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A Guide to the Braga Brothers Collection

Finding aid prepared by Carl Van Ness

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
April 2010


Descriptive Summary

Title: Braga Brothers Collection
Dates: 1860-1984
Bulk dates: 1895-1970
Abstract: Records related to trade, manufacture, and cultivation of Cuban sugar. The records begin in the second half of the nineteenth century and end shortly after the nationalization of the Cuban sugar industry by the government of Fidel Castro. As a business archives, the Collection provides information on the manufacture and trade of Cuban sugar and the means by which Cuba's annual sugar harvest was financed and brokered. The collection provides descriptions of the social, political, and economic environment in which Cuban sugar was manufactured. The collection is an important source of data on the international sugar trade and the commercial and financial ties that once bound Cuba and the United States together.
Extent: 375 linear feet (527 boxes, 507 volumes)
Identification: MS Group 187
Online Content Items from this collection have been digitized and are available online in the UF Digital Collections. For more information please see the note below.

Biographical/Historical Note

The principal holdings of the collection are related to the Czarnikow-Rionda Company of New York (founded in 1909) and its subsidiaries and affiliates. The Czarnikow-Rionda Company was a major raw sugar trading house, and through its affiliate, the Cuban Trading Company, it handled approximately twenty percent of Cuba's sugar exports between 1909 and 1960. Czarnikow-Rionda purchased and sold Cuban cane sugar and molasses, and exported jute bags, mill machinery, and other provisions to Cuba.

In addition, Czarnikow-Rionda owned or controlled six raw sugar factories in Cuba. Czarnikow-Rionda and its affiliates were involved in every sector of the cane sugar business including cane cultivation, refining, storage and transportation, financing, and brokerage. The collection also includes nineteenth century material from several commission merchant houses based in New York and Cuba. These firms operated a trade network between Europe, the United States, and Cuba, and were typical of the Spanish merchant houses that once dominated Cuba's commercial life.


Scope and Content

The Braga Brothers Collection is the gift of George Atkinson Braga and B. Rionda Braga to the University of Florida's George A. Smathers Libraries. Donated to the Libraries' Department of Special Collections in 1981, the collection is one of the richest archival sources on the modernization and expansion of the Cuban sugar industry. As the archive of a large North American company that did business in Cuba it provides insights to the unique commercial relationship that once existed between Cuba and the United States. The collection is, as well, an unavoidable historical source on topics pertaining to the social and political aspects of sugar production in pre-Castro Cuba.

The principal holdings in the collection are the records of the Czarnikow-Rionda Company of New York and its subsidiaries and affiliates. From the beginning of the 20th century until the early 1960s, Czarnikow-Rionda was one of North America's largest importers of sugar and molasses. Although it traded in sugar from around the world, its principal source was Cuba. From its offices on Wall Street the company bought and sold ship loads of raw sugar, provided sugar mills with equipment and supplies, and negotiated short term crop loans to Cuba's sugar producers. Czarnikow-Rionda's affiliated companies in Cuba and the United States included cane farms, sugar mills, storage and weighing facilities, a sugar refinery, alcohol distilleries, and cattle ranches.

The Braga Brothers Collection also documents a family network that has been involved in the sugar industry since the mid-1800s. The collection begins in 1860 with the records of Lewis Benjamin, a commission merchant in New York City. The link to Cuba and sugar begins in 1873 when Benjamin formed a partnership with Joaquín Rionda y Polledo, a Spanish immigrant with family ties to a Cuban sugar producer. From there, the collection journeys through almost one hundred years of sugar history.

The collection consists primarily of administrative correspondence--letters, memoranda, and cables. Production data and records related to the technology employed in the manufacture of raw sugar, molasses, alcohol, and other cane products are evident as well. Ledgers and other accounting books, blueprints, and maps are also found in the collection. The latter includes original maps of the sugar estates and aerial photographic surveys of the Francisco and Manati sugar mills.

English and Spanish are used throughout the collection, and a knowledge of both languages is essential to properly research some topics. Codes used for the names of people and companies present a more perplexing problem. Codes were used primarily for business security, but were often employed in sensitive communication related to government relations. A list of terms decoded by researchers is available.

The Braga Brothers Collection is arranged in four record groups and is further divided into record series.

Record Group 1, 1860-1885, documents the business activities of Francisco, Joaquín, and Manuel Rionda y Polledo, three Spanish brothers who came to Cuba and the United States and laid the foundation for later industrial and commercial enterprises.

Record Group 2, 1880-1951, contains the administrative files and letterbooks from the office of Manuel Rionda y Polledo, first president and chairman of the Czarnikow-Rionda Company.

Record Group 3, 1891-1984, consists of records created by the Czarnikow-Rionda Company and its predecessor, Czarnikow, MacDougall and Company. It contains the reference and correspondence files of corporate officials and the records of ten departments.

Record Group 4, 1899-1968, contains records of the Manati Sugar Company, the Francisco Sugar Company, and other affiliates and subsidiaries of the Czarnikow-Rionda Company. Most of Record Group IV depicts the production of raw sugar and other cane products, but there is also substantial documentation on Cuban cattle ranches and several experimental ventures. In addition, the record group includes material from the W. J. McCahan Sugar Refining and Molasses Company, a Philadelphia refinery owned by Czarnikow-Rionda.

Additional documents were donated to the Libraries by the Braga family in 1993. When possible, these items were merged with existing records series and record groups. Some materials, however, fell outside the scope of the original donation. These are described in an Addendum group and include the personal papers and memoirs of several members of the Braga family. The addendum also describes non-textual materials, such as photographs, maps and plans, memorabilia, and artifacts.

A complete directory for all of the series, listed in order by series number, is available at http://www.library.ufl.edu/spec/manuscript/Braga/Bragaseries2.htm.


Access or Use Restrictions

Access

Collection is open for research.


Administrative Information

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of selected items in the Braga Brothers Collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Much of Record Group 2 is available on microfilm in Latin American History and Culture, Series 7 and 8: Cuba and the American Sugar Trade: The Braga Brothers Collection. Thomson Gale, 2006.

Alternate Form of Finding Aid

Due to its large size this descriptive finding aid has been broken into several pages, but an alternate full version of the finding aid is available at http://www.library.ufl.edu/spec/manuscript/Braga/Bragafull.htm.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Braga Brothers Collection, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Acquisition Information

The Braga Brothers Collection is the gift of George Atkinson Braga and B. Rionda Braga to the University of Florida's George A. Smathers Libraries. Donated to the Libraries' Department of Special Collections in 1981.


Contents List

Record Group 1: Early Years 1860-1885

33.5 linear feet (18 boxes, 66 volumes)

The earliest records in the Braga Brothers Collection date to 1860 and bear the name of a commission merchant, Lewis Benjamin. Benjamin was one of many traders buying and selling a variety of commodities in Manhattan's vibrant financial district. In 1873, Benjamin and Joaquín Rionda y Polledo (1850-1889) formed the partnership of Benjamin, Rionda and Company. Joaquín Rionda was the middle brother in a family of six sisters (Maria, Isidora, Gregoria, Ramona, Concepción, and Bibiana) and three brothers (Francisco, Joaquín and Manuel), offspring of Don Bernardo de la Rionda y Alvarez and Doña Josefa Polledo y Mata. All were born in the village of Noreña in the Oviedo district of Asturias.

The eldest brother, Francisco (1844-1898), resided in Cuba most of his life. It is uncertain when he arrived in Cuba, but he worked with his uncle, Joaquín Polledo, in the firm Polledo, Rionda and Company. The company was a sugar export house with its office and warehouse in Matanzas. The family also owned sugar plantations near that Cuban port. By 1875, Francisco had married Elena de la Torriente, the daughter of one of Cuba's wealthiest sugar barons. His father-in-law, Cosmé de la Torriente, awarded him management of a sugar estate dubbed La Elena after Francisco's bride.

The Polledos and Riondas also enjoyed a long and profitable association with George S. Hunt, owner of the Eagle Sugar Refinery at Portland, Maine. In addition to the refinery, Hunt operated a fleet of ships that traded primarily in Maine lumber products and Cuban sugar and molasses. Hunt took under his wing Joaquín and Manuel when they came to America and oversaw their preparation for the business world. Joaquín spent his adolescent years at the Abbott School in Farmington, Maine, before he settled in New York City. Manuel (1854-1943) left Spain in 1870 and followed Joaquín at the Abbott School before joining his brother at Benjamin, Rionda and Company in 1874.

In the meantime, Francisco and his uncle enlarged their Cuban sugar holdings. By 1877, they had acquired the Central China and contracted with Franklin Farrel of the Farrel Foundry and Machine Company of Ansonia, Connecticut, to modernize the estate's industrial plant. However, debts incurred by the purchase of expensive mill machinery, coupled with declining sugar prices, forced the bankruptcy of Polledo, Rionda and Co. in December, 1878. $400,000 of that debt was to Rionda, Benjamin and Co.

As part of a 1880 court settlement of Polledo, Rionda's remaining assets, the Rionda brothers acquired the Central China and the Matanzas warehouses. Joaquín subsequently moved to Cuba to take charge of the Central China. Francisco continued at the Elena estate until the de la Torrientes sold it. He then joined Joaquín at the Central China. Manuel also moved to Cuba and assumed control of the Matanzas warehouses for a brief period. While all three of the brothers were in Cuba, the New York business was left in the hands of a partner, Hugh Kelly.

Quickly, though, the business network began to crumble. By 1883, Rionda, Benjamin and Co. was declared insolvent. Manuel returned to New York and attempted a new partnership with Kelly, but that lasted only a year. The Matanzas operations also failed and the Central China eventually became the property of the New York Sugar Manufacturing Company, established by Farrell, Kelly and Lewis Cooke.

The Riondas then focused their energies on sugar properties they acquired in the vicinity of Sancti Spiritus in Santa Clara province. Manuel returned to Cuba briefly to work with his brothers. By 1886, though, he was back in New York working with the firm of J. M. Ceballos and Co. The record trail in Record Group 1, however, stops in 1885. Record Group 2 starts in 1895, and there are no records in the collection for the intervening years. The memoirs and recollections of family members (see also: Addendum) recount the history of the intervening years.

Record Group 1 of the Braga Brothers Collection is a valuable resource for studies of early North American investments in the Cuban sugar industry. It also documents the Spanish communities in the United States and Cuba and the important role they played in the development of Cuba's sugar industry. The Benjamins' business interests are also well documented in the correspondence with Lewin and Sohr of Antwerp and Truninger and Company of London. Record Group 1 includes correspondence, bound and unbound business records, shipping contracts and other maritime documents, legal papers, and trade circulars. A small amount of family correspondence can also be found.

Record Group 1 is divided into six series.




Record Group 2: The Papers and Financial Records of Manuel Rionda y Polledo 1880-1951

109.6 linear feet (188 boxes, 147 volumes)

Manuel Rionda worked at the firm J. M. Ceballos and Co. from approximately 1886 to 1896. During that time, he established a sound reputation among Wall Street's sugar brokers and important links with Cuba's sugar producers. In 1896, he left Ceballos and became a commission agent in Czarnikow, MacDougall and Company (est. 1891). Czarnikow, MacDougall was the North American branch of the eminent London trading house C. Czarnikow, Ltd., one of the world's largest sugar traders.

While Manuel's star rose in New York business circles, his brothers continued to expand and modernize the family's sugar properties in Sancti Spiritus. Manuel's employer, Juan Ceballos, was encouraged to invest in the venture and the Central Tuinucu Sugar Cane Manufacturing Company was incorporated in New Jersey in 1891. (The company's name was shortened to the Tuinucú Sugar Company in 1903.) Tragically, though, Joaquín had died in a drowning accident while fording the Rio Tuinicú on April 7,1889. Francisco Rionda managed the cane fields and factory, and cane was ground at the new mill for the first time in 1895. No sooner had Tuinucu's new mill begun operations, but civil war in 1895 plunged Cuba into economic chaos. Cuba's sugar industry was devastated, and the Central Tuinucu was one of many plantations whose cane fields were put to the torch by Cuban insurgents. Francisco's letters to Manuel in Series 1 chronicle the turmoil of that period. Fearing execution by the insurgents, Francisco and other family members left Cuba in 1898. Before leaving, though, Francisco acquired a significant tract of land around the Bahía de Guayabal in Camagüey province.

Francisco died in New York City in November, 1898, leaving Manuel as the head of the family's properties and businesses. By this time, the United States' victory over Spain in the Spanish-American War had initiated a period of peace in Cuba under U.S. military occupation. Despite initial reluctance to continue in Cuba after 1898, Rionda decided to reinvest in the Cuban sugar industry. First, he was able to secure funds to revive Tuinucu. Then he organized a new company, the Francisco Sugar Company, to exploit the Camagüey land holdings acquired by his brother. Lacking capital of his own to build a sugar mill, Rionda sought out investors. The principal investors in the Francisco Sugar Company were the owners of the W. J. McCahan Sugar Refinery in Philadelphia. The McCahan group managed the company until 1909 when it relinquished ownership and control to the Riondas.

Cuba's war for independence also interrupted Rionda's work in Czarnikow, MacDougall and forced the firm to seek alternative sources of sugar. With the end of fighting in Cuba, however, Rionda plunged into the work he had been hired to do. Ironically, the war had removed or hurt many of his competitors. With the capital resources of C. Czarnikow behind him, Rionda financed old clients and aggressively sought new ones. By 1903, Czarnikow, MacDougall was the dominant company in the Cuban sugar trade. When the company's senior partner, Caesar Czarnikow, died in 1909, a new company was organized. The Czarnikow-Rionda Company was incorporated September 1, 1909, with Manuel Rionda as its president. The new firm was a private company and management of the company was vested in the common stock owned coequally by five individuals. Four of the common stockholders were the remaining partners in C. Czarnikow, Ltd.; the fifth was Rionda. Consequently, control of the company remained in London.

Rionda's relations with the other stockholders were never satisfactory. Rionda believed the Europeans were too conservative to effectively compete for the Cuban sugar market. The London stockholders, for their part, were wary of Cuba's political instability. Incidents such as the Guerrito de Agosto, which resulted in a second U.S. occupation of Cuba in 1906, and a racial conflict in 1912 further soured business interest in the island. In 1915, Rionda announced his intention to retire from Czarnikow-Rionda. His aim was to create his own brokerage house with his nephews, Manuel Enrique Rionda and Bernardo Braga Rionda, as his seconds and successors. Negotiations between the New York and London offices led, instead, to a new five year agreement that reduced British participation in Czarnikow-Rionda. Rionda continued to serve as the company's chief executive and chairman of the board.

Between 1902 and 1922, the Riondas expanded their operations and holdings in Cuba. When several mills passed into the hands of Czarnikow, MacDougall after their owners failed to meet debt obligations, the Riondas stepped in to acquire and manage the properties. In this manner, the Riondas acquired the Central San Vicente in 1907. Another foreclosed mill, the Central San José, was reorganized as the Washington Sugar Company in 1911. Other acquisitions included the Central Elia, a sugar mill adjacent to the Francisco Sugar Company, and the Central Céspedes near La Florida in Camagüey.

Among the financial backers of the Washington Sugar Company was Walter E. Ogilvie, a North American businessman and a major stockholder in the United Railways of the Havana and Regla Warehouses. Rionda and Ogilvie would collaborate on other business ventures. Together, they organized the Regla Coal Company in 1911 and broke the Berwind White Coal Company's monopoly on coal distribution in Cuba. For a brief period in the early 1920s, Ogilvie served as Czarnikow-Rionda's president and attempted a reorganization of the company's operations. When the reorganization failed to bring the desired results, Rionda returned to his position as president.

In 1907, Rionda began a long and beneficial relationship with the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell. Several partners of the firm invested in the Stewart Sugar Company that operated a large sugar factory in Camagüey province. Rionda served as president during the construction of the mill and the company's initial harvest. His success prompted further business collaboration with Sullivan and Cromwell, and Sullivan and Cromwell

Sullivan and Cromwell also invested in the largest sugar mill constructed by the Riondas. In 1911, Rionda brought together a group of investors that also included Claus Spreckels, Edmund Converse, Regino Truffin, and the financial house of J. and W. Seligman to exploit extensive land holdings around the Bahia de Manatí. The Manati Sugar Company was an immense undertaking and presaged Rionda's most ambitious business venture, the creation of the Cuba Cane Sugar Corporation in 1915. Backed by the financial resources of the Morgan trust, Cuba Cane was able to acquire the properties of seventeen mills that controlled over sixteen percent of Cuba's annual sugar production. Rionda served as president of Cuba Cane from 1915 to 1920.

The organization of the Cuba Cane Sugar Corporation in 1915 was encouraged by the rise in sugar prices brought on by the war in Europe. The entry of the United States in that conflict, however, produced demands at home and abroad for market controls. To achieve price stability and insure supplies of sugar at the same time, various national and international regulatory bodies were created. In recognition of Czarnikow-Rionda's influence in the sugar industry, Rionda was appointed by Cuban President Mario G. Menocal to the Cuban Commission. The Commission, which included Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and Robert B. Hawley, represented Cuba in international negotiations on sugar prices and allocations. Members of Czarnikow-Rionda also served on the Cuban Adjustment Committee, the Cuban Allotment Committee, and the Committee on Compensation to United States Brokers. Market prices for Cuban sugar were tightly regulated during the war, and Rionda played a prominent role in determining the price of Cuban raw sugar.

Despite protests from Rionda and others in the sugar trade, the United States lifted price restrictions on raw sugar in 1919. The result was a frenzy of market speculation known as the "Dance of the Millions." In the space of a few months, the price of raw sugar rose and fell dramatically ruining hundreds of planters and merchants in the process. In response to the market collapse, President Menocal named Rionda and several other sugar merchants to the Sugar Finance Committee. The Committee's task was to assist in financing and marketing the unsold portion of the 1920 Cuban harvest.

The committee's efforts were largely unsuccessful, and Rionda's presence on the committee led to complaints of favoritism and charges of illegal business practices. Other attempts to control the marketing of Cuban sugar followed. In 1929, the Compañía Exportadora Nacional del Azucar, or Vendedor Unico as it was often called, was organized as a single cooperative agency for the sale of Cuban sugars. Rionda exerted influence in Vendedor Unico and its successor, the Cooperative Export Agency.

Efforts to regulate sugar production and marketing on a world-wide scale were also made and Czarnikow-Rionda participated in all of the early international marketing agreements. The company's representative at many of the sugar conferences was Aurelio Portuondo, a Cuban lawyer and a vice-president in the Cuban Trading Company. Portuondo later represented the Cuban government in tariff negotiations with the United States in 1933 and was the company's principal liaison to the Cuban government for many years. In addition to Portuondo, Manuel Rionda corresponded with Thomas Chadbourne, the architect of the 1929 Chadbourne Plan. Rionda also carried on a lengthy correspondence with Viriato Gutierrez and José Miguel Tarafa. Both were prominent Cuban businessmen and important figures in international negotiations.

The 1920s and 1930s marked a slow and steady decline in the Rionda business fortunes. The sugar industry had barely recovered from the effects of the 1920 collapse when the Great Depression brought new economic difficulties and crippling tariff protection. The Francisco, Cespedes, and Manati sugar companies were forced into receivership and reorganized. Cuba Cane, in which the Riondas invested heavily, was a serious drain on the family's resources and was dissolved in 1938. By the mid-1930s, Czarnikow-Rionda's market dominance had been supplanted by its major competitor, Galban, Lobo and Company. Although it continued to play a significant role in Cuba's economic life, Czarnikow-Rionda never regained the influence it enjoyed during the first three decades of the twentieth century.

In his last years, Rionda was preoccupied with keeping his various businesses afloat. Despite losses in its market share, Czarnikow-Rionda escaped dissolution and Francisco, Manati, and Cespedes passed through receivership still under the control of the Riondas. San Vicente and Washington, however, were sold. As the years progressed Rionda's participation in industry affairs waned, but he was active until his death, at 89, on September 2, 1943. Rionda was succeeded as president of Czarnikow-Rionda by his nephew, Bernardo Braga Rionda.

Manuel Rionda's papers include more than 150 letterbooks and over seventy-five linear feet of subject files from his Wall Street office as well as documents kept at Rio Vista, his New Jersey estate on the palisades of the Hudson River. Manuel Rionda was the epitome of the hands-on industrial manager and demanded of his subalterns, many of whom were nephews and in-laws, detailed and regular reports. The magnitude and detail of his papers is, in turn, matched by a richness of opinions and convictions. He required prompt and detailed correspondence from each mill manager and company president. Rionda also responded personally to the entreaties of his colonos, the cane farmers who supplied cane for the sugar mills. Also included in this record group are Rionda's financial papers including records related to the execution of this estate. Of special note is Series 11 containing the correspondence of Aurelio Portuondo while he served as a negotiator for Cuba in the talks leading up to the Reciprocity Treaty of 1934.

Record Group 2 is divided into fourteen series.

Much of Record Group 2 is available on microfilm in Latin American History and Culture, Series 7 and 8: Cuba and the American Sugar Trade: The Braga Brothers Collection. Thomson Gale, 2006.




Record Group 3: Records of the Czarnikow-Rionda Company 1891-1984

100 linear feet (185 boxes, 78 volumes)

The Czarnikow-Rionda Company was formed on September 1, 1909, as the successor to Czarnikow, MacDougall and Company. Until its Cuban assets were seized in 1961, Czarnikow-Rionda's primary activity was the importation of raw cane sugar and molasses from factories in Cuba for delivery to refiners in the United States. The records of Czarnikow, MacDougall and Company reveal earlier commerce in coffee, cacao, and other commodities and a substantial sugar trade with Puerto Rico and Java. Czarnikow-Rionda was exclusively a sugar house. But, it would continue to buy limited amounts of sugar and molasses outside of Cuba and export sugarcane products to areas outside North America.

In addition to its sugar import business, Czarnikow-Rionda also managed an export operation. An Export Department was created in 1901 to provide provisions and machinery to Cuba's sugar estates. The jute bags used to ship raw sugar made up a large portion of the company's export business with Czarnikow-Rionda supplying about thirty percent of Cuba's needs. A separate Bags Department was created in the early 1950s. By that time, the remaining export business was an insignificant part of the company's business activity.

A portion of Czarnikow-Rionda's sugar was supplied by mills affiliated with the company. The number varied over the years, but at the time of the Revolution of 1959 there were six such "house estates". Most sugar, however, was purchased from independent mills referred to as "client estates". Czarnikow-Rionda was also responsible for securing short-term bank loans to finance the annual harvest and grinding. Mills receiving the loans were required to sell their sugar to Czarnikow-Rionda as part of the loan settlement. All of the house estates and many of Czarnikow-Rionda's client estates received bank loans via the company's Cash Department.

Czarnikow-Rionda was a member of the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange. Like the other sugar houses, it bought spot sugar in Cuba and elsewhere and sold sugar futures. However, not all of the sugar brokered by Czarnikow-Rionda was handled directly by the company. Employees of Czarnikow-Rionda often acted as independent brokers referred to as the "little houses." As early as the 1940s, for example, George and Ronny (B. Rionda) Braga brokered sugar on the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange under the name of Braga Brothers.

Initially, Czarnikow, MacDougall operated in Cuba under its own name and employed commission agents to carry out its business. In 1907, the Cuban Trading Company was established with offices in Havana. The Cuban Trading Company bought sugar, arranged loans to mills and cane farmers, sold jute bags, handled insurance claims, resolved local disputes, and provided legal and notary services. The Cuban Trading Company kept the parent company informed of its competitors' activities and played the critical role of liaison to the Cuban government. The first president of the Cuban Trading Company was Victor Zevallos who was succeeded by Higinio Fanjúl. His son, Alfonso Fanjúl, was the third and last president of the Cuban Trading Company.

Czarnikow-Rionda reached its business zenith during World War I, but its position declined in the twenty years following the war. Prior to the war, the company had secured over fifty percent of Cuba's sugar exports. Although the war stimulated sugar prices and industry expansion, the postwar period brought about tremendous market instability. The 1920s found the company's finances and personnel stretched thin and its market share dwindling. The company survived the crisis years of the early 1930s, in part, by focusing on its arbitrage business. The 1934 Reciprocity Treaty between the United States and Cuba brought some stability to the market and enabled the company and its subsidiaries to retrench and reorganize. World War II brought additional respite. The period between the end of World War II and the Cuban Revolution of 1959 was one of gradual recovery for the company. This, however, was shattered by the Cuban Revolution.

With the termination of commercial relations between Cuba and the United States, Czarnikow-Rionda sought new sources of sugar and new markets. The Philippines and the Dominican Republic replaced much of the Cuban trade as did mainland expansion in south Florida. Czarnikow-Rionda also moved into Great Britain and competed with its former parent company, C. Czarnikow, Ltd., in the European market. The company was thus able to survive yet another crisis. Its main competitor, Galban, Lobo and Company, was not so fortunate. This company dissolved in 1965 and the remaining business of its subsidiary, Olavarria and Company, was acquired by Czarnikow-Rionda. These assets consisted of Olavarria's sales of refined sugar from Puerto Rico to retail outlets in the United States.

In 1969, Czarnikow-Rionda's sugar interests and name were sold to C. Brewer and Company, Ltd., a subsidiary of the International Utilities Corporation. The original company retained its molasses operations and continued as Braga Brothers, Inc. Brewer owned Czarnikow-Rionda only briefly before selling it to the company's employees. The company dissolved in the late 1990s. The collection stops in 1970 shortly after the sale to C. Brewer.

Record Group 3 contains the administrative files of fourteen company officials as well as records generated by ten departments. Also included are several reference files with information related to the Cuban sugar industry and the international sugar market as well as series with no discernible department provenance. The records of Czarnikow-Rionda's first president, Manuel Rionda y Polledo, are found in Record Group 2. Limited records from his successors, Bernardo Braga Rionda and George Atkinson Braga, are found in Record Group 3, but these fall far short of the comprehensive documentation found in Manuel Rionda's files. Missing as well are the files of executive vice president Ronny Braga. This is compensated to some degree by the existence of records from other vice presidents. The most significant of these are the records, 1933-1960, of Henry George Atkinson and the records, 1953-1965, of Michael J. P. Malone. Malone's files provide the only extensive coverage of the Cuban Revolution and its effects on the company. Of special interest are Malone's records on the expansion of the Florida sugarcane industry in the early 1960s and his support of the Cuban exile community in the United States.

The department and reference files document various facets of the company's operations. Included are records from the Bags, Engineering, Export, Cash, Insurance, Molasses, Refined Sugar, and Research departments. The reference files contain information on annual sugar production, industry regulations, and legislation and decrees issued by the Cuban government. Finally, the Record Group includes some of the company's accounting books, accountants' reports, and a copy of the company's claims filed with the State Department in 1967 for properties seized by the Cuban government.

The records of the Trading Department figure prominently. The sugar crystals produced at the mills are referred to in the sugar trade as "raws" or "centrifugals". Until the advent of bulk shipping, Cuban raw sugar was transported in jute bags weighing 325 Spanish pounds (or 329.59 English pounds.) These bags were a standard unit of trade on the sugar exchange.

Record Group 3 is divided into thirty-four series.




Record Group 4: Records of the Subsidiaries and Affiliated Companies of the Czarnikow-Rionda Company 1899-1968

122 linear feet (118 boxes, 211 volumes)

The Francisco Sugar Company was incorporated in New Jersey on February 20, 1899 and was the second of the Riondas' sugar factories. It was named after Francisco Rionda y Polledo who acquired the company's lands shortly before his death in 1898. The estate was situated in southeastern Camagüey province in the area surrounding the coastal town of Guayabal. The company's mill ground its first cane in 1902. In 1921, the Francisco Sugar Company purchased the common stock of the Compañía Azucarera Elia which owned the Central Elia and lands adjacent to Francisco. In 1952, the Compañía Azucarera Elia was dissolved and management of the Elia passed to the Elia Division of the Francisco Sugar Company.

In addition to the two mills, warehouse facilities, and 117 miles of railroad, the company also owned and operated two cane farms and the Port of Guayabal. During World War II, the company set up an alcohol distillery, the Compañía Industrial Sevilla, which was later merged into the Francisco Sugar Company as the Sevilla Division. Other holdings included the "El Indio" cattle ranch and part ownership of a wallboard factory, the Compañía Cubana Primadera.

The Manati Sugar Company was incorporated in New York on April 30, 1912, and operated the Riondas' largest sugar factory, the Central Manatí. The mill was located in the northwest corner of Oriente Province, but the company's vast land holdings--over 200,000 acres--extended into Camagüey. Of those 200,000 acres, only 30,000 acres were under cultivation. In the 1950s, portions of the unused lands were sold to a joint venture undertaken by Manati and King Ranch of Texas. The two companies formed the Compañía Ganadera Becerra, which owned 40,000 acres of land and over 7,500 head of cattle.

Record Group 4 of the Braga Brothers Collection contains the records of business firms associated with the Czarnikow-Rionda Company. The principal holdings in Record Group 4 are the records of the Francisco Sugar Company and the Manati Sugar Company. There are smaller holdings for thirteen additional companies, including several short-lived experimental ventures and minor auxiliary companies. Although most of the companies were based in Cuba, the records in this group originated primarily from the companies' New York offices. In addition, there are records of the W. J. McCahan Sugar Refining and Molasses Company, a refinery in Philadelphia.

Record Group 4 is divided into 3 subgroups and 47 series.

Subgroup 1: Francisco Sugar Company and Subsidiaries

Subgroup 3: Other Czarnikow-Rionda Subsidiaries and Affiliates




Addendum 1887-1984

16 boxes, 4 folio cases, and approximately 300 separate items

In addition to the administrative records described in the four record groups, the Braga Brothers Collection contains memorabilia, photographs, maps and plans, memoirs, genealogical materials, and family correspondence that fall outside the parameters of the record groups. Some of the addendum materials were donated by the Braga family subsequent to the original gift in 1981 and were not described in the initial collection finding guides. Included in the later donations were the memoir, entitled "A Bundle of Relations", of George Atkinson Braga and correspondence of George Braga's mother, Margaret Atkinson Braga. Of special interest in the papers of Margaret Braga are the accounts by her sister, Anne Risely, of life at the Central Francisco in 1904. Included in the personal papers of Bernardo Braga, Record Group 3, Series 8, are recollections of his youth in Spain and his business career.

The photograph series contains images of people, places, and activities associated with the collection. Some photographs were pulled from other series and are identified accordingly. Most, though, were found separate from the records and many were added to the collection in 1993 with the personal papers of Bernardo Braga and George Braga. The latter include many photographs of family members as well as employees of the Czarnikow-Rionda Company and the Cuban Trading Company. Also evident in the photograph series are images of the cane fields and mills of the Manati and Francisco sugar companies. The series also contains aerial photograpahic maps of Manati and Francisco. Additional photographs from the estate of Elena Doty Angus were purchased in 2009.

Maps and plans are described in Series 30. Most of the materials in this series were pulled from the files of Manuel Rionda y Polledo, but other items were not identified as part of an existing series. The maps document several areas of Cuba including the property holdings of Francisco and Manati. Maps of both sugar companies are also found in Series 83 and Series 45. In addition, Series 30 contains maps of the areas around the Tuinucu Sugar Company, the Cespedes Sugar Company, and the Tacajo Sugar Company. Also included in Series 30 are maps of the warehouse districts of Matanzas and Tunas del Zaza and more general maps of Cuba depicting the location of sugar mills.

The memorabilia and artifact series was derived largely from materials found in records series. Many of the objects were selected as possible display items. Among the items in the series are stock certificates, business and calling cards, decorative business stationery, and objects illustrative of the sugar industry such as warehouse receipts, identity certificates, and laboratory reports.

The addendum contains six series.




Selected Subjects and Access Points

Alcohol industry -- Cuba.
Bagasse Products.
Cellulose industry -- Cuba.
Celulosa Cubana.
Compañía Azucarera Elia.
Compañía Cubana Primadera.
Compañía Ganadera Becerra.
Compañía Industrial Primadera, S.A.
Compañía Industrial Sevilla.
Compañía Maritima Guayabal.
Cuba -- Economic conditions.
Cuba -- History.
Cuba Sugar Finance and Export Corporation.
Cuba. Sugar Finance Committee.
Czarnikow-Rionda Company.
Diversification in industry -- Cuba.
Ferrocarril de Tunas.
Francisco Sugar Company.
Land reform -- Cuba.
Manati Sugar Company.
Rionda y Polledo, Manuel, 1854-1943.
Stock ownership -- Cuba.
Sugar -- Manufacture and refining -- Cuba.
Sugar factories -- Cuba.
Sugar trade -- Cuba.
Sugar trade -- United States.
Tuinucu Sugar Company.



For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

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