M. J. Fontana and Company

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Main Location

San Francisco

1880 - 1899

M. J. Fontana and Company was an early San Francisco canner, founded by Marco Fontana, an Italian immigrant from Genoa by way of New York City. Fontana was initially a fruit broker and shipper operating as G Ginoccchio, but started his own cannery in 1880. That cannery and a subsequent attempt both failed, but in 1891, L.S. Goldstein and William Fries provided capital for a third cannery operating under the name of "M. J. Fontana and Company"[1]. Fontana merged his cannery into the California Fruit Canners Association in 1899, and Fontana became general superintendent. When the CFCA was merged into the California Packing Corporation, Fontana became a director and chairman. Fontana was also a director of the Italian-American Bank, California Wine Association, and president of Italian Swiss Colony. Fontana died on October 19, 1922.

[Marco] Fontana, the son of a marble cutter, was born in Cerisola, near Genoa, in 1849. In 1860, his family migrated to New York; in 1867 he left New York alone, and tried his luck in the mines of California. Quickly disillusioned, he moved to San Francisco where he worked as a clerk for A. Galli and Company, a fruit commission house. In the early 1870's he bought the G. Ginocchio firm, a commission house, and a few months later he tried fruit growing with another Italian, but both ventures failed. Fontana's early career evolved within the boundaries of the Genoese group.
But he was more daring than most his fellow commissioners. Fontana realized that the local market was limited, and that the largest markets were the cities of the East. Shipping fresh produce was expensive, however; and besides, it was necessary to provide Eastern cities even during the winter months. Canning was the solution. An apparently insurmountable obstacle to competing in the national market was the need for large capital, which was not available within Italian regional groups. Fontana, with his own limited resources and with help from the Compagnia Garibaldina[2] moved into canning twice, and failed both times. Finally, in 1891, two non-Italians, L. S. Goldstein, a financier with strong banking connections, and William Fries, an entrepreneur, provided the capital for the establishment of M. J, Fontana and Company. - Dino Cinel, From Italy to San Francisco: The Immigrant Experience, Stanford University Press, 1982

Del Monte's San Francisco Plant #1 may have originally been a Fontana plant, or Del Monte Plant #1 was built on the site of Fontana's cannery[3].


Location Years Address Details
San Francisco 1880-1899? San Francisco 1887 28-30 Sacramento[4].


  1. Dino Cinel, From Italy to San Francisco: The Immigrant Experience. Stanford University Press, 1982
  2. The Compagnia Garibaldina was an immigrant's mutual aid society, with a large hall on the 400 block of Broadway. Several of these societies. including Compagnia Garibaldina, affected Italian army uniforms, and and had weekly military drills: "The members of Compagnia Garibaldina would parade down Broadway in their redshirts, reminiscent of Garibaldi soldiers."
  3. rodhandeland.com
  4. M. J. Fontana, Columbus Fruit Packing. In 1887 San Francisco Business Directory.Ulhorn and McKenny Publishers, San Francisco, 1887.