George A Fleming Company

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Fruit Dryer
Main Location

San Jose

Black Diamond, "raisin-cured prunes"

Fleming Fruit Company of Chicago

Frank Buxton Dryer

The George A. Fleming Company was an early fruit dryer, operating first in the San Jose area but later expanding into California's Central Valley.

George A. Fleming, the founder, began drying fruit in the Willow Glen ("Willows") neighborhood of San Jose in 1877. When he decided that California dried fruit could compete against foreign products, he started a company with his brother Charles. The new company was incorporated in Chicago, with George as president, Charles as vice-president and treasurer, Thomas Caldwaller of Chicago, secretary, and George T. McLaughlin of San Jose and R.D. Shaw as superintendents of the drying yards[1].

In 1888, the company had two drying yards, one at Campbell (later sold to Frank Buxton), and the other in the Willows. They also had a warehouse on Ryland Street in San Jose by 1893. In 1887, their drying plants employed 700 people and shipped 120 carloads of dried fruit[2]. Overall, in 1887, the company handled 1,800 tons of apricots and 2,500 tons of other fruit[3].

The brothers also opened up in other areas of California. They opened a branch in Marysfille in 1888[4].

In 1889, the brothers expanded into the Central Valley, buying up the production from the new orchards there[5]. The soon bought several hundred acres of land for orchards. The Flemings were active in the industry there; George A. Fleming was endorsed as "chief horticultural officer for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago" by Tulare farmers. (Considering the local vote, it seems more likely Fleming was organizing Tulare County's display at the Fair.) In 1892, Fleming and others bought the 660 acre Richard Chatten range near Visalia, with intentions to immediately plant 200 acres of fruit trees. This property adjoined the Jacobs fruit ranch already owned by the Fleming Fruit Company. The new company (formed with George and Charles Fleming, W. L. Woodrow, T. Wood, T.W. Hobson, T.S. Whipple, E.B. Lewis, and C.J. Fleming) was incorporated as the Mineral King Fruit Company.[6]

Fleming was active politically; he filed a statement against lowering tariffs on foreign dried fruit in 1888[7].

The brothers were also inventors, designing a fruit grader that used a set of rollers spaced at increasing distances[8]. With G. T. McLaughlin, they also designed a fruit pitting machine[9]. A family history suggests Charles was the inventor and George the businessman[10]Charles was managing Del Monte's drying plants in San Jose by 1920[11] Some of Charles's patents had been assigned to the California Packing Corporation by 1925.

George and Charles Fleming, the founders, built the house at 1023 Bird Avenue in Willow Glen. According to historical study of the house[12], George pioneered approaches for improving the quality of California fruit. They operated driers in the Willows and Campbell, with Thomas Cadwaller as secretary, R.D. Shaw as superintendant of the Willows dryer, and George T. McLaughlin as superintendent of the Campbell dryer. The company produced "raisin cured prunes" under Black Diamond label.


Location Years Address Details
Campbell 1887 - 1890 Central Ave. Sold to Frank Buxton Dryer in 1890.
Marysville 1888[13]
San Jose 1893 Ryland Street Ryland Street


  1. George A. Fleming Company: In H.S. Foote, Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1888.
  2. Robert Couchman, The Sunsweet Story, 1967, Sunsweet Growers, p. 31
  3. George A. Fleming Company: In H.S. Foote, Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1888.
  4. Horace C. Foote, "Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World, 1888. Page 182.
  5. Eugene E. Menefee, History of Tulare and King Counties, California.
  6. Mineral King Fruit Co. and A Large Orchard: January 9, 1892 Pacific Rural Press.
  7. Statement of S.R. Cushing, E. J. Delaney, and G.A. Fleming of San Jose, CA: Testimony on the Subcommittee on Tariffs, U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, 1888.
  8. Fruit Grader: U.S. Patent 475497, George and Charles Fleming, patented May 24, 1892.
  9. Fruit Pitting and Spreading Machine: U.S. Patent #424771, G. A. and C. P. Fleming and G. T. McLaughlin. Patented April 1, 1890.
  10. Barbara Samper, "A Gift to My Descendants". Page 153. Self-published, Danville CA, 2007.
  11. California Packing Corporation. 1920 San Jose City directory.
  12. Historical assessment for 1023 Bird Avenue
  13. Horace C. Foote, "Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World, 1888. Page 182.