The Staitis: The Family Behind the Texas Oil Boom

The Heritage Society's new exhibit, Profile of a Houston Oil Family, features photos of a forgotten oil pioneer.

By Max Jefferson April 14, 2016

Straiti family  the heritage society izspgr

A photo of the Henry Staiti and his family, which is featured at The Heritage Society's Profile of a Houston Oil Family.

Though most everyone knows of the Texas oil boom in the early 1920s, not many know much about the men behind the gushers—men such as Henry T. Staiti. As an oil pioneer, Straiti is credited for recognizing the state as a reliable source of oil, and for bringing in one of the first oil wells in the Humble area.

“Profile of a Houston Oil Family” is currently on display at The Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park, featuring about photographs and artifacts of the Staiti family. “It is especially interesting to see the early images of how the oil was extracted and stored and compare it with the technology of today,” says Ginger Berni, collection manager at Heritage Society. “You can see that there was a lot of ‘learning as you go’ in the early days.”

The Heritage Society has collected more than 2,000 photos, 50 of them included in the exhibit, that have been derived from the Staiti family collection. Photos were taken by the family and professional photographers all over Texas, including Frank G. Allen, Halvor Ingebret Ostebee and Frank Trost.

The gallery includes over 100 feet of running wall space of black-and-white pictures, 20 of them hand-colored, along with documents and letters about Staiti's oil transactions. Visitors will also find actual furniture used by Staiti and his family along with home videos that they made while using a Panoram-Kodak camera.

To give the exhibit more depth, Berni divided it into two separate themes: one half focused on giving the viewer insight into the lifestyle of the Staiti family, while the other is devoted to allowing the viewer to gain an understanding of Staiti’s involvement in the oil business. “It captures the lifestyle of a prosperous young Houston oil family making the most of this nascent industry,” Berni adds. “It also highlights the methodologies used in the early days by those in the industry to search for, extract, store and sell the oil.”

“Profile of a Houston Oil Family” can also be viewed at FotoFest and for those interested in learning more about Staiti can visit his Westmoreland home that has been preserved and maintained by The Heritage Society since the family donated the house in 1986.

Free. Now through July 2, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (closed on Sunday and Monday) The Heritage Society, 1100 Bagby St. 713-655-1912.

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