- 1905 -
The Canners League of California and the National Canners Association
 

     In 1885, some canneries, such as Isidor Jacobs of A. Lusk & Co. and P.D. Code of Code-Elfelt, Co, formed the California Canned Goods Association (CCGA).  The new organization performed tasks beneficial to all the canners, such as establishing product standards and lobbying, but by 1888, it was no longer operating.

Charles Bentley.jpg

     Although the CCGA lasted only two years, it raised awareness of the need of industry-wide cooperation.  In the 1890s, W.W. Roberts & Co. in Baltimore began labeling its products as California goods to take advantage of California’s favorable agricultural reputation.  Frustrated California canners and growers formed the California Fruit Canners in 1899, took W.W. Roberts & Co. to court, and won.  A U. S. Circuit Court restrained the Baltimore canner from falsely advertising.  The California Fruit Canners coalition did not exist much longer than the case.   

     In 1905, owners of the most successful canneries in the region formed the Canners’ League of California (CLC).  Canners had many hurdles to overcome, such as fruit gluts, cannery overproduction, and expensive railroad freight rates.   According to Howard Rowley, editor of the California Fruit News, the idea for the Canners’ League began with some informal meetings between leading canners such as Walter M. Field of Los Gatos, Charles Bentley of California Fruit Packers, and Mansfield Lovell of Hunt Brothers Packing Company.  The result was a simple constitution, organization name, and list of canners to invite to a convention.  The first formal meeting took place on January 12, 1905 in the Merchants Exchange Building.  Rowley remembers at least thirty firms in attendance that day; they elected Lozelle F. Graham President of J.H. Flickinger Company of San José the first president.Trade Association.png

     One of the CLC’s first projects was railroad-shipping rates.  California canners needed to get the best possible shipping rates to increase profits, but they were also dependent on the railroad and ships because they were so far away from many of their customers.  Even though the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, canners primarily used ships until after 1900 because railroad companies’ rates were too expensive.  The CLC helped resolve rate disputes between canners and railroads.    

HSJ.Loading a Giant Refrigerator Car.jpg     During World War I, the CLC increased its involvement in the industry by working as an intermediary between the government and canners.  After the war, the league continued to increase its responsibilities by addressing the public health of canning during the botulism scare of the early 1920s.  By the end of the 1920s, the CLC helped negotiate issues between growers and canners.  The CLC also resolved issues for and among canners and provided a key link between canners and the world outside the factory.

     Despite the CLC’s increasingly central role in the industry, it was not universally accepted.  Some canners simply could not afford the membership fees and others doubted that the CLC services merited those fees.

Sources

"Combine of the Canners." San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current File). 1889/07/18/, 1889.

 "Canners' Trust Is Incorporated." San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current File). 1899/07/01/, 1899, http://ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=1305470472&Fmt=7&clientId=86&RQT=309&VName=HNP.

 "Fruit Canners' Organization." Wall Street Journal (1889-1922). 1899/07/11/, 1899, http://ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=108841774&Fmt=7&clientId=86&RQT=309&VName=HNP.

 Braznell, William. California's Finest: The History of the Del Monte Corporation and the Del Monte Brand. San Francisco, Calif.: Del Monte Corp, 1982.

 Jacobs, Isidor. "The Rise and Progress of the Canning Industry in California." In A History of the Canning Industry by Its Most Prominent Men, edited by Arthur I. Judge, 30-39. Baltimore: The Canning Trade, 1914.