Entry Category: Business and Economics - Starting with B

Bailey, O. C.

aka: Olin Cavanaugh Bailey
Olin Cavanaugh Bailey of El Dorado (Union County) was a leader in the Arkansas oil industry and served as the first chairman of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission. Both Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) and Hendrix College have buildings named in Bailey’s honor. O. C. Bailey was born in Blevins (Hempstead County) on July 28, 1894, the second child of Gentry Ethridge, a farmer from Haynesville, Louisiana, and Sarah Margaret Stephens Bailey, a housewife from Wallaceburg (Hempstead County). Bailey graduated from Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University) with a BA in 1914. Bailey married Leila St. Clair Lide of Camden (Ouachita County) on September 12, 1917. The couple had no children. On October 18, 1918, Bailey joined the United States …

Baitfish Industry

Arkansas leads the nation in the farming of bait and feeder fish, providing sixty-one percent of the value of all cultured baitfish in the country. Baitfish are small minnows used as fishing bait to catch predatory game fish such as crappie, catfish, walleye, and largemouth bass. Feeder fish are small fish sold as live food for fish and animals in aquariums and zoos. Six billion bait minnows—predominantly golden shiners, fathead minnows, and goldfish—are raised in Arkansas each year and shipped throughout the country. In 1998, the Census of Aquaculture recorded sixty-two baitfish farms in Arkansas. The annual farm-gate value of Arkansas baitfish production was $23 million; with an economic impact of six to seven times this amount, baitfish production contributes …

Bank of Osceola

The Bank of Osceola is a two-story brick structure located in Osceola (Mississippi County) at 207–209 East Hale Avenue at its intersection with Pecan Street. Built in 1909 at the height of Osceola’s building boom, the property remains a unique focal point along the Hale Avenue Historic District. Originally constructed to house the bank and a grocery store on the first floor, the building has hosted numerous businesses throughout its history, including law offices, a cotton brokerage, and a doctor’s office. The structure, measuring 56′ by 100′, is on a continuous brick foundation. The façade (south elevation) has a centered entrance featuring double doors topped by double transoms and flanked by altered storefront openings. The second-story façade is distinguished by …

Bank OZK

Bank OZK grew from a small-town bank in Ozark (Franklin County) to have offices in ten states by 2019, also becoming a major lender for commercial construction projects in metropolitan centers throughout the country. The bank was recognized thirteen times from 2011 to 2019 as the top-performing bank in the nation by various trade publications. It has maintained significant profitability through all economic cycles and has rewarded its stockholders through stock price appreciation and increasing dividends. In 1979, George Gleason, a twenty-five-year-old attorney with the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock (Pulaski County), purchased the small Bank of Ozark. He left law practice and moved to Ozark and took over bank management as chairman and CEO. The bank, which had …

Banking

When Arkansas was admitted to statehood in June 1836, the first and second acts of the legislature that year authorized the chartering of two banks: the State Bank of Arkansas and the Real Estate Bank of Arkansas. Capital for the banks was obtained by substituting the credit of the state in the form of Arkansas bonds, to be sold presumably in the East or in the London market. Bond interest and principal were to be paid out of bank profits. The State Bank was government owned; shares of the Real Estate Bank were open to public subscription. Both banks suspended the redemption of their bank notes (currency) in gold and silver coin in 1839 but continued to issue new currency …

Banks, Alfred

Alfred (Alf) Banks was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder following the Elaine Massacre of 1919. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six (including Banks) who became known as the Ware defendants—were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Ultimately, the Ware defendants were freed by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1923; after numerous legal efforts, the Moore defendants were released in 1925. There are conflicting dates as to when Alfred Banks Jr. was born. The 1930 census indicates 1895, his World War I draft registration card shows 1897, and his Missouri death certificate gives 1899. Whatever the year, Banks was born on either August 23 or 24 …

Barkman, Jacob

Jacob Barkman is known as the father of Clark County. An early settler along the Caddo River, Barkman eventually became a prominent landowner and planter. Jacob Barkman was born on December 20, 1784, in Kentucky. Little is known of his early life, but, by 1811, Barkman had married Rebecca Davis. Eventually, the couple had two sons and a daughter. Wishing to move west, the family joined Barkman’s brother John, John’s wife, and their several slaves at Bayou Sara in Louisiana in 1811. Joining another group organized by John Hemphill, the party moved up the Ouachita River. The Barkmans settled along the Caddo River, just a few miles from its merger with the Ouachita. This location was a few miles to …

Barlow Hotel

The Barlow Hotel at 102 South Elm Street in Hope (Hempstead County) was, for more than seventy-five years, the city’s most popular lodging and dining venue, as well as its most sought-after meeting and banquet facility. The Barlow was built as the Lamar Hotel by local merchant J. C. McKee and opened in 1886, ten years after the town’s founding. It initially sought to attract a clientele dominated by railroad passengers, as Hope was built around what would become two major railroad junctions: the north-south Louisiana and Arkansas line (now Kansas City Southern) and the east-west Cairo and Fulton (now Union Pacific). In 1886, M. H. Barlow, a hardware merchant who hailed from Cory, Pennsylvania, was persuaded that the hotel, …

Bartell, Fred Wallace

Frederick Wallace Bartell was a Siloam Springs (Benton County) merchant, church leader, and Circuit Chautauqua manager. He organized Associated Chautauquas, which was among the first “tent” or “traveling” Chautauqua circuits. Fred W. Bartell was born in Milford, Kansas, on October 12, 1872, to immigrant parents. His father, Edward Charles Bartell, was from Germany; his mother, Louesa (or Louise), Edward’s second wife, was from France. He was the fourth of their five children. There also were six children from Edward’s first marriage to Catharine Branscom, who died in 1860. Louesa died in 1878. Edward Bartell and other family members migrated to Siloam Springs sometime before May 1892, when Fred Bartell arrived. Bartell said of his arrival, “I came with the flood,” …

Bartlett, E. M.

aka: Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr.
With the exception of his protégé, Albert E. Brumley, no other Arkansas figure contributed more to the development of the Southern gospel music genre than singer, songwriter, and publisher Eugene Monroe Bartlett Sr. E. M. Bartlett was born on December 24, 1883, in the small community of Waynesville, Missouri, according to Barlett’s World War I draft card, though historians have variously placed his year of birth in 1884 and 1885. He and his parents eventually relocated to Sebastian County, Arkansas. Educated at the Hall-Moody Institute in Martin, Tennessee, and William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, Bartlett received training as a music teacher. In 1917, Bartlett married Joan Tatum; they had two children. As an aspiring songwriter, Bartlett became an employee …

Barton, Thomas Harry

Colonel Thomas H. Barton, a pioneer El Dorado (Union County) oilman and philanthropist, launched his small Lion Oil Company into a major oil company that included exploration, production, marketing, distribution, refining, and research programs. Barton was born in Marlin, Texas, on September 20, 1881. His father, Thomas Killebrew Barton, was a merchant and farmer in Falls County. At age sixteen, he entered Texas A&M College, but limited funds forced him to leave school early in his second year. He entered the U.S. Army in 1901 and was discharged in 1904 with the rank of corporal. From 1905 to 1917, he worked in a variety of occupations that included banking and lumber in Dallas County. In 1906, he was commissioned with …

Batesville Daily Guard

The Batesville Daily Guard has been published continuously since 1877, the only Batesville (Independence County) newspaper that has survived from about two dozen that were started in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Originally a weekly publication, it later became an award-winning daily newspaper. The founder of the Guard, Confederate Civil War veteran Franklin Desha Denton, was born in Batesville in 1841. In 1868, Frank Denton married Martha Adelia “Mattie” Lewis. According to the Goodspeed history of the area, Denton was attending Center College at Danville, Kentucky, when the Civil War broke out, and he came home to enlist in the Confederate army. He was twice wounded, captured by the Union army, and exchanged to fight again. After …

Baucum, George Franklin

George F. Baucum was a Confederate officer and a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman. He served in many major battles of the Civil War’s western theater, including at Murfreesboro in Tennessee and Chickamauga and Atlanta in Georgia. After the war, he became a prominent grocer, cotton broker, and banker who owned plantations in central Arkansas. George Franklin Baucum was born on February 1, 1837, in St. Charles, Missouri. He was the son of Daniel Baucum and Kathryn Baucum, both of whom were natives of Mississippi. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1851. Two years later, the Baucums settled in Searcy (White County). At the outbreak of the Civil War, Baucum was working as a grocer in Searcy. He joined …

Bauxite and Northern Railroad

The Bauxite and Northern Railroad (B&N) is a short, three-mile railway built in 1906 by a subsidiary of Alcoa called the American Bauxite Company in what is now Bauxite (Saline County). The B&N transports hundreds of tons of alumina, a key ingredient in the production of aluminum, from the former Alcoa processing plant to Bauxite Junction, where the B&N connects with the Union Pacific. In 2012, the Bauxite and Northern Railroad and its parent company at the time, RailAmerica, Inc., were purchased by Genesee & Wyoming Inc. Bauxite deposits were discovered outside Little Rock (Pulaski County) during road construction in 1887 and were publically identified by State Geologist John C. Branner in 1891. In 1900, Colonel John Rison Gibbons and …

Bauxite Mining

Bauxite is the principal ore of aluminum and is a mixture of aluminum oxides and hydroxides that formed from intense chemical weathering of a soil in tropical environments. Soils formed under these conditions are termed laterites. In Arkansas, the aluminum-enriched soils are the result of the decomposition and lateritic weathering of nepheline syenite, an intrusive igneous rock. During the weathering process, leaching by rain, groundwater, and salt spray decomposed the original syenite minerals (feldspar and nepheline). Weathering removed much of the silica and concentrated the newly formed aluminum oxides and hydroxides as the rock termed bauxite. Geologically, the soils formed from syenite and weathered to laterites in the Paleocene Epoch (65–55 million years ago) along the west edge of a …

Baxter Bulletin

The Baxter Bulletin newspaper was established in 1901 in Mountain Home (Baxter County) by J. G. “Uncle Jess” Copeland, who had previously worked for both the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Over the years, it became a popular weekly turned six-day-a-week publication with a circulation of around 11,000. Copeland sold the Bulletin in October 1903 to Joe Doehring and Will M. McNair. He then moved to Cotter (Baxter County) and established the Cotter Courier. Doehring was serving as both editor and publisher when the newspaper was sold to Tom Shiras in 1905. The next year, Enness Shiras joined his brother as co-owner of the paper. They owned and operated the paper for approximately forty years. In …

Becker, Jerome Bill

Jerome Bill Becker served as president of the Arkansas American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1964 to 1996. At the time of his death, Becker was noted as the longest-serving state AFL-CIO president in the United States. J. Bill Becker was born on February 25, 1924, in Chicago, Illinois. His parents, Joseph and Hazel Becker, were Russian immigrants. In 1942, Becker graduated in the upper third of his class from John Marshall High School in Chicago, where he was a standout football player. Becker suffered a knee injury while playing high school football, which initially made him ineligible to serve in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Instead, he worked at a defense …

Beebe, Roswell

Roswell Beebe was the first benefactor of the city of Little Rock (Pulaski County); the town of Beebe (White County) was named after him. In the late 1840s and the 1850s, he was one of the most important businessmen and politicians in Little Rock. He donated several pieces of land to the city. Roswell Beebe was born on December 22, 1795, in Hinsdale, New York, to a wealthy English family. When he was seventeen, he talked his father into letting him go to New Orleans, Louisiana. He was behind the cotton bales with Andrew Jackson when the United States turned back the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Roswell was successful in several businesses. The 1832 New …

Beef Industry

aka: Cattle Industry
The raising of beef cattle has been carried out in Arkansas since before the area became an American territory. Though not as prominent as the state’s poultry industry, the beef industry has an estimated $1.4 billion annual economic impact upon Arkansas. Undomesticated bison were present in Arkansas before the arrival of European explorers and settlers. Both the expedition of Hernando de Soto and the Marquette-Joliet expedition reported the presence of these animals. Frenchmen in the area of Arkansas Post judged the land fit for raising cattle, and a general census of Arkansas Post in 1749 lists sixty cows among the livestock kept there. Early Anglo-American settlers brought cattle with them, as did the Cherokee, who began moving to Arkansas in …

Bellaire Court Historic District

The Bellaire Court Historic District is a tourist court in Hot Springs (Garland County). Constructed in 1936, the court consists of eight Craftsman bungalow-style cottages and a manager’s office. The district is also known as the Bellaire Apartments, as it was converted to apartments in the 1970s. Located at 637 Park Avenue, the court is laid out in an L shape. The manager’s office faces Park Avenue, and five units are attached to the rear of the office, perpendicular to the street. The remaining three units are part of a separate building, facing Magnolia Avenue at the rear of the property. An asphalt driveway connects the property to Park Avenue. Little is known about the construction of the court. Located …

Bennett, Alvin Silas (Al)

Alvin Silas (Al) Bennett was a recording industry executive best known for his tenure as president and director of Liberty Records from 1958 to 1968. Known as a “music business wizard,” Bennett is largely credited with the transformation of Liberty Records from a struggling start-up operation to a dominant force in the recording trade. “Alvin” of Alvin and the Chipmunks was named after Bennett. Al Bennett was born in Joiner (Mississippi County) on September 21, 1926, to the farming family of Silas S. Bennett and Jessie Starling Bennett. The oldest of four children, he spent his early years working on the farm while attending Shawnee School, graduating in 1943. Bennett enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 5, 1945, for …

Bertig, Adolph

Adolph Bertig, a Jewish immigrant, was one of the leading merchants and financiers in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was later known as the “Merchant Prince of Paragould.” Ad Bertig was born on June 21, 1853, in Kraków, Galicia, part of what was then the Austrian Empire. He was the eldest son of Wolff Jozef Bertig and Maryem Cortel Bertig. Bertig was nineteen when he immigrated alone to the United States in 1872, arriving first in New York, then migrating west to Little Rock (Pulaski County). While in Little Rock, he gained employment from one of the town’s most prominent businessmen, Colonel John G. Fletcher, who sent Bertig peddling goods to …

Blackburn, Sylvanus

Sylvanus Walker Blackburn is noted for building the first gristmill in Benton County, locating his mill on War Eagle River. After selecting a site, Blackburn built a home, followed by a gristmill, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, sawmill, and school. Today, Blackburn’s two-story home still stands, while a 1973 reproduction of the mill sits on its original spot. War Eagle Mill is Arkansas’s only remaining working mill and is believed to be the only undershot waterwheel now in operation in the United States. This is also the site of the well-known annual Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair, generally known as the War Eagle Fair, established in 1954 and held in October. Born on February 15, 1809, Sylvanus Blackburn was the son …

Blass, Gustave (Gus)

Gus Blass was a Jewish immigrant who settled in Arkansas and became one of the state’s most successful merchants, establishing what became the largest department store in Arkansas, the Gus Blass Company. Gustave (Gus) Blass was born on February 15, 1849, in Obornik, Germany, a small town north of Poznan, which is now part of Poland. At the age of sixteen, he boarded a ship bound for New York, identifying himself on the ship’s manifest as a merchant. After a short stint in Memphis, Tennessee, he made his way to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he founded the Gus Blass Dry Goods Company in 1871. The following year, Blass married Bertha Katzenstein, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had …

Block, Abraham

aka: Abraham Bloch
Abraham Block was the patriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to the state of Arkansas. After a period as a businessman in Virginia, Block moved his family to southwest Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Along with his sons, he created a regional merchant empire with businesses in Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. The family home in Washington has been restored and is currently a house museum in Historic Washington State Park. Abraham Block (or Bloch) was born on January 30, 1780, or 1781, in Schwihau, Bohemia. The names …

Bonanza Race War of 1904

The Bonanza Race War of 1904 was a race riot/labor war that occurred in the coal-mining city of Bonanza (Sebastian County) and resulted in the expulsion of African Americans from the city following several days of violence. The event is indicative of a general antipathy toward black labor in the coal mines of western Arkansas, and, by the end of the decade, African Americans could reportedly be found in only two mining communities, having been driven from the rest. Bonanza was a coal-mining city even before its incorporation in 1898. Central Coal and Coke Company operated the only three mines there, and the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway (Frisco) provided easy transportation, both for coal and other goods and for travelers. …

Bond, Scott Winfield

Scott Winfield Bond was a successful landowner, farmer, and businessman at a time when the total number of African-American farm owners and their average acreage declined both in the state and in the nation. He was among wealthy Arkansans in the period before the New Deal. Scott W. Bond was born enslaved in Livingston, Mississippi, near Canton. His mother, Ann Bond, was enslaved as a domestic. His mother married fellow slave William Bond when Scott was eighteen months old. On the eve of the Civil War, the white Maben-Bond family moved their enslaved property from Mississippi to Fayette County, Tennessee, and finally to Cross County, Arkansas. Bond’s mother died during the Civil War, and Bond moved with his stepfather to …

Bond, Ulysses Scott (U. S.)

Prominent businessman and entrepreneur Ulysses Scott (U. S.) Bond, like his father and brothers, was a member of a small group of well-educated, wealthy African-American businessmen who encouraged the advancement of minorities. He grew up in a progressive family that provided him with the opportunity to achieve a level of success not typically found in the town of Madison (St. Francis County), and with this success, he encouraged the growth of the black community and economy in St. Francis County. U. S. Bond was born on August 1, 1897, in Madison. His parents were Scott Winfield Bond—a landowner, businessman, and notable resident of St. Francis County—and Magnolia (Nash) Bond. He was the tenth of the eleven sons born to Scott …

Bowen, William Harvey

William Harvey Bowen was a senior partner in Arkansas’s largest law firm, president of the state’s largest bank, chief executive officer of a health insurance company, and dean of the state’s largest law school, which was later named the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. He was a friend and adviser to Bill Clinton and managed the governor’s office for a year while Clinton was running for president. He was also a friend and adviser to Dale Bumpers and David Pryor when they were governors and U.S. senators. William H. Bowen was born on May 6, 1923, in Altheimer (Jefferson County), one of five children of Robert J. (Bob) Bowen, who farmed and managed …