On-line Book




Chapter 1

Chapter 2
Urban Development

Chapter 3
Maritime Activity

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Appendix 1
Patterned Brick Houses

Appendix 2
Stack Houses

Appendix 3
Existing Documentation


Historic Themes and Resources within the
New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route
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INDUSTRY (continued)

Canneries/Produce Packing

The abundance of locally grown produce spurred the development of South Jersey's canning industry, and in turn furthered the science of food preservation. In 1795 Nicholas Appert endorsed the use of glass containers as most resistant to air, as well as the need to sterilize them first in boiling water before filling. [19] Appert paved the way for other experiments with food preservation.

In 1810 a patented European container of tin plate, hermetically sealed, arrived in the United States. Once these "plumb cans" were made here, more people began to use them—such as Ezra Dagget and Thomas Kensett who canned salmon, lobsters and oysters in New York City. By 1830, canned seafood was common in France and Nova Scotia, as well as Eastport, Maine, and Baltimore, Maryland. Experimentation with tin cans continued, and by the 1840s vegetables were commonly packed in them. The canning revolution arrived in New Jersey when Harrison W. Crosby of Jamesburg successfully processed tomatoes in tin cans in 1847—the same year a canning factory opened in Monmouth County. [20] It was a model that, concurrent with pasteurization, and the discovery that calcium chloride added to boiling water increased its temperature and reduced cooking time, enticed more New Jerseyans to open canneries. In the southern part of the state plentiful tomato crops were an added incentive.

Figure 67. Squash at a Bridgeton cannery. New Jersey: Life early 20th century.

The first canning factory in Cumberland County began in the 1840s at the home of John E. Sheppard, who lived conveniently near the Quaker meeting house where towns-women helped with the labor. Like many early canneries, Sheppard made the cans on the premises. Local historians surmise that Sheppard also did some canning in a house near Sheppard's Mill, two miles outside of Greenwich. [21]

Over the century or so from 1840 to 1942, Cumberland County hosted about twenty-eight different canneries at various times. The greatest influx of new canneries and related businesses occurred from 1860-90, when approximately twenty-three new canneries began operating: thirteen in Bridgeton, two each in Fairton, Cedarville, and Greenwich; and one each in Bacon's Neck, Bayside/Caviar, Millville, and Newport. [22]

Some prominent canneries built during that thirty-year period were: Stein Edwards, John E. Diament Company, Steven's Canning Factory, and R.S. Watson and Son. Associated industries include the Ferracute Machine Company and Ayars Machine Company. The former, under the direction of Oberlin Smith, made presses for the tin can components; the latter supplied tin cans and machines that aided in the filling of the cans. [23]

Stein Edwards established the first cannery in Bridgeton in 1861, named after himself. Six years later he sold it to Warner, Rhodes and Company and in 1888 it was merged into the West Jersey Packing Company, which made its own cans and packed about 700,000-1 million units per year. Warner Rhodes specialized in tomatoes and peaches, but it also packed lima beans and sweet potatoes, and manufactured ketchup and salad dressing. [24]

West Jersey Packing Company and the presence of other canneries led several Bridgeton residents to experiment with canning machines. In 1887 J.D. Cox took a sample of his new hand-capping machine to Baltimore; he thought the device might be applicable there since most of its canneries made their own containers and caps, which they in turn sold to rural canneries. This machine revolutionized the canning industry in that it mechanized the closure process. By 1890 cans were being made automatically from sheet tin, and counted automatically as they went into shipping cars. These changes created less of a dependence on manual labor and thus, less chance that strikes or labor unrest would slow down production. [25]

By the turn of the century, a new can was developed that overtook the industry and further advanced food preservation here and elsewhere. The unsoldered unit, called the "sanitary" can, differed from predecessors by its rubber-sealed coating instead of a gasket, and double seams. The Max Ams Company of New York City, which packed and exported fish products to foreign countries, was looking for just such a can; one of the company's biggest suppliers was the caviar factory at Bayside. In 1904 Max Ams established the Sanitary Can Company in New York City, and two years later a branch office was opened in Bridgeton. [26]

Unlike Cumberland County, Salem and Cape May counties had fewer canning facilities—perhaps due to a limited number of glass and machine factories. Millville had at least three glassworks by the mid nineteenth century, as well as an iron foundry; Bridgeton had several glass companies and a machine factory. Greenwich also had a machine factory. Salem and Cape May counties do not appear to have had as many industrial resources.

The first canning factory in Salem County was Patterson, Ware and Casper. The exact year the factory began to operate is unknown, but it was established in 1862 or 1864, and it canned tomatoes, pears, peaches, beans, pineapples, peas, cherries, blackberries, and corn. [27] The factory was located on Church Street in Salem and was built by Theophilus Patterson, Richard B. Ware and Charles W. Casper. Unfortunately the business was unprofitable due to the high price of tin, management's inability to convince women to work in the factory, and the low price of tomatoes. Patterson, Ware and Casper operated only for a year. [28]

Production continued at the same site, however, under ownership of James K. Patterson and Ephraim J. Lloyd, and afterward by Patterson and Owen L. Jones. In 1882, when Patterson retired, Jones took over the company. By that time the factory had been located on Fifth Street for eight years. The year after Jones gained full ownership, James Ayars, owner and operator of Ayars Machine Shop of Greenwich, left his business to go into partnership with Jones. [29]

Fogg and Hires was another prosperous tomato cannery in Salem County. Located in Quinton (Fig. 68), this cannery was established by Lucius E. Hires and Robert S. Fogg in 1884. The first factory, located on East Street, prospered so the first year that a second factory was erected on the bank of Alloways Creek. A decade later the company upgraded the second cannery and closed the first. Fogg and Hires also ran branches in Pennsville and Hancock's Bridge. In 1924 Fogg died; Hires continued to run the business until his death in 1937. William Patton then bought the company, which continued to operate until 1946. [30]

Figure 68. Map of Quinton's Bridge showing the proximity of the glassworks, cannery and company-owned housing. Atlas, 1876.

Other late nineteenth-century canneries included: Starr Brothers, Mason Pickling Company, Salem Canning Company, Chew and Bilderback, Bassett and Fogg, Farmers' Cooperative Canning Company, Aldine Canning Factory, and H.J. Heinz. These and others were located in Salem, Hancock's Bridge, or Quinton.

Cape May County appears not to have had as many canneries as its neighbors, and those few were managed by companies based in Salem or Cumberland counties. One of these was owned by the Stevens family. The original, established by William L. Stevens in 1888 in Cedarville, was so successful that a second branch was opened in Eldora in 1904. Two years later a third branch, the Goshen Canning Company, opened; both the Eldora and the Goshen sites were in Cape May County. In 1908 the business incorporated and the Cedarville plant was established as company headquarters. After several family owners, the last Stevens cannery closed in 1938. Among its contributions to the canning industry were the Stevens Can Filling Machine, which improved the process of canning tomatoes, fruits, and meats through automation, and establishment of a canning operation at the Leesburg State Prison Farm. [31]

Another cannery with facilities in Cumberland and Cape May counties was the John E. Diament Company, whose first cannery was built in Cedarville, followed by one in Tuckahoe in 1903 (the latter is out of the NJCHT area). The buildings at the Rio Grande Packing Company had been erected for a molasses mill or sugar manufacturing plant in 1881, called the Rio Grande Sugar Company. It closed when plans to grow sorghum and process it as sugar failed. Other Rio Grande factories included Garden State Canning Company, the Mt. Holly Canning Company, and the Rio Grande Preserving Company. Nearby South Dennis was also home to several canneries, among them the Salem Supply Company and Van Gilder and Company. [32]

Canneries continued to prosper in South Jersey well into the twentieth century. Phillip J. Ritter Company made ketchup and canned vegetables in Bridgeton for nearly a century. It and other canneries were essential industries during both World Wars. In World War II, the company hired German prisoners to fill the places of workers who had been drafted. In other instances migrant workers were hired to help process the tomatoes and other vegetables; many of them lived in Ritter Village. Other branches of P.J. Ritter Company (founded in Kensington, Pennsylvania) were located in Bristol, England; Newark, New Jersey; and Ellendale, Delaware. The site of this canning facility is now owned and operated by the 7-Up Bottling Company. The site was also historically shared with the Cohansey Glass Manufacturing Company. Some nineteenth- and twentieth-century buildings appear to be intact but require additional investigation. [33]

Today, canneries remain an important part of South Jersey industry. Two important events helped determine the success of one enterprise, Seabrook Farms, several miles north of Bridgeton. First, company founder Charles F. Seabrook invented a quick-freezing process that is still used by frozen-food companies today for much name-brand produce. Second, Seabrook Farms owns the land on which most of the products grown are canned and frozen. Historically, in the paternalistic tradition, it also built worker housing and stocked a company store, some of which is still extant.

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Last Modified: Mon, Mar 14 2005 10:00:00 pm PDT

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