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Utah's Canning Industry

Index For This Page

by Don Strack

This page was last updated on August 23, 2018.

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(A large portion of this research was completed in August 1989; the text below was originally published in Utah History Encyclopedia, University of Utah Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87480-425-6, pages 67-70). (A similar article about Utah's railroads was also furnished as part of the same encyclopedia project.)

Utah Canneries and Canning Companies -- An alphabetical listing of Utah's canneries and canning companies, with individual histories.

Fruit and Vegetable Canning

Utah's commercial canning industry dates back to the late 1880's and had its peak during the 1920's and 1930's (with about forty-five canneries operating), declining in the 1950s. The canning industry in Utah was centered mainly in Weber, Davis, and Cache counties, and to a lesser degree in Box Elder, Utah, and Salt Lake counties. Although Utah's canneries produced many different kinds of canned vegetables and fruits, by far the most numerous and highly regarded were Utah's tomatoes and peas, grown mostly in Weber, Davis, and Cache counties. These three counties led the state in numbers of canneries, and well over two-thirds of the state's total.

The canning industry, along with the flour rolling-mill industry, the sugar beet industry, and the dairy industry, all formed the cornerstones of Utah's agricultural community and industry. As happened with the sugar beet industry, the state's canning business had a struggle to get started. Much like the sugar beet industry that started at about the same time, the canning factories had to convince the local farmers that growing products for sale to the factories would be a money making venture. The early canning companies also had difficulties in selling their finished product because at the time, consumers had not fully accepted eating food preserved in cans rather than bottles.

The technology of preserving food in cans was first widely used during the Civil War. The pressure cooker became available in 1874 and allowed better control the temperatures while the food was being cooked. By 1870 there were about 6,000 persons employed nationwide in almost 100 canning factories. By 1890 those numbers had grown to 50,000 persons working in 1,800 factories.

The canning industry in Utah started in Ogden in 1886 when Alexander C. McKinney and Robert Lundy formed the Colorado-Utah Canning Company. The name comes from the fact that both men had come to Utah from Colorado in May 1886, and in August 1886 they started their canning enterprise in Utah. The company's canning factory was located in Ogden near 9th Street (now 29th street) on property that McKinney and Lundy leased from Ogden industrialist Fred J. Kiesel. The location had previously been used as a pickle works.

At the start of the 1887 tomato season, in early August through early September, newspaper ads show the two businessmen asking for tomatoes ("Sell Your Tomatoes"), with their company name as "Lundy & McKinney." (Ogden Standard, August 7, 1887)

That first season the company produced 1,800 cases of tomatoes. For the first few years tomatoes was the only product that was packed by the company. The Colorado-Utah Canning Company lasted only a year and was dissolved in 1887. McKinney later started the Ogden Canning Company, located at about 27th Street along the east side of the Union Pacific tracks. In 1891 McKinney also started the Salt Lake Valley Canning Company at the same location as his Ogden Canning Company.

In 1897 McKinney sold his interest in the Salt Lake Valley company to William W. Craig who moved the enterprise to another part of Ogden. Craig later reorganized the company and became a major figure in the canning industry in Utah, with his company remaining in business until 1934.

After the harvest of 1899, McKinney moved his Ogden Canning Company to a another location, north of the Ogden River, with the company remaining in business until McKinney died in October 1902. For the fifteen years that the company was in business its products included canned tomatoes, ketchup, peas, corn, pumpkins, and string beans, along with lesser quantities of plums, apples, pears, berries, and peaches. The company produced high-quality canned vegetables and fruits that were shipped all over the country in railroad cars, and helped build a reputation for the quality of the canned products from Utah that were to follow from other canners.

Utah Canning Company

After the Colorado-Utah company was dissolved in 1887, McKinney's former partner, Robert Lundy started the Utah Canning Company. Lundy kept his business in the original location of the earlier company.

The first year's operation for Lundy's Utah Canning Company, in 1888, produced a season's pack of 4,000 cases of tomatoes. Lundy had only been in business for a year when in 1889 Isaac N. Pierce became part of the company, using Pierce's name on the label of the canned pork and beans produced by the company. The Pierce's Pork and Beans label is available today, and the recipe has remained unchanged for over eighty years.

The Utah Canning Company was reorganized in 1897 under the control of some of Ogden's more prominent citizens, including Thomas Dee and David Eccles. Isaac Pierce remained as manager and under his guidance the company developed methods for processing foods that kept Utah Canning on the front of the commercial canning industry in the west, and helped keep the company in the commercial canning field longer than any other company in the state. The Utah Canning Company's success came because they were able to stay in production year around, rather than being part of a seasonal industry as many of the other canners were. Besides their pork and bean product, which they produced throughout the year, the company also produced such items as hominy, pumpkin, and maple syrup, made from bulk shipment by railroad of concentrated syrup received from New England.

In 1918 it was reported that the Utah Canning company had the largest individual factory in the state and the largest output of any one cannery in Utah. It was also reported that it was the only cannery that operated year-round. The beans used in its pork and beans product were imported until just recently, when local growers began furnishing the needed smaller-sized beans. (Ogden Standard, February 8, 1918)

The Utah Canning company remained in the canning business in Ogden until 1972 when the cannery was closed. In 1960 the company merged with the Pleasant Grove Canning Company. Also, by 1960 the company had expanded its operations into the Pacific Northwest and in 1963 the name was changed to Utah Packers, Inc.

With the early success of the Utah Canning Company, other canneries soon joined in, producing their own products. In 1904 William Van Alen, who had been associated with the Wasatch Orchard and Canning Company in West Ogden, opened the Banner Canning Company, in the same building that McKinney's Ogden Canning Company had vacated two years before.

During the 1916/1917 canning season William Van Alen organized the Van Alen Canning Company in Tremonton to process apples and tomatoes in the former cannery of the William Craig Canning Company at the same location. In early 1918 the company moved to a larger facility to allow the expansion into the processing of peas. That first season, the company was able to produce about seventy railroad carloads of canned peas, which was shipped out from Tremonton to points across the nation, over Union Pacific's Malad Branch to the mainline at Brigham City.

Van Alen died in July 1918 and after his death his widow took over the operation of the company's canning factories in both Tremonton and Ogden. Tragedy struck again five years later, in 1923, when part of the Ogden factory was destroyed by fire. At that time Mrs. Van Alen gave up her position as president and hired Gage Rodman to fill the position. Rodman had a reputation as a good cannery man and, along with Thomas Leslie who had been the company's secretary-treasurer since 1905, worked to modernize the plant and all of its methods. Still, their efforts failed and the company was forced to close its doors just two years later, in 1925.

The canning industry in Utah received a tremendous boost in January 1923 when the George W. Goddard and his Utah Canners Exchange was given exclusive marketing rights for nine Utah canning companies. The Goddard company's sales representatives spent extended periods of time in the eastern states, marketing Utah canned goods, as well as establishing the needed specialized transportaion networks and equipment pools to ensure steady movement of Utah products such as tomatoes and peas to eager markets previously unavailable to them. (Ogden Standard Examiner, January 22, 1923; February 18, 1924)

Rodman and Leslie tried again with the Rocky Mountain Packing Corporation, in 1928, with himself as the president. By 1935 both men had left the company and at the end of the 1938 canning season this company also closed its doors.

Morgan Canning Comany

The Morgan Canning Company was organized in 1904 by James A. Anderson and James Pingree of Ogden, but it took until 1908 for the company to convince enough of the local growers in the Morgan area to plant peas, making 1908 the company's first canning season. Peas were the chosen crop because of the shorter growing season in Morgan County.

That first season of 1908 proved to be disappointing, but the following year was better, and each succeeding season was better still. The 1910 season saw a pack of 30,000 cases, compared to the 8,000 case pack for 1908. The business continued to improve; by 1916 the company had to leave their original quarters, a wooden warehouse, and build a large modern, stone factory on the north side of Morgan, along a spur of the Union Pacific Railroad, in a building that still stands today.

The owners of the Morgan Canning Company became impressed with the Cache Valley as a perspective pea growing region because of the similar growing conditions, and the company shipped seeds for the growing of a pea crop for the 1918 season. The seeds were distributed from a new warehouse that the company completed in Smithfield that same July. Work on the new factory at Smithfield began during the fall of 1919 and the factory was placed into operation with the harvest of the 1920 crop in July.

The Morgan Canning Company soon gained the reputation for having the finest peas in the west, a fact that the company turned into its slogan -- "Those Good Peas". The company's plant in Smithfield was said to be the largest pea processing factory in the world.

The company's owners, the Anderson brothers, both died within a year of each other in 1926 and 1927. Their widows tried to run the company as their husbands would have done but were unsuccessful and the company slowly began a downhill slide. The company was sold to the Utah Packing Corporation in the spring of 1928.

Utah Packing Corporation / CalPak / Del Monte

The sale of the Morgan Canning Company to the Utah Packing Corporation was the final stage of expansion for the largest of Utah's commercial canning enterprises. The Utah Packing Corporation was organized in 1917 as a subsidiary of the California Packing Corporation. The California company was itself organized in 1916 as a consolidation of three pioneer canning companies: the California Fruit Growers Association; the Griffin and Skelley Company; and the Central California Canneries Company -- with a combined operation of sixty canneries. Most people know the California Packing Corporation by one of its most popular labels, Del Monte, which the corporation took as its formal name in 1967 when the company changed its name to the Del Monte Corporation. Although the Morgan pea processing plant has closed, Del Monte's Smithfield plant remains today (as a warehouse) as the only remnant of the canning industry in the state.

The Utah Packing Corporation, later known as both CalPack and Del Monte, became the largest operator of canning factories in the state. The basis for the company's extensive operations were the five canneries formerly operated by William J. (Jake) Parker, who has been called the father of Utah canning. In March 1917 he sold his organization of five canneries to the Utah Packing Company, which in 1918 became the Utah Packing Corporation subsidiary of California Packing Corporation.

Two other men, the father and son team of Nephi Preston Hardy and Nephi Edwin Hardy were also important figures in Utah canning. Hardy and his son were responsible for the construction of four of the early commercial canning factories in Utah; the two early factories in Hooper and the first of four factories in Roy; and the factory in Spanish Fork, along with still another located in Oregon. All of this construction had taken place by 1907 when the son, Nephi Edwin Hardy, died.

Nephi Preston Hardy taught the basics of food processing and canning to his son when he started the second canning enterprise in the state when he began processing tomatoes on his own farm in Hooper as early as 1892. His first plant was destroyed by a fire, but Hardy started over again and by 1897 he and others in Hooper, including Jake Parker, built a larger factory in Hooper. This second attempt also ended in a fire that consumed it in mid-season, but the factory was rebuilt in time to finish out the season. Hardy and Parker then decided to build a more substantial, fire proof factory.

This time the factory was located in Roy, close to the railroad tracks to allow direct shipment of their finished products by rail car. This cannery was the first of four that would be located in Roy. Nephi Preston Hardy ran this first cannery in Roy until he retired in 1915, when he sold the enterprise to William W. Craig, who was operating another cannery in Ogden. Hardy died in 1920 at the age of 76.

After the successful completion of the Roy cannery in 1898, the Hardys gained a reputation as good cannery men and were soon called on to build other factories. Hardy and his son went to Oregon in 1902 to build a factory for Fred J. Kiesel of Ogden. The elder Hardy returned to Utah after the factory was completed, but his son remained until 1904 to train local employees in the proper operation of the new factory. The son returned to Utah and managed his father's factory in Roy until 1905, when he began work on a new cannery to be built in Spanish Fork. He had been there for about two years when he contracted spinal meningitis and died, leaving behind five orphan children. At the time of his death, the younger Hardy was in the planning stages for a new factory that was to be located in Springville for the same owners as the just completed Spanish Fork factory. His death delayed the construction of the Springville factory by at least two years.

Woods Cross Canning Company

After Del Monte, the other most recognized name in Utah canning was the Woods Cross Canning Company -- Utah's second largest commercial cannery. The Woods Cross brand of canned tomatoes are still available in local stores, although the tomatoes themselves are grown out of state. Woods Cross Canning and Pickling Company was organized on May 9, 1892, after work had already began in Spring 1892 on their processing plant located in Woods Cross, at about 600 South on 800 West. The company grew out of William S. Muir, Sr.'s efforts in the fall of 1890 to begin a canning business in south Davis County. His efforts at canning were a success, and the Woods Cross company was formally organized on May 9, 1892. (East of Antelope Island, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Fourth Edition, 1971, page 414)

In 1902 the owners of the Woods Cross company expanded with a plant in Clearfield under the name of the Clearfield Canning Company, and in 1903 they expanded again with the Layton Canning Company, located naturally enough in Layton, also in Davis County. With the continued growth of the canning business, by 1912 the company found itself one of the strongest in the industry in Utah. In 1912 the company reorganized as the Woods Cross Canning Company and took control of the two subsidiaries, the Layton Canning Company and the Clearfield Canning Company.

The Woods Cross plant remained in business until about 1947, property sold to adjacent (south) Phillips Petroleum in September 1951.

Layton plant canning operations slowly moved to more modern Clearfield plant, Layton site used as warehouse; closed and property sold in May 1949, buildings demolished, except brick warehouse, which remains standing today as a church recreation hall.

The Clearfield factory remained as the last operation of the company, keeping its doors open until 1975.

One of the earliest canning enterprises within the state was the Syracuse Canning Company, located in Syracuse in Davis County, and organized in 1893 by local farmers and businessmen in Syracuse. The company operated in temporary quarters on the farm of one of the owners until a permanent factory could be built. That factory was built in 1898 on two acres located along the Union Pacific Railroad's Syracuse Branch, which had been constructed in 1887 as the Ogden and Syracuse Railway to reach the various salt works located on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. The factory was located at the railroad line's crossing of today's 4000 West.

In 1902, in response to the increased demand and sales of the area's well known tomatoes, the Syracuse Canning Company expanded and increased its production by increasing the size of its factory. In 1918 the company was sold to the Kaysville Canning Company, and in 1945 the cannery was closed and the property was sold to an adjoining land owner.

The second of the two canning factories located in Syracuse, the factory best known as the Kaysville Canning Company, began as a cannery of the John R. Barnes Company, and was located also on the Union Pacific's Syracuse Branch, at the station called Barnes, where the branch crosses 2000 West, two miles east of the Syracuse Canning Company's factory. In 1912, in a reorganization of the Barnes company, the factory in east Syracuse was organized as the Davis County Canning Company. Just two years later, in 1914, the Davis County Canning Company was sold to the Kaysville Canning Company in June 1914. John R. Barnes was president of the Kaysville company.

The cannery itself closed in the late 1950's, but the warehouse remained in use and in 1964 the property was sold to the C. H. Dredge Company, which today still uses it as a base for its food shipping business, moving onions, potatoes, and other agricultural products in its trucks throughout the western United States.

Other Canning Companies

While the canning business in Utah was dominated by the likes of Del Monte, Woods Cross, and the Kaysville companies, there were also several, successful independent companies. As one of these small independent canneries, the Smith Canning Company was started by Albert T. Smith in 1922 when he rented the unused factory in Clearfield of an earlier canning company that had gone out of business. This plant was destroyed by fire in 1931, but Smith formally reorganized his business as the Smith Canning Company and built a cannery on property which he owned in another part of Clearfield. When the Clearfield Naval Supply Base was built in 1941 Smith moved the cannery north to property at 400 South and Main Street, where the company remained until it was later sold to the Freeport Cold Storage Company, which remains in business at the same location today.

Other, smaller canneries in the state include the Twin Peaks Canning Company in Murray in Salt Lake County. The factory was located about a half block west of Main Street and burned twice. After the second fire the factory was rebuilt and reorganized as the Rocky Mountain Packing Company. Uriah G. Miller was the manager of the cannery under both the Twin Peaks company and the Rocky Mountain company. The cannery was later owned by the Hunt Company.

The Pleasant Grove Canning Company was located in Pleasant Grove and in Orem in Utah County and was the first major industry to be located in Orem, when the factory began production in 1919. The cannery was an outlet for the local vegetable and fruit growers and employed over a hundred local people during the summer season. In 1960 the Pleasant Grove company merged with the Utah Canning Company in Ogden, becoming the Orem plant of Utah Packers. The Pleasant Grove factory was apparently closed at the same time.

(Read more about the canneries in Syracuse, Utah)

Utah Milk Canning Industry

(Read more about Utah's milk canning industry, including condensed milk and evaporated milk.)

Decline of Utah's Canning Industry

The decline of Utah canning industry came in the mid 1950's with the availability of fresh frozen foods, and reliable transportation to get the frozen foods to consumers. In 1924 Clarence Birdseye had been the pioneer in the development of commercial food freezing. By 1930 over six million pounds of frozen food, including fruits, vegetables, and seafood had been shipped. During the 1930's the railroads were forced by shippers to begin the development of refrigerator cars that were capable of maintaining temperatures low enough to ship frozen foods frozen, using ice to maintain the needed low temperatures. The first mechanical refrigerator cars, which didn't need ice to maintain freezing temperatures, came into use first during 1949 in the East, for frozen Florida orange juice, and during 1952 in the West, for fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables from California's central San Joaquin Valley. In a reflection of the changes in the industry, in November 1955, the industry's trade publication changed its name from Canner Magazine to Canner and Freezer Magazine. By 1958, Pacific Fruit Express (PFE), the largest owner of refrigerator cars in the railroad industry, alone owned over 1,700 mechanical refrigerator cars dedicated to the shipment of frozen food. Within ten years, by 1968, PFE's fleet had grown to 10,000 mechanical cars; the other car companies shared the same phenomenal growth.

The availability of dependable transportation for frozen food, along with the new marketing concept of central warehouses selling to the new supermarkets, issued the final blows to the canning industry in Utah. All during the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's, marketing for grocery foods included local farms furnishing local canneries, which in turn furnished local wholesale grocers with canned goods that were sold at local "Mom and Pop" corner grocery stores. During the mid and late 1950's, as more of the new supermarkets were built, food growers began centralizing their growing operations, and the food processing companies began locating their canneries and frozen food plants close to the fields with the best and largest production. The finished goods were then centrally warehoused and shipped as needed to the local supermarkets, completely shutting out the much smaller local growers, canners, wholesalers, and grocers. With these changes taking place, many of Utah's canners were forced into producing such varied products as tomato and fruit juices. Although the Del Monte cannery in Smithfield remains in business today with only intermittent operations, much has been made of the 1980 closing of the Stevens Canning Company in Roy. This company was the last of the independent canners in the state and its closing brought an end to the independent canning industry in the West. As the canning industry in Utah died, so did a small piece of Utah's self-sufficiency.

Utah Canning on 29th Street in Ogden

The Utah Canning Co. plant at 29th Street and the railroad tracks was apparently built in 1898, with several additions. It remained in operation after a merger with Pleasant Grove Canning Co., in 1960 when it became Utah Packers, Inc. Many recall the large building with "Utah Canning Co." lettering. That building was torn down in 1966 when Utah By-Products company bought the plant. They remained on that site until 1977 when Ogden City forced them out of town due to numerous complaints to the city council about obnoxious odors and the facility being a public nuisance.

Sources

Arrington, Leonard J. David Eccles, Pioneer Western Industrialist. Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 1975

The Carnation Company, Annual reports

Collett, Carol Ivins. Kaysville - Our Town, A History. Kaysville, Utah: Kaysville City, 1976

Comfort, Harold W. Gail Borden and His Heritage Since 1857. Public Addresses and Speeches of The Newcomen Society of North America, 1953 (Volume 13, No. 5)

Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. East of Antelope Island. Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1948; Fourth Edition, 1971. Cited as "EAI".

Dixon, Madoline Cloward. Peteetneet Town, A History of Payson, Utah. Payson, Utah: Payson City, 1974 (Second Printing, August 1978)

Eames, Alfred W., Jr. and Richard G. Landis. The Business of Feeding People, The Story of Del Monte Corporation. Public Addresses and Speeches of The Newcomen Society of North America, 1974 (Volume 39, No.8)

Gamble, Theodore R. 75 Years of Pet Milk Company (1885─1960), The Company That Founded an Industry. Public Addresses and Speeches of The Newcomen Society of North America, 1960 (Volume 21, No. 30)

Gregory, Ruth West. Those Good Peas, The Morgan Canning Company in Smithfield, Utah. Utah Historical Quarterly, Spring 1968 (Volume 36, No.2)

Kaysville─Layton Historical Society. Layton, Utah, Historic Viewpoints. Kaysville, Utah: Kaysville─Layton Historical Society, 1985

Marshall, James. Elbridge A. Stuart, Founder of Carnation Company. Los Angeles, California: The Carnation Company, 1949

Murray City Corporation. The History of Murray City, Utah, Murray City Corporation, 1976

Orem Bicentennial Committee. It Happened in Orem, A Bicentennial History of Orem, Utah. Orem, Utah: Orem City, 1978

Russell, Emma. Footprints of Roy, 1873─1979, 1979

Simpson, Edith Hardy. Personal interview by Russell Simpson (grandson), 1978. Edith died in 1984 and was Nephi Edwin Hardy's daughter and Nephi Preston Hardy's granddaughter. She was also the author's wife's grandmother.

State of Utah, Department of Public Instruction. Utah - Resources and Activities, Supplement to the Utah State Courses of Study for Elementary and Secondary Schools, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1933

Stolk, William C. American Can Company, Revolution in Containers. Public Addresses and Speeches of The Newcomen Society of North America, 1960 (Volume 21, No. 26)

Terry, William W. Collection. Weber State University, Special Collections, MS 116, Special Collections. Ogden, Utah: Weber State University

Terry, William W. Canning. (undated manuscript; many parts later duplicated as part of Mr. Terry's "The Canning Industry in Weber County") [cited as "Terry-1"]

Terry, William W. Canning Factories in Weber County. (brochure, no publication information) [cited as "Terry-2"]

Terry, William W. The Canning Industry in Weber County. William W. Terry, 1983 [cited as "Terry-3"]

Terry, William W. Weber County Is Worth Knowing. (no publishing information)

Walton, Andrew J. "The Utah Canning Industry". MS thesis, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, June 1983

Weaver, John D. Carnation, The First 75 Years, 1899─1974. Los Angeles, California: The Carnation Company, 1974

Future research

Look into American Can's can factory in Ogden, and when it opened and closed. Find out the level of railroad business that American Can furnished to UP, D&RGW, and UIC.

Look into the size of the pack for the LDS Church's Welfare canneries.

Newspaper articles done throughout the canning industry's history by the Ogden Standard Examiner. Ogden seems to be the center for the canning industry in Utah, with Del Monte operations centered in West Ogden and the American Can factory being the major supplier to the industry.

Canning Age
- January 1922 to June 1943
- absorbed by Food Packer in July 1943

Canner/Packer (Louisville, Kentucky)
- Canner and Dried Fruit Packer (1895 to 1915)
- Canner (1916 to October 1955, absorbed Food Packer in October 1943)
- Canner and Freezer (November 1955 to September 1958)
- Canner/Packer (October 1958 to ?)

Food Packer (Pontiac, Illinois), Volumes 1 to 39
- Canning Age (January 1922 to June 1943)
- Food Packer and Canning Age (July to October 1943, absorbed by Canner/Packer in October 1943)
- Utah State University, Logan, has Volume 22 (1932) to present

More Information

Syracuse Canneries -- Information about the railroads and canneries in Syracuse, Utah.

Utah Canneries and Canning Companies -- An alphabetical listing of Utah's canneries and canning companies, with individual histories.

Utah Canning Men -- Information about the men who organized and operated canning companies in Utah.

Utah's Meat Packing Industry -- A narrative of the meat packing and livestock sales industry that was centered in Ogden, Utah.

Del Monte History

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