American Can Company

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Can Maker
Main Location

New Jersey


Great Western Can Company and many others.

The American Can Company was the dominant can-making company in the United States, created around 1900 through the purchase of many small regional can-makers.[1]. In San Jose, American Can bought out the local Great Western Can Company in 1901.

American Can's dominant position in the market and the time-critical need for cans meant that factories often ran all year to stockpile cans for seasons of particular crops. If the company did not produce, canners could be in serious trouble[2].

The company merged with other producers and was known as National Can Company by 1991.

American Can Company In San Jose

American Can Company's plant in San Jose was on Martha Street at Fifth Street. The plant opened in 1912. American Can had intended to set up shop in Oakland, but San Jose's Chamber of Commerce strongly argued for the can factory in San Jose near the canneries[3].

A description of the plant in 1922 read[4].

"The American Can Company, a branch of the great New Jersey Company, has a plant on Martha Street, which takes in an entire block. This company is now employing 450 men and women. Foreseeing difficulty in obtaining the amount of help they needed should other industries locate in San Jose and give regular employment throughout the year, and also anticipating the continued growth of the canning industry in this section of the state, the company early in 1919 completed plans for enlarging its business."

"These plans have been developed so far that warehouse facilities to store 32,000,000 cans and track facilities for loading and unloading 50 freight cars at a time are the result. This storage capacity is now being added to the present plant in a warehouse 200 by 600 feet being built adjoining their original plant of 225 by 500 feet, making a plant covering an entire city black bounded by Martha, Keyes and Fifth Streets, with the Southern Pacific railroad on the Fourth Street side."

"In making these additions to its plant the company intends to start year-round work for its employees. None but adult help will be employed and except in case of emergency all night and overtime work will be done away with. With the greatly increased storage capacity there will be enough room to care for the needs of the company's customers with the constant shipment of those concerns operating throughout the greater portion of the year. The plant was located in San Jose in 1912. In 1919 the company's output was over 10,000,000 cans. John S. Reed is the superintendent."

A warehouse was added in 1951[5].


Location Years Address Details
Maywood, IL -~1970
Monterey 1937-1954 Ocean View at Dewey
Oakland 1969[6] 3801 East 6th Street Near Fruitvale Del Monte Cannery?
San Francisco 1901 Battery and Lombard Became Merchants Ice and Cold Storage[7].
San Francisco 1916- Kentucky and 20th Closed in the late 1980's[8].
San Francisco 1944[9]. 499 Alabama St. Machine shop.
San Francisco 1944[10] 3rd and 22nd St. "Pacific Factory".
San Francisco 1944[11]. 19th and Treat St. "United Factory"
San Jose 1919- 198 Martha at 5th
San Jose 1984 1598 South First Street Sun Garden Packing buildings.
Seattle 1934 Railroad Avenue at piers.
Stockton 1963 McKinley Avenue Fire in 1963.


American Can Co., San Francisco University of Washington Libraries

American Can Company, San Jose University of Washington

Seattle factory


  1. American Can Company: 1912 Moody's Manual of Investments. List of plants and original merged companies.
  2. San Francisco Call August 2, 1901. Mentions the can company's shutdown is causing problems.
  3. Canneries Look Forward to World-Wide Business by Elmer Chase, March 7, 1919 San Jose Evening News.
  4. American Can Company: In History of Santa Clara. Historical Record Co., 1922
  5. Lodi News Lodi News
  6. 1969 Polk's City Directory.
  7. William Kaufman and Michelle Kaufman, "The State Belt: San Francisco's Waterfront Railroad". p.85.
  8. Inner-City Despair Yields a Legacy of Crime, Crack. Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1990. "Not all addicts are poor. McKinley Parker, 40, had three years of college education and a $14.50-an-hour job as a lithographer at the American Can Co. in the San Francisco area a few years ago when he heard that the plant would close in a year."
  9. Executive Order 9466 authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to take possession and operate the plants and facilities of certain machine shop companies." 1944.
  10. Executive Order 9466 authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to take possession and operate the plants and facilities of certain machine shop companies." 1944.
  11. Executive Order 9466 authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to take possession and operate the plants and facilities of certain machine shop companies." 1944.