J. M. Dawson Packing Company

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San Jose Fruit Company, Golden Gate Packing Company

The J. M. Dawson Packing Company was a second company formed by James M. Dawson, the father of canning in San Jose. Dawson's initial canning experiments in the early 1870's were done under the name of J. M. Dawson and Company, which became the San Jose Fruit Packing Company in 1874. Dawson stepped back from the business in 1878, but restarted his new business, again behind his house, in 1879[1]. Dawson was joined by his son in 1880, and stepped down from the business in 1883, dying in 1885[2].

The company did well, packing 140,000 cases of fruit in 1891 and moving to a new plant on Cinnabar at Montgomery Street in San Jose. An 1891 Sanborn map[3] shows Dawson having almost the whole block ,with J.Z. Anderson having a small packing plant at the railroad tracks on eastern corner.

By 1895, the company was out of business and sold. J.B. Dawson, the son, eventually went to the California Fruit Canners Association. The San Francisco Call for May 8, 1895 mentions the sale of the cannery at Cinnabar and Montgomery:

"SALE AT AUCTION KLIT CAMERY. The J. M. Dawson Packing Company of San Jose, Cal., will offer for sale at public auction at its packing-house, Cinnabar and Montgomery streets, on the 17th day of May, 1895, at the hour of 2 p.m., and will sell to the highest bidder for cash or bankable paper, all of its property, consisting of a large galvanized warehouse. 200x6;, office building, office fixtures; cannery: engine and boiler, other machinery, labels and goodwill, with the leasehold upon which the buildings stand. This is a fine opportunity to invest in a well established business. The fruits packed by this company are well known and have always commanded the highest prices in all the markets of the world, and the goodwill of this cannery is valuable. This property can be bought very cheap. Railroad track into factory. delinquent sale notices."

The location matches the site of a J. K. Armsby dried fruit packing house in 1896.


Location Years Address Details
San Jose 1870,1880 1700 The Alameda at Polhemus / Taylor[4]
San Jose 1892, 1893, 1895 Cinnabar and Montgomery

Northeast corner.


  1. Jacklyn Greenberg, "Industry in the Garden: A Social History of the Canning Industry and Cannery Workers in the Santa Clara Valley, 1870-1920." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1985. Greenberg declared that "the new corporation became too large to big and too complicated to control. Preferring a cannery that they could manage themselves, the Dawsons withdrew from that large corporation in 1878 to continue operations on their old small scale."
  2. J. M. Dawson. In "Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated". Edited by H. S. Foote. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888. The article documents the several businesses that Dawson conducted.
  3. San Jose 1891 Sanborn Map page 60
  4. Home Canning and the Birth of Del Monte. Two Feet Walking blog. Stephen highlights a plaque set into the sidewalk in front of the existing bank building marking the spot as the origins of canning in California in 1870. The plaque celebrated the 100th anniversary of the canning industry.