The Texans Inc. Lamp Factory, a Final Look
In 2005 I had the opportunity to tour the former Texans Incorporated manufacturing plant in Bangs, Texas and, given my interest in the companies history, found it both exciting and decidedly sad. Less than two years earlier my wife and I wandered into Bangs, hoping to find some clues that might reveal the history of the "Kron" TV lamps. Now I was surveying the remnants of their source...I had arrived 20 years too late. Before I go further I must explain a bit of this buildings past. It is on the location of the original Texans Inc. facility built in 1952, rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1971 and repaired after at least one other significant fire. It was sold in 1983 and became Challenger Lamps, sold again to American Quality Ceramics, and was used by that company until April of 2003. At the time of my visit, the contents of the factory consisted of a mixture of items from the three companies, and was just days from complete liquidation. Today the building is owned by the Bangs school district, and used to store buses and maintenance items.
The history of many of the pieces of machinery is hard to determine. An example of this is the row of kiln shown on the left which, while certainly not from the Texans days, could have been installed by either Challenger or, more likely, American Quality Ceramics. These would be dwarfed by the twin 70-foot tunnel kiln that Texans used for the bulk of their production. There was a significant shift in products during the Quality Ceramics days, with much of their attention going to plates and other pieces made for the Bradford Exchange, producers of limited-edition collectibles. I'm of the opinion that Challenger Lamps made minimal changes to the Texans Inc. operation, as lamps were still the major focus of their output. Most likely, the majority of modifications to the plant occurred while Quality Ceramics was at the helm.
But even as much has changed over the years, the ghosts of Texans Incorporated are still present, like the enormous slip tanks that were used to mix and store the liquefied clay. In the dark recesses of the building, they are a brooding testament to the activity that once flourished at the factory. The neglect evident throughout the building only underscores the feeling of loss...loss of jobs, loss of tradition and, to some extent, loss of the very identity of a community. When the lamp factory was built, Bangs changed from a small agricultural town to the embodiment of modern manufacture, an image that it maintained for thirty years. Later generations are often unaware of this legacy, but through the efforts of local historians like David Cole, there's hope that the factory won't be forgotten. The memory of the Texans Inc. lamp factory deserves to live on, its products the artifacts of the boomtown that was once Bangs.
- Mark Stevens
The photos below are in the sequence of a clockwise tour of the building, beginning and ending near the main entrance.
Kiln, probably installed by Quality Ceramics for the manufacture of plates.
Richard Gunter next to a kiln from the Texans Inc. days.
Another look at the vintage kiln.
Against the wall are the spray booths once used for lamp decorating.
Various mold cases, many still marked with their old "K" model numbers indicated.
Some of these molds are 40 years old.
Richard spots some of the old lamp models.
Some were discovered to be Richard's designs.
Many areas of the plant showed serious neglect.
Carts for moving products.
Some Quality Ceramics items still present.
This room was added after Texans.
The safe that once stored the gold (suspended in a varnish) used to decorate products.