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The University of Texas at Austin

Exhibits

Late 19th Century Letterhead in the Abel Head "Shanghai" Pierce Papers

Essay page 1

Abel Head "Shanghai" Pierce, a Texas rancher and cattleman, was born in 1834 in Rhode Island, but stowed away on a schooner bound for Texas in 1854. How he came to be nicknamed "Shanghai" is speculative, but it is thought that it resulted from his tall, spindly frame’s resemblance to a Shanghai rooster. Upon his arrival in Texas, he worked as a ranch hand and soon began to acquire his own cattle. In 1865 he married Fannie Lacey and had two children. After the death of his wife and infant son in 1870, Pierce sold his cattle and went to Kansas for eighteen months. Upon his return, he formed a partnership with his brother and established the Rancho Grande on the Tres Palacios River. He began to purchase land, eventually owning 250,000 acres and forming the Pierce-Sullivan Pasture Company.

In 1875, Pierce married Hattie Jones and continued his ranching business. He attempted to solve the mysteries of Texas fever, which infected and killed many cattle. After traveling

A. H. "Shanghai" Pierce. N. H. Rose Photograph Collection. Used with permission from the Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.
A. H. "Shanghai" Pierce. N. H. Rose Photograph Collection. Used with permission from the Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

to Europe and researching varieties of beef, Pierce concluded that Brahman cattle were most likely to be resistant to disease. Partly through Pierce’s efforts, the base stock of Brahmans in Texas was established. After his death on December 26, 1900, his ranch continued to import Brahman cattle under the management of his nephew, daughter, and wife.

The Abel Head "Shanghai" Pierce Papers consist of 4 feet, 3 inches of material documenting Pierce's business, financial, and legal activities.

The papers include business transactions related to Pierce’s cattle and ranching enterprise and illustrate his collaborative efforts with a number of people, including his brother Jonathan Edward Pierce. A large portion of the material is correspondence between Pierce and his friends, fellow ranchers, and business associates.

"India Blue" - an example of Brahma cattle. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. © Briscoe Center for American History.

"India Blue" - an example of Brahman cattle. "Brahman Cattle," Prints and Photographs Collection. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Many of these letters are written on simple stationery but some show elaborate letterhead designs. This online exhibit showcases 125 examples of late nineteenth-century letterhead design, as present in the Abel Head "Shanghai" Pierce Papers.

Letterhead, the printed heading on a piece of

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