J. K. Armsby

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Summary
Business

Wholesale Commision Merchant
Main Location

Chicago, IL
Active

1865 - 1916
Brands

Porter's Best (dried), Tropic Bird, Orange Blossom (dried), Blue Ribbon (dried), Red Bluff, Bordeaux[1], Today's canned fruit[2].
J.K. Armsby, San Jose. From "The Sunsweet Story".
J.K. Armsby, San Jose. From "The Sunsweet Story".

J. K. Armsby was a wholesale grocer formed in Chicago in 1865 that eventually expanded to a dried fruit packer, canner, and major wholesale grocer on the west coast, and was one of the initial companies that formed the California Packing Corporation. As a wholesaler, Armsby both was a broker for producers (representing the California Fruit Canners Association) and a producer of dried and canned fruit for sale. After the company lost rights to distribute for the CFCA, they represented (and invested in) Central California Canneries, and ran their own dried fruit packing houses. The company apparently may have moved headquarters to San Francisco at some point. In 1912, the company was headquartered in New York, and had interests in Central California Canneries and the Pacific Seeded Raisin Company[3].

The company slogan was Armsby's From the Land of Sunshine Fruits", and they produced a wide range of products. A 1910 ad[4] lists some of their stock as dried fruits, canned goods, salmon, nuts, beans, and Hawaiian pineapple. They list plants in Fresno, San Jose, Armona, Visalia, Sanger, Suisun, Marysville, Los Angeles, Gilroy, Yuba City, Stockton, Ventura, and Vancouver WA. The same locations were shown in a 1913 ad.

Armsby was the exclusive agent for the California Fruit Canners Association and Alaska Packers Association for sales for several years. When the CFCA broke off relations, they attempted a buyout of Central California Canneries which failed, but they managed to keep a good business relationship to continue acting as agent for the company. The general manager of the company in San Fracisco was Allen Freeman, who owned Allenoak Manor on Ridge Road in Berkeley[5].

The company founders were J.K. "Jake" Armsby and George N. Armsby[6], with Jake the salesman and George the financier. J.K. Armsby was one of the vice presidents of the National Canned Foods and Dried Fruit Brokers Assocation at one point.

Armsby was one of the companies that merged into the California Packing Corporation in 1916. Their headquarters building at 101 California Street in San Francisco became the new company's headquarters.

J. K. Armsby In the Santa Clara Valley

Armsby's San Jose presence was first next to the train station on Ryland Street, but moved in 1900 to a location on Montgomery Street. The 1915 Sanborn map shows it at end of Montgomery next to Lenzen engine facility. The building is labelled as used for dried fruit packing, with fruit bins and boxes, and long siding. Castle Brothers is next door. A contemporary photo[7] shows a three story packing house in corrugated iron. The August 23, 1902 San Francisco Call noted an addition to the warehouse.

Edmund Nutting Richmond was the manager of Armsby's Santa Clara valley operations until April 1916; about the time that Armsby was swallowed up by the California Packing Corporation, Armsby decided to strike off on his own[8]. Management of the packing house went to his brother, C. R. Richmond, and F. E. Whipple.

Locations

Location Years Address Details
Armona 1899, 1910, 1913[9]
Fresno 1910, 1913
Gilroy 1910, 1913
Los Angeles 1910, 1913
Marysville 1910, 1913
San Jose 1896, 1898 Ryland at San Pedro From 1898 city directory
San Jose 1900, 1904, 1906, 1907 Montgomery at Cinnabar
San Jose 1910, 1918 419 North Montgomery Street Listed as Little Montgomery Street in directory.
Sanger 1910, 1913
Suisun 1890- 1910, 1913 Union Ave. at Broadway St.[10] Burned in 1906[11][12].
Vancouver, WA 1910, 1913
Ventura 1910, 1913
Visalia 1910, 1913
Yuba City 1910, 1913

References

  1. From Mida's Trade-Mark Register of Canned Goods
  2. Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent Office: U.S. Patent Office Labels registered August 8, 1916
  3. Armsby Co. of New York. In Moody's Manual of Railroad and Corporate Securities, volume 2, part 2.
  4. July 23, 1910 California Fruit News
  5. March 21, 2008 Berkeley Daily Planet. Article on Allenoke Manor gives additional history.
  6. William Braznell, California's Finest: The History of the Del Monte Corporation and the Del Mote Brand. 1982, Del Monte Corporation
  7. Robert Couchman, The Sunsweet Story, 1967, Sunsweet Growers, p. 31
  8. Popular San Jose Manager Leaves Armsby Company: April 22, 1916 California Fruit News.
  9. J.K. Armsby vs Blum, Supreme Court of California, 70 P. 699 (Cal 1902), decided November 6, 1902. Armsby sold 5 carloads of peaches to J. I. Blum of Vacaville. The buyer requested that the peaches be loaded to a warehouse owned by Downing in Armona; that warehouse burned down the night after the peaches were moved. The suit dealt with the question of when ownership switched.
  10. Southern Pacific Company, Station Map Suisun-Fairfield. 1925. Reprinted in "SP Trainline Fall 2015" (Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society magazine).
  11. Suisun is Swept by Serious Fire: July 25, 1906 Los Angeles Herald. "The lire started in a big packing house near the depot, presumably from tho explosion of a gas stove."
  12. J. K. Armsby Fruit Packing Plant. In Sabine Goerke-Shroude, Fairfield, Arcadia Publishing, 20xx. Photo shows a side view of the Armsby packing house, with the note that Armsby was one of the first packers or canners to locate along the railroad in Fairfield.