Entries - Entry Category: Business and Economics - Starting with S

Saline Courier

aka: Benton Courier
The Saline Courier (formerly known as the Benton Courier) is the largest and oldest newspaper in Saline County. The paper began its life as the Saline County Digest, established by Vermont native W. A. Webber in 1876, as the official mouthpiece of Saline County Democrats, although it later lost that affiliation. The Digest was published weekly in a seven-column folio with an average circulation of 1,000. In November 1882, the Digest changed hands for the first time. It was purchased by B. B. Beavers, who renamed it the Saline County Review; in November 1883, Colonel Samuel Houston Whitthorne bought Beavers’s interest in the paper and renamed it the Saline Courier. Whitthorne was the father-in-law of prominent Benton doctor Dr. Dewell …

Saltpeter Mining

Potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, is a naturally occurring mineral that is vital to the production of gunpowder. Found in limestone caves in the Arkansas Ozarks, it became one of the state’s most important chemical industries during the Civil War due to the Confederacy’s demand for arms. Although this resource was a definite advantage for the Confederacy, problems with labor, security, and transportation made Arkansas’s saltpeter mines an ultimate failure. Saltpeter deposits were known by early Arkansas settlers long before the Civil War in Madison, Searcy, Independence, Marion, and Newton counties. A geographical survey was conducted by Dale David Owens from 1857 to 1860. His findings were published in 1860, and, by 1862, the Confederacy, looking to arm itself for the …

Sand and Gravel Mining

aka: Gravel and Sand Mining
Sand is usually defined as an accumulation of mineral grains in sizes ranging from one-sixteenth to two millimeters. Sand normally consists predominantly of quartz grains of variable degrees of roundness. Other mineral grains within the sand size range are also present and typically consist of feldspar, chert, ilmenite, and other less abundant resistant minerals. Gravel is considered to be an unconsolidated mixture of rock fragments, pebbles, cobbles, and boulders of indefinite size, but always larger than sand-sized materials. Gravel normally consists of a mixture of rock types, depending upon the original source, and may consist of various quartz rock varieties, such as chert, sandstone, novaculite, agate, and milky vein quartz, as well as limestone, dolostone, and other resistant rock types. …

Sebastian County Union War of 1914

The Sebastian County Union War of 1914 is one of the major instances of labor contention and violence in the state of Arkansas. Growing out of a mining operator’s attempt to save his badly run company by eliminating union labor, it resulted in murder, the destruction of property, and a lawsuit that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sebastian County was one of the centers of the state’s coal-mining industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, producing over 1.5 million tons of coal in 1913. Parallel to the strength of the industry was the strength of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a union of which every miner in the state was a member. …

Sentinel-Record

Hot Springs (Garland County) has had a number of newspapers come and go throughout its history. Local residents but also visitors to the Spa City from around the country have made up the readership of Hot Springs’ papers over the years. Between 1873 and 1883 alone, fifteen Hot Springs newspapers began and ended operation. This fact led Robert W. Leigh, historian of the Arkansas Press Association, to state in 1883, “Hot Springs has been the birthplace and burial ground of many a newspaper.” The Sentinel-Record (often abbreviated as S-R), the only local newspaper circulated daily throughout the area, remains as the last survivor of a series of newspaper mergers in Hot Springs. The first record of a local newspaper in …

Sharecropping and Tenant Farming

Farm tenancy is a form of lease arrangement whereby a tenant rents, for cash or a share of crops, farm property from a landowner. Different variations of tenant arrangements exist, including sharecropping, in which, typically, a landowner provides all of the capital and a tenant all of the labor for a fifty percent share of crops. Tenancies have been used widely throughout Arkansas, but prior to the Civil War, slaves worked most vast agricultural tracts along the Mississippi River planted in cotton. When the South lost the war, bringing slavery to an end, Arkansas landowners and freed slaves then began negotiating new labor relationships to cultivate land up and down the Arkansas Delta. While some planters preferred day labor, using …

Sharp, Ephraim [of Fulton County]

Ephraim Sharp, nephew of the Ephraim Sharp after whom Sharp County was named, was an important early settler and mercantilist in neighboring Fulton County. He established a mill, and the community of Sharp’s Mill, now Saddle (Fulton County), grew up around it. His mercantile establishment helped to provide the goods that sustained the growth of the Mammoth Spring (Fulton County) area. Ephraim Sharp was born in Sandtown Township, Decatur County, Indiana, on June 23, 1833, to John Elston Sharp (called Jackson) and Susannah Armstrong Sharp. He was the fifth child and third son of this family of seven children. His mother died in 1841 when he was eight years old. His father married Sarah Armstrong, his mother’s sister. When Sarah …

Shaver, Dorothy

Dorothy Shaver was the first woman in the United States to head a multi-million dollar firm. She became president of the prestigious New York City Fifth Avenue firm of Lord & Taylor in 1945 and is credited with much of the company’s success. A trailblazer and a trend setter in her time, her legacy continues today. Dorothy Shaver was born on July 29, 1893, in Center Point (Howard County) to Sallie Borden and James Shaver. Her maternal grandfather was Benjamin Borden, editor of the Arkansas Gazette, and her paternal grandfather was Robert Glenn Shaver, a prominent Confederate officer who served with distinction during the Civil War. When Shaver was five years old, her family moved to Mena (Polk County), a …

Silver Mining

The silver in Arkansas is mixed sulfide ores of lead, zinc, copper, and antimony in small, scattered deposits in parts of the southern and eastern Ouachita Mountains. Most of the known mining activity involving silver took place between 1840 and 1927 and rarely resulted in profit to owners and operators. Sale of claims or mines to unsuspecting investors was usually the only route to profit. The mines opened in the 1800s were shallow, reaching maximum depths of less than 200 feet. Most of the deposits where mining was undertaken are clustered in three groups. One is along Kellogg Creek in Pulaski County, north of the Arkansas River. Deposits in another group were clustered along tributaries near the confluence of the north …

Simmons First National Bank

Simmons First National Corporation is the largest publicly traded financial holding headquartered in Arkansas. By 2007, it had paid dividends for ninety-nine consecutive years and employed more than 1,000 people. It has total assets of nearly $8 billion. Founded by Dr. John Franklin Simmons, Simmons National Bank opened its doors for business at the corner of Main and Barraque streets in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on March 23, 1903, with four employees. First day deposits totaled $3,338.22. Simmons opened its trust department on June 5, 1922, and was one of the first Arkansas banks to reopen, without restrictions, after the federally imposed “bank holiday” in 1933, during the Great Depression. In 1937, the bank opened its personal loan department. The …

Smith, Odell

Odell Smith was the state’s foremost trade union leader in the middle of the twentieth century, serving at various times as president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 878, the Little Rock Central Trades Council, the Arkansas State Federation of Labor, and the Arkansas AFL-CIO. Along with his close associates Henry Woods and Sidney McMath, Smith was one of the architects of liberalism in post–World War II Arkansas. They put together a coalition that promoted high wages and consumption, generous social provision, access to educational opportunity, racial equality, and the idea that strong governments are essential for regulating capitalist enterprises. Odell Smith was born in 1904 in Jackson, Tennessee, where his father worked as a railroad machinist. The exact date …

Snyder, Harold

aka: Ralph Harold Snyder
Ralph Harold Snyder is the man most often credited with bringing the poultry industry to the Arkansas River Valley. In 1960, the company he founded, Arkansas Valley Industries, Inc. (AVI), became the first wholly integrated poultry business to make its stock available to the public. Harold Snyder was born on April 3, 1915, in Winfield, Kansas, to Roy C. and Mildred (Poland) Snyder. As a young boy, he moved with his parents and five siblings to Green Forest (Carroll County), where he was raised on a small hill farm. Snyder was valedictorian of his high school class, and he was elected state president of the Arkansas Future Farmers of America. Based on this record, he received a scholarship to the …

Southerland, Jerome Kee (J. K.)

Jerome Kee (J. K.) Southerland was a regionally important leader in the poultry business as it emerged as an important industry in the state during the post–World War II years. At one time, his poultry enterprise was the second largest in the state. J. K. Southerland was born on September 22, 1903, in Banner (Cleburne County) to James Walter Southerland and Maleta Kee Southerland. His mother died when he was about twelve, leaving his father with four sons and a daughter. After completing school at Banner, he enrolled in school at Sulphur Rock (Independence County) to get a teaching certificate. He then returned to farming and raising cattle in Banner and nearby Floral (Independence County). On June 2, 1928, Southerland …

Southern Cotton Oil Mill Strike

On December 17, 1945, 117 of the 125 mostly African-American employees of the Southern Cotton Oil Mill Company in Little Rock (Pulaski County) walked off the job, demanding sixty cents an hour and time and a half for anything over forty hours a week. The strikers—members of Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers (FTA) Local 98—set up picket lines, and the company ceased milling operations, although it did maintain a small workforce to receive shipments and maintain equipment. The strike remained peaceful until December 26, when an African-American strikebreaker named Otha Williams killed a striker, Walter Campbell, also an African American. A Pulaski County grand jury, empaneled by County Prosecutor Sam Robinson, refused to indict Williams on charges of murder …

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union

The Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU) was a federation of tenant farmers formed in July 1934 in Poinsett County with the immediate aim of reforming the crop-sharing system of sharecropping and tenant farming. The facts that the STFU was integrated, that women played a critical role in its organization and administration, and that fundamentalist church rituals and regional folkways were basic to the union’s operation dramatically foreshadowed the post-war civil rights era. A series of natural disasters in the late 1920s and early 1930s, plus the unique circumstances present in Poinsett County, led to the formation of the STFU. The Flood of 1927 revealed the desperate plight of the Delta cropper to the outside world, sparking the interest of unionists …

Sovereign, James Richard

A native of Wisconsin, James Richard Sovereign lived in Arkansas only briefly at the end of the nineteenth century. During that time, however, he played a prominent role in politics and the labor movement at the state and national levels. By the early twentieth century, his prominence had faded, and he subsequently moved to the state of Washington, where he spent the remainder of his life. Born on May 30, 1854, in Cassville, Wisconsin, to Thomas Clark Sovereign and Ruby Mitchell Sovereign, James R. Sovereign grew up primarily on his grandparents’ farm near Elgin, Illinois. At age sixteen, he migrated to Kansas and worked as a cattle driver on the Gonzales and Abilene cattle trail, which ran through Kansas and …

Spencer, George Lloyd

George Lloyd Spencer, a Democrat, served as U.S. senator of Arkansas from April 1, 1941, to January 3, 1943, filling the vacancy left by the resignation of Senator John E. Miller. Spencer was not elected to a full term in office but served the remainder of Senator Miller’s term. Spencer also served in the U.S. Navy during both World War I and World War II. George Spencer was born on March 27, 1893, at Sarcoxie, Missouri, to George Spencer and Louella Riley Spencer. He moved to Okolona (Clark County) in 1902, where he attended public school. He also attended Peddie Institute at Highstown, New Jersey, and Henderson-Brown College in Arkadelphia (Clark County). In 1918, Spencer served as a seaman, second …

Spicer, William Leach

William Leach Spicer was a businessman and Republican Party activist. In the early 1960s, he oversaw the beginning stages of the party’s emergence as a competitive force against the long-dominant Democratic Party. In 1964, however, he lost a power struggle with fellow Republican Winthrop Rockefeller and resigned as state chairman. While Spicer played a substantive role in developing the state’s Republican Party, Rockefeller’s vision was ultimately vindicated by his own election as governor in 1966. William L. Spicer was born on October 12, 1918, in Yell County. He was the only child of William Jacob Spicer, who was a Methodist minister, and his wife, Ora Leach Spicer. As his father preached at various churches, Spicer grew up first in Woodruff …

Springdale Poultry Industry Historic District

The Springdale Poultry Industry Historic District was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A with statewide significance and under Criteria Consideration G for properties that have achieved significance within the past fifty years. The period of significance for the nomination of the district ends in 1969 to reflect the year that Tyson Foods moved its main office from East Emma Ave. to Johnson Road and Jeff D. Brown and Company sold its hatchery building on East Emma Ave. The district consists of three buildings, located at 317 and 319 East Emma Ave. and 316 East Meadow Ave., and was added to the National Register on September 23, 2011. Jeff D. Brown and Company: 317 East Emma Ave. …

St. Louis Southwestern Railway

aka: Cotton Belt
The St. Louis Southwestern Railway began in Tyler, Texas, in 1875. Construction began in Arkansas in 1881. When completed in 1883, the railroad ran diagonally across the state from Texarkana (Miller County) to St. Francis (Clay County). In 1930, the company operated 712 miles of track in Arkansas. The Cotton Belt, as it was better known, would reach its peak mileage in the state in the early 1930s. By the middle to late 1930s, the Great Depression and declining passenger revenue led the railroad to begin abandonment of many of its subsidiary companies and branch lines. Southern Pacific Railroad gained control of the Cotton Belt in 1932 in an effort to gain connections to eastern markets at St. Louis, Missouri, …

St. Louis–San Francisco Railway

aka: Frisco
The St. Louis–San Francisco Railway Co. (SLSF), better known as the Frisco, was organized in 1876 in Missouri. By 1881, the company consisted of a handful of lines concentrated in central and southern Missouri but reaching to Wichita, Kansas; Vinita, Oklahoma; and Fayetteville (Washington County), Arkansas. Although the Frisco never built into the heart of Arkansas, its feeder lines across northwestern and northeastern Arkansas connected communities with other lines across the state as well as the markets throughout the nation, allowing development of agricultural resources, industrial hubs, and resort communities on the periphery of the state. The Frisco was built on remnants of the older Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, acquiring right of way and trackage in Missouri and Indian Territory (present-day …

Stave Mills

Stave mills produce the narrow strips of wood that compose the sides of barrels. Barrels were vital for the transportation of goods in the days before easily fabricated boxes and waterproof plastic containers. Stave mills were frequently established in areas where timber was being harvested so as to take advantage of the easy availability of needed resources. As such, they were an important component of local economies in Arkansas, with small towns in timber-producing areas possessing at least one, and larger cities with railroad connections often having several. Stave mills processed either hardwood—used to make “tight,” or waterproof, barrels—or softwood—used to make “slack” barrels, or those that were used for transporting dry goods and foodstuffs. Logs were cut near the …

Stephens Inc.

Stephens Inc. of Little Rock (Pulaski County), a privately owned investment bank, is among Arkansas’s most prominent businesses. The company, one of the nation’s largest investment banks not based on Wall Street, was founded in 1933 by Prattsville (Grant County) native W. R. “Witt” Stephens as the W. R. Stephens Investment Co. Witt Stephens’s younger brother, Jackson T. (Jack) Stephens, joined the company in 1946 and went on to serve as chairman and chief executive officer from 1956 to 1986. Since 1986, Jack Stephens’s youngest son, Warren Stephens, has served as CEO. Witt Stephens was a regional manager based in Colorado for National Crafts Co. when his father, a farmer who served two terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives, …

Stephens, Jackson Thomas

Jackson Thomas Stephens was one of the most successful, high-profile business figures in Arkansas during the twentieth century, joining his older brother Wilton R. “Witt” Stephens in building Stephens, Inc. of Little Rock (Pulaski County) into one of the nation’s largest brokerage firms. Stephens also became a well-known philanthropist, supporting institutions ranging from the Arkansas Arts Center to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Jack Stephens was born on August 9, 1923, in Prattsville (Grant County), the youngest of the six children of A. J. Stephens and Ethel Pumphrey Stephens. A. J. Stephens was a farmer and a politician who served two terms in the state House of Representatives. …

Stephens, Witt

aka: Wilton Robert Stephens
Wilton Robert Stephens founded Stephens, Inc., which once was the largest brokerage firm off Wall Street. He was a prime mover in the development of the natural gas industry after World War II and exerted great influence on the political and economic fortunes of Arkansas during the second half of the twentieth century. Witt Stephens was born on September 14, 1907, in Prattsville (Grant County), the second of six children of A. J. “Jack” Stephens and Ethel Pumphrey Stephens. His father was a farmer and politician who served two terms in the state House of Representatives from Grant County, as would Witt thirty years later. The elder Stephens directly influenced his son’s early career moves. As a boy, Witt picked …

Stout, William C.

The clergyman William Cummins Stout was the master of two large antebellum plantations at the foot of Petit Jean Mountain in Conway County and the “first Arkansas man ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church in Arkansas,” according to church records. William Stout was born in Greene County, Tennessee, on February 18, 1824. His parents, John G. Stout and Mary Kirby Stout, moved with their children to Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1830, where they continued their farming occupation. While a young man working in a store near the Indian Territory line, Stout attended meetings conducted by Bishop Leonidas Polk and discerned a religious calling. With Polk’s encouragement, Stout received his education at Kemper College in Missouri, then Nashotah House …

Strawberry Industry

The strawberry industry arose in Arkansas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the advent of railroads made possible the profitable shipping of the fruit. For farmers, especially those who sell their crops locally, strawberries “kick off” the growing season because of their early ripening. By the time strawberry plants have stopped producing, other fruits and vegetables are ready to be brought to market, thus allowing a savvy grower to stagger crops throughout the summer and into fall. According to rough estimates, there are about 200 acres of strawberries in Arkansas. The short-lived peak market time of the strawberry originally prevented the fruit from getting a foothold in early Arkansas. Limited transportation meant poor-quality fruit at the stores …

Sturgis, Walter Roy

Walter Roy Sturgis was a self-made multi-millionaire from southern Arkansas whose fortune continues to benefit the state and beyond through philanthropic organizations dedicated to managing the wealth amassed by Sturgis and his wife, Christine. Roy Sturgis was born in Cleveland County, Arkansas, between Kingsland and Hebron on March 6, 1901, to William A. Sturgis, who was a farmer, and Nancy Virginia Bingham Sturgis, a homemaker. Sturgis had nine siblings. Scarce biographical information exists about Sturgis, and some of what has been written appears not to be entirely accurate. For example, Sturgis reportedly dropped out of school after the tenth grade and served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. While Sturgis’s education at the Good Hope School (also known …

Swine Industry

aka: Pig Industry
aka: Pork Industry
Swine (a.k.a. pigs, Sus scrofa) were first introduced into what is now Arkansas by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541. Since pork can be salted and smoked for preservation, many early settlers used pigs to supply their needs for meat and cooking fat (lard). The widespread production of pigs persisted until commercial refrigeration was introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, pork became available from more remote sources, and production was more specialized and concentrated on fewer farms. In the mid-1970s, integration of pig production began to occur, with four corporations controlling most of the $84,148,000 of pig sales in 2007. The de Soto expedition had more than 700 pigs when the group was disbanded in …