The pulp and paper industry in Texas began in March 1863, when the Ninth Legislature chartered the Texas Paper Manufacturing Company to produce paper in an attempt to relieve the acute shortages of newsprint and writing papers resulting from the Civil War. Although the company was incorporated and sold stock, it apparently was unsuccessful and soon terminated. Other attempts were made over the next several decades to produce paper from rags, cornhusks, hemp, cotton and cotton linters, spanish broom, silkweed, flax, cane bagasse, and any other fibrous material that was available. None of the early attempts was successful, however, until 1893, when John G. Fleming purchased a bankrupt mill in the Oak Cliff suburb of Dallas. The Fleming mill prospered, and its output grew from about eight tons a week to more than 1,000 tons a week by 1943. In later years the pulp furnished for the Fleming mill was made up of 80 percent waste paper and 20 percent wood pulp. The mill chiefly produced cardboard, egg cartons, wallpapers, and a variety of other building-grade papers. The mill was still operating in 2003.
The state's first chemical pulp mill using southern pine wood for fiber was started by Edward H. Mayo in 1911 at Orange. The mill employed the sulfate process and at its peak produced about forty tons of kraft a day. This early attempt to produce paper from southern pine residues was relatively short-lived, however, as were other attempts over the next two decades. The modern era of large pulp and paper mills in Texas began in the late 1930s, when the Champion Coated Paper Company of Ohio constructed a bleached-sulfate pulp mill on the Houston Ship Channel at Pasadena. Pulp from this mill was shipped to Ohio, where it was manufactured into fine printing papers. The Champion mill has since been expanded to include paper machines and in the late 1980s produced 750 tons of bleached coated and uncoated papers a day. About the time the Champion Paper Company was constructing its mill in Pasadena, Charles Herty of Georgia was perfecting a process for making newsprint from southern pine wood. In June 1938 Herty and a group of Texas businessmen organized the Southland Paper Mills Company and constructed the first southern pine newsprint mill near Lufkin. The mill was formally dedicated in May 1939 and began full production in January 1940. Herty's discovery marked the beginning of large-scale production of newsprint in the United States.
Subsequently, the pulp and paper industry became the state's largest consumer of timber. In 1983 approximately 5,602,000 cords of roundwood and chips, or the equivalent of the annual growth of nearly eleven million acres, was utilized, making Texas the seventh largest producer of wood pulp in the United States. It was anticipated that this demand would nearly double in the next twenty-five to thirty years. Texas had twelve pulp mills (three groundwood mills, three mechanical pulp mills other than groundwood, and six kraft mills) and fourteen paper mills, with a total capacity of 2,925,000 tons annually, or more than 8,000 tons daily. The industry employed 22,000 workers, not counting the woods workers, with an annual payroll of more than $391 million. The pulp and paper industry was also one of the state's largest industrial users of water, requiring in excess of 177 million gallons of treated water per day. Besides the pulp and paper producers, Texas also had 132 companies converting the primary paper and paperboard into a wide variety of different products, such as specialty papers, stationery and envelopes, business forms, printing papers, bags, cartons, boxes, and building papers. Output of the state's eight paper mills in 1991 was 2.8 tons. The market for pulp was 309,600,000 tons that year. The state's employees in paper and allied products numbered 25,900 in 1992.