Edith Daley Bisceglia Brothers article

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Big European Contracts Held By Bisceglias

by Edith Daley

July 21, 1919 San Jose Evening News

Bisceglia Bros. includes two sisters. Each member of the family firm is an equal partner in the successful San Jose cannery that started in a very small sway in Morgan Hill over 15 years ago. From the modest beginning has developed a big business and fine property holdings. The partners are Joseph A., Pasquale, Bruno and Alfonso Bisceglia, and the sisters, who are very recent brides, Filipina De Rosa and Mary Cribari. Bruno Biseglia superintends the local fruit cannery, which did about $2,000,000 business last year and expects to exceed that amount during the present season. Alfonso Bisceglia left for Europe last week for the purpose of extending the firm’s interests abroad. More than half the entire output is now shipped overseas in fulfillment of fruit contracts with England, Belgium, and France, the business being handled by the New York office of J. Pierpont Morgan and company. Nearly all shipments in the United States go east of the Mississippi River. Numbered among the Bisceglia Bros. property holdings are a large vineyard in Paradise Valley, 300 acres of orchard at San Felipe near Hollister and the orchard at Piedmont and Sierra roads in Berryessa.

The company’s interests are three-fold: the canning industry, large wood yards ,and extensive wine interests. The wine has previously brought them as much money as the canned fruit. Last year in just one week and six days $80,000 worth of wine, at wholesale price, was placed in their New York warehouse. This year’s plan includes the canning and drying of grapes so that the product will not be an entire loss. The Bisceglia wood yard is a San Jose landmark. The old yard at Fifth and Santa Clara streets has been greatly improved recently, and property running through from Sixth to Seventh Street, near Santa Clara, has been purchased. Here are stored hundreds of carloads of “mill blocks” in which the firm specializes.

The cannery is a busy place-everyone of the hundreds of employes working at top speed. Five tremendous boilers roar with the energy that keeps the wheels turning and the conveyors hurrying tons of apricots from cars to cans. Several cars of fruit are on the track every day and will be from now until the end of the season. The warehouse is piled with $20,000 worth of “shook”. Box making machines are rapidly depleting this supply, but a greater quantity is waiting to be brought in when needed. A woman likes the box-making machinery. It is a fine solution of the troublesome nail-driving problem! Hundreds of employes! Back of that there is a story. Early in the spring, before the blossoms lost their petals, the Bisceglia Bros. sent out a circular letter calling attention to their cottages and “free rent”. As soon as the cherries began to redden the help commenced to arrive. By twos and sevens and tens they are still coming! Cottages were rapidly filled and the cannery people have rented everything in sight. They’ve rented big and little houses, new and old ones-and even barns! Almost every evening, long after sunset, the caravans arrive. The workers come with all their worldly goods and effects and their ten children, including two or three crying babies, all drawn by a dilapidated old horse. They are dusty and tired and “all in” from the day’s journey-and they want a “free cottage!” Shelter has to be provided and it is a big problem.

Cannery workers have come from Oregon and Nevada, from Watsonville and Calaveras and dozens from Napa and Sonoma counties. They pour in from everywhere-and find work. The peach pack will call for more women workers and somehow they will all be provided for. The kindergarten cares for the kiddies. Two women are in charge and yesterday 62 babies were “registered.” They laughed and cried, cooed and chattered in several languages-and just one-universal “baby talk.” That nursery at Biceglia’s holds about as much concentrated future Americanism as any place on the fruit country map! The invitation Bisceglia’s sent out was “come and bring your family.” They did. There were no “regrets.” They came and brought their family and all the neighbors and their families. If it were not for these Italians and others who answer the yearly call of the fruit one wonders just where our boasted industry would be.

The very intelligent young lady secretary who wouldn’t tell her name-(not for the paper) says that the workers like the cherry pack because the cherries are clean and pretty to handle, but there is more money to be made in apricots and peaches. The women are averaging about $25 per week. They make all the way from $15 to $45 according to their experience and speed. One girl who comes every season is making not less than $36 a week, and she frequently runs up to $45. Many of the people return year after year, working very hard through the fruit season in order to be able to live through the winter on their summer’s earnings. They are able to do this and live well, too.

The company takes good care of its employes and runs a big comfortable bus for their convenience. Not everyone knows that the Bisceglias have two homes-company homes, one here and the other in Monthclair, New Jersey, just across the river from New York. After the season’s canning, after the wine is shipped and the wood yard is full against the winter’s business, the firm goes east and remains until the surplus of canned fruit and the concentrated sweetness of the grape is sold.

Bisceglia Bros. have diversified interests-and interesting ones.