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

 Record Group

Scope and Contents

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.


  • Creation: 1891-1984


The collection is open for research.

Biographical / Historical

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.


From the Collection: 375.5 Linear feet (532 boxes, 507 volumes)

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America