Rosenberg Brothers

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Summary
Business

Dried Fruit Packer
Main Location

San Francisco, CA
Active

1893-1947
Predecessors

H.E. Losse and Company
Successors

Consolidated Grocers, Mayfair Packing, Bonner Packing
Rosenberg Brothers, Santa Clara, 1926.[1]

Rosenberg Brothers was a major San Francisco-based dried fruit packer. The company was started in 1893 by Max Rosenberg, Abraham Rosenberg, and Adolph Rosenberg to pack and ship California fruit to the east. The brothers were Californians, born to German immigrant parents who had arrived in the 1850's[2]. The "Sunsweet Story" refers to them as "the most successful of the speculative packers"[3], commenting on their business model of buying fruit and hoping it would sell for more when actually sold.

The company had packing houses in the Santa Clara Valley, Oregon, the Sacramento Valley, and San Joaquin Valley, and bought and sold several kinds of dried fruits. A 1911 ad in California Fruit News shows they packed dried fruit and raisins. Rosenberg also pioneered the idea of mail-order fruit gift giving[4]. Rosenberg Brothers also entered the bean market in 1917[5].

In 1930, the company was the largest shipper of dried fruit in the world. With Oakland's encouragement, the company placed their primary shipping point on the docks at Oakland, and promised to ship 50,000 tons of fruit a year from the new warehouses[6].

The last of the original brothers died in 1931; Arthur C. Oppenheimer ran the company for many years[7] but died in 1950.[8]. The company survived independently until December 1947 when it was bought by a Consolidated Grocers Corp. of Chicago[9]. Rosenberg stayed as a separate company but a subsidiary of Consolidated Grocers, while United States Products, a San Jose canner, became part of the canning arm and lost its independent name[10]. Oppenheimer's son-in-law, Clarence C. Kane, was president of sales from 1950 through 1954 when he resigned in a management shake-up[11]. (Kane later ran San Francisco Sourdough, makers of Parisian sourdough bread[12].)

Rosenberg Brothers finally went out of business in 1957. Mayfair Packing bought the dried fruit and walnut operations, Bonner Packing bought the raisin business, and Trico bought Rosenberg's almond business.

Rosenberg Brothers was a particularly strong competitor:[13]

"Oppenheimer was generally regarded as sort of a genius among the proprietary packers. Unquestionably, he was the most successful of the speculative packers, and he was similarly successful in the other commodity fields in which the Rosenberg firm specialized: tree nuts, rice, beans, and honey. In the case of dried fruits, his practice was to circulate propaganda in the orchard districts, mainly through his buyer-fieldmen, to convince growers that economic conditions at the time would justify only a low field price. He frequently succeeded in depressing the field market, when he would buy all of the fruit his firm required. He would then get the packers together to elicit their support of some kind of a scheme he had devised to strengthen the market for packed goods. He succeeded remarkably, usually remaining personally in the background of these activities, but often persuading the other packers to fall into line and to address grower meetings and otherwise to convince growers that they were doing all they could for the growers. It was common knowledge in the dried fruit industry that at one period, Rosenberg Bros. and Company accumulated supplies from three successive crops before a favorable wholesale market developed that enabled the firm to make its speculation pay off handsomely. The object of all this, of course, was to buy low and sell high."

Rudolph Peterson, in a Bancroft Library oral history[14], recounted a story where Rosenberg Brothers came to Bank of America for a line of credit to support buying grapes during the season. Ralph Heaton, the Bank of America employee, asked them about potential prices and refused to provide the line of credit when the intended prices would be less than the cost of production. After negotiation, Rosenberg Brothers agreed to raise their intended raisin prices to support the farmers while ensuring a profit for themselves.

Rosenberg Brothers in San Jose

Rosenberg Brothers had a long-time presence in the San Jose and Santa Clara area, moving between packing houses many times.

An early location was on Ryland Street, at the west end of the street in a former C. M. Webber warehouse. Rosenberg's building had significant machinery and even had overhead shafting to power some equipment[15]. A fire on morning of November 10, 1906 burned that plant to the ground[16]. George Hyde was the manager. The night watchman was feared burned, but he turned out to be safe as he'd been at home sick for several nights[17] The fire burned several thousand tons of prunes - 50 freight cars worth. 11 full cars burned, and two warehouses; the fire was encouraged by 5000 gallons of crude oil[18]. The building itself supposedly belonged to Mrs. J. C. Webber of Chicago.

The Ryland Street fire chased Rosenberg Brothers away, both north of downtown to Stockton Ave.[19] and to the west side of San Jose. Their new plant was in the former Santa Clara Valley Fruit Exchange on the northwest corner of Auzerais and Sunol St., with Orrin Harlan as manager in 1908. There was a lumberyard was across Sunol Street, and Standard Oil across the railroad tracks[20].

Another fire on August 7, 1915 destroyed the Sunol Street plant[21]. The manager at the time was H. M. Barngrover. Rosenberg Brothers had been located in the Santa Clara Valley Fruit Exchange warehouse, a large brick building with multiple firewalls. Rosenberg was leasing; lost "many dried apricots and some prunes". The loss to the firm at $300,000. The fire started in pile of apricot pits near the tracks. 5000 gallons of fuel oil still burning in the tank at noon the next day. Fire was blamed on IWW, supposedly threats had been made[22]. Later news reports blamed an International Workers of the World supporter, according to October 2, 1915 Sausalito News.

After the Sunol St. fire, Rosenberg Brothers took over the former California Cured Fruit Association warehouse] next to the Santa Clara depot in 1916[23].

The company bought H.E. Losse and Company in 1917.

Details of a 1921 lawsuit over farmer who did not deliver contracted prunes[24].

Rosenberg Brothers in Hayward

Rosenberg Brothers may also have had an outpost in Hayward, California. A biography of Manuel Oliveira[25] notes that Mr. Oliveira bought and dried fruit for both Rosenberg Brothers and F. E. Booth of Centerville.

Locations

Location Years Address Details
Dinuba 1934 140 North N St (now Urapan Way)[26]
Edenvale 1922 "One mile away from Richmond Chase plant at Edenvale station"[27] Receiving station
Emeryville 1922- 1500 Park Ave. between Hubbard and Hillock Built in 1922-1926.[28]. Became Emeryville Warehouse, and one of the early loft conversions in the Emeryville area.
Fresno 1940 Mono St. at G St.[29] Multiple buildings.
Fresno 1922 Broadway Street at Cherry Ave. "New plant". Largest raisin packing operation in world in 1920's[30].
Medford Medford: Spur historically named after Rosenberg Brothers on topoquest.com
Oakland 1937 Foot of West 14th St.[31]. Apparently built in the early 1930's in order to export 50,000 tons of fruit[32].
San Francisco 1906 211-213 California Street Burned in 1906 earthquake[33]
San Francisco 1912 153 California Street
San Francisco 1905 - 1950's 275 Brannan St. Warehouse.[34][35].
San Francisco 1921 Ramkin St. Rice mill[36].
San Jose 1906 Ryland Street near San Pedro St. Burned Nov. 10, 1906.
San Jose 1907 West San Carlos St.[37] Former Luehning packing house[38].
San Jose 1907-1915 Sunol Street at Auzerais St. Northwest corner. Burned August 1915[39].
Santa Clara 1917, 1927 Railroad Avenue West of railroad depot. Also cannery[40].
Talent, Oregon
Winters, CA 1951 Main St.[41]
Yuba City 1899-[42]

Photos

Rosenberg Brothers packing house, Yuba City. From U.C. Libraries.

Rosenberg Brothers packing house near Medford, Oregon.

References

  1. Pacific Service Magazine, October 1926.
  2. History of the Rosenberg Foundation
  3. Robert Couchman, The Sunsweet Story, 1967, Sunsweet Growers
  4. Harry and David: Bear Creek Orchards: Oregon Encyclopedia. "When fruit prices plummeted during the Great Depression, the Rosenberg brothers promoted their Royal Riviera pears in San Francisco and elsewhere by developing the idea of mail-order gift-giving."
  5. Big New Factor in the Bean Business: May 24, 1917 California Fruit News
  6. Mel Scott, The San Francisco Bay Area: A Metropolis in Perspective. University of California Press, 1959.
  7. Changes in Rosenberg Brothers: January 12, 1948 New York Times. "Arthur C. Oppenheimer, who will continue as general manager, has been elected chairman of the board... Nathan Cummings, chairman of the board of Consolidated Grocers Corporation has been made president, Arthur C. Oppenheimer 2nd has been made executive vice president."
  8. The Sunsweet Story
  9. Sunsweet Story describes it as "major postwar change in independent packer ownership"
  10. New York Times, May 25, 1951
  11. Hillsborough Man Heads Board: December 3, 1954 San Mateo Times.
  12. Clarence C. Kane: June 3, 2001 San Francisco Chronicle.
  13. Robert Couchman, The Sunsweet Story, 1967, Sunsweet Growers.
  14. Rudolph Peterson, A career in international banking with the Bank of America, 1936-1970, and the United Nations Development Program, 1971-1975, Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office, 1992.
  15. Hair Caught In Moving Shafting: September 19, 1905 San Jose Evening News
  16. San Jose Visited by the Most Damaging Fire In Its History: November 11, 1906 Sunday Mercury and Herald. The underground tank stored a "tank car of oil".
  17. San Jose Evening News, November 10, 1906
  18. November 11, 1915 Los Angeles Herald.
  19. March 5, 1907: San Jose Evening News: Rosenberg Brothers have bought a lot on Stockton Ave
  20. $350,000 Fire Destroys Packing House: August 7, 1915 San Jose Evening News report on fire in 1915
  21. $350,000 Fire Destroys Packing House: August 7, 1915 San Jose Evening News.
  22. Rosenberg Co. Plant Is Burned: August 8, 1915 San Jose Mercury News
  23. Santa Clara city history.
  24. Fruit Contract Decision Trial: March 26, 1921 Pacific Rural Press.
  25. Manuel Oliveira: History of Alameda County, 1928, S. J. Clarke Publishing
  26. 1934 Visalia City Directory
  27. Other Growing Towns in Santa Clara County: History of Santa Clara County history, 1922
  28. Oakland Sanborn map. 1912-1951, v.3, p. 325.
  29. Fresno Chinatown map. From Japantown Atlas.
  30. John Reynolds and Michael J. Semas, Fresno, Arcadia Publishing, 20xx.
  31. Fruit Buyers, Packers, and Shippers: 1937 Oakland City Directory.
  32. Mel Scott, The San Francisco Bay Area: A Metropolis in Perspective. University of California Press, 1959.
  33. Lawsuit over building mentioned in January 1907 San Francisco Call .
  34. History of Rincon Hill
  35. Paul A. Lord Jr., South End Historical District Case Report, February 5, 1990, San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board
  36. Rice mill damaged: October 21, 1921 California Grocer's Advocate.
  37. 1907-8 San Jose city directory lists location as "West San Carlos St. 1 west of Los Gatos Creek."
  38. San Jose Visited by the Most Damaging Fire In Its History: November 11, 1906 Sunday Mercury and Herald. "The first of this year, they leased the Luehning warehouse at San Carlos and the narrow gauge, and today arrangements were made to transfer all business of the destroyed plant to that place."
  39. Rosenberg Co. Plant Is Burned: August 8, 1915 San Jose Mercury News
  40. California Canneries: November 1916 Western Canner and Packer.
  41. Southern Pacific engineering drawing W-1811, Winters Proposed Section Quarters, July 2, 1951. From wx4.org / Dome of Foam.
  42. New Fruit Packing House: April 28, 1899 San Francisco Call.