In 1853, at age 16, Harris Kempner left Poland and arrived in New York, where he would learn to speak and write English and quickly grasp America’s free enterprise system.
He would make his way to Cold Springs, Texas, where he opened a small general store. His neighbors could count on him for credit when needed. They often paid him in cotton or entrusted their cotton to Kempner, who served as a factor or agent, which ultimately led him to Galveston and into the cotton exporting business. The bustling commercial center that was Galveston in 1868 suited the enterprising Kempner, who moved here, established a wholesale grocery and liquor importing business and later enterprises that would include railroads, banks and real estate.