Contadina Canning

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Main Location

San Jose

1914 - 1920, 1931-?

Contadina, Pacific Star



Aiello Brothers & Co, Contadina Canning, or Hershel California Fruit Products was a San Jose cannery in operation from 1914 to through the 1950's. The company as the first tomato cannery in the Unites States in 1914 in Highland, New York by Carlo Aiello. Because of World War I restrictions, canned tomatoes from Italy had disappeared, and Aiello sought to fill that void. The company moved to California and San Jose in 1917 for the better growing season, but maintained their farm in New York[1].

Aiello Brothers operated a large cannery on Moorpark Ave. in San Jose[2]. A Western Canner and Packer article mentioned that the cannery was operating to capacity on tomato paste, the entire pack being contracted for by Antonio Morici, Chicago importer.[3].

Aiello Brothers sold the company to the Italo Canning Company in 1918[4][5]. Morici family history noted that Aiello Brothers did not have sufficient capital to keep going, so they sold the cannery and brand to the Morici family[6]

The new owner, Antonio Morici, was a wholesaler selling italian products in Chicago and the midwest; from 1918 to 1920, his wholesale company was the sole distributor for the products from his cannery. The cannery now operated under "The Contadina Canning Company", with business locations at 652-656 Washington Blvd., Chicago, and San Jose. Agostino Morici was listed as president, and Antonio Morici was general manager. Antonio also moved to San Jose for 1917 and 1918 to operate the cannery. Francesco Aiello was the field man. Antonio Gagni was superintendent.

The cannery reorganized as Hershel California Food Products by the 1920 season[7]. The new Hershel California Fruit Products was operated by Aron Hershel, but continued to be majority owned by the Morici family[8]. Hershel had already worked with the Morici family, purchasing wine in California that could be distributed through the midwest by the Antonio Morici wholesale grocery company. Hershel's last name was supposedly used to distance the company from the Morici holdings. The new company also operated independently, selling to wholesalers other than Morici.

Contadina Canning was declared as "since dissolved" in 1922 during a lawsuit over cardoons. Carlo Cervelli and Rafaelo Cervelli grew the vegetables for Contadina, but claimed that the company was unwilling to buy them once grown. Morici, Gangi, and Frank Aiello responded that although Contadina Canning had been dissolved, Hershel California Food Products was operating the cannery then and was willing to enter into contract, but the Cervellis refused[9].

Hershel California Fruit Products took ownership of the "Pacific Star" brand formerly canned by the Salsina Canning and Packing Company in 1923[10].

Contadina disappeared from city directories in that year. The Aiellos continued to serve as officers for Hershel California and worked at the cannery through 1927, but no longer appeared in association by 1930. Antonio Gangi, who had received shares for being superintendent for the cannery,, sold his stake in Contadina Canning Co. in 1936[11]. Morici family history states that Francesco Aiello, Antonio Gagni, and Aron Hershel sold their minority interests in Hershel California Fruit Products in 1934 to the Moricis. Aron Hershel moved to California's Central Valley and opened the Aron Canning Company. A new cannery was started in Gilroy in 1931 under the Aiello name, but it's unclear if it was the same family that had started the cannery on Moorpark Ave.[12]. Anthony Charles Morici, the eldest son of Antonio Morici, took over leadership of the cannery.

In 1941, Anthony Charles Morici also started the Matmor Canning Company with Fred Matalone in Woodland, California[13] Matmor Canning Company was merged into Hershel California Fruit Products in 1953.

The Morici family widened the Contadina brand in the years after world war II, broadening their list of brokers and wholesalers through more of the United States and adding new products such as beans, peppers, soups and snacks. In 1949, the Morici family also purchased the Madonna Foods cannery in Riverbank, California[14]. The sale of old railroad land next to the cannery (and relinquishment of government restrictions from transcontinental railroad land grant) mentioned sale of land to Hershel[15].

Contadina was sold to the Carnation Company in 1963[16][17]. Hints suggest the cannery went to Glorietta Foods and Tri-Valley Canners in later years. The San Jose cannery through at least the 1970's. By the 1990's, the site held office buildings. In the 2010's, the office buildings were demolished for apartment buildings.


Location Years Address Details
Gilroy 1931 Being built
Highland, New York 1917
New York City[18] None 12 First Street
Riverbank, CA 1949, 1961[19] Stanislaus Street Formerly Madonna Foods . Eventually sold to Sun Garden-Gagni,[20].
San Jose, CA 1917 Moorpark and Race Street
Woodland, CA 1941- Matmor Canning Company


  1. Paolo's restaurant history
  2. October 1917 Western Canner and Packer
  3. Unknown issue, Western Canner and Packer
  4. Chicago Co. Takes Over SJ Cannery: April 4, 1918 San Jose Evening News. "The Italo Canning company yesterday made deal taking over the Aiello Canning company's plant located at Moorpark and Race streets. The new owners are large manufacturers of tomato products, and they indend to increase their output materially next fall. The Italo company is a Chicago concern."
  5. July 1918 Western Canner and Packer, July 1918. "incorporators Samuel C. Wood, A.D. Suess of 20 North La Salle Street, Chicago, and I. B. Phillips of Dover, Delaware." "Capital stock is $75,000
  6. John Callan and Tony Morici, "Antonio Morici Family and Contadina History", family history notes.
  7. Advertisement, August 1, 1920 San Jose Mercury News. "Phone San Jose 699, and arrange for free transportation."
  8. John Callan and Tony Morici, "Antonio Morici Family and Contadina History", family history notes.
  9. Odd Vegetable is Cause of Court Litigation: April 19, 1922 San Jose Evening News.
  10. Advertisement: April 1923 Western Canner and Packer. Advertisement claims that Contadina is canning as Pacific Star "formerly canned by Salsina".
  11. Obituary: John Gangi, 82, scion of cannery family. May 2003 San Jose Mercury News. "Mr. Gangi was the son of Antonio Gangi, a native of Sicily who came to San Jose from Brooklyn, NY in 1916. The elder Gangi was one of the original tomato paste packers and a co-founder of Contadina Canning Co., once located on Moorpark Avenue in San Jose. The Gangi family sold its interest in Contadina in 1936."
  12. January 26, 1931 San Jose Evening News
  13. John Callan and Tony Morici, "Antonio Morici Family and Contadina History", family history notes.
  14. John Callan and Tony Morici, "Antonio Morici Family and Contadina History", family history notes.
  15. HR 1658.
  16. List of manufacturing businesses in Santa Clara County, Vocational Education memo, 1972.
  17. Contadina. Wikipedia.
  18. Canner's Directory
  19. Hershel California Fruit Products: In Plants Under Continuous USDA Inspection, 1961.
  20. November 9, 2009 Modesto Bee