorial Hospital. Among his other interests were Cal Farley's Boys Ranch near Amarillo and the Boy Scouts. A local elementary school is named in his honor. In 1964 the Lufkin Industries Foundation was formed to provide scholarships for the children of employees and, more recently, Robert Linwood Poland, who became the firm's fourth president in 1967, helped to organize Angelina College.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Angelina County Historical Survey Committee, Land of the Little Angel: A History of Angelina County, Texas, ed. Bob Bowman (Lufkin, Texas: Lufkin Printing, 1976). History of Petroleum Engineering (Dallas: American Petroleum Institute, 1961). Elaine Jackson, Lufkin: From Sawdust to Oil (Houston: Gulf, 1982). Texas Industry, June 1937, October 1939, September 1940, July 1943. Texas Weekly, April 23, 1932.

Diana J. Kleiner

Citation

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

Diana J. Kleiner, "LUFKIN INDUSTRIES," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dtlbk), accessed April 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.