Opposition to the California Fruit Canners' Association

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The California Fruit Canners' Association (CFCA) was a corporation that loosely amalgamated eighteen separate canneries into a single organization with a single broker connection. Although the cooperation helped the joining canneries, the canneries that did not join in soon found that the new association significantly increased competitive pressure. Soon after the association's creation in June 1899, the unaffiliated canners encountered problems getting fruit, cans, and labels[1]. Seven canneries, in fact, proposed forming their own overarching corporation to fight the pressure. The companies proposing the venture in October included the Los Gatos Fruit Packing Company (250,000 cases/year), Code-Portwood Canning Company (150,000 cases/yhear), Pacific Fruit Packing Company (150,000 cases/year), Golden Gate Packing Company (100,000 cases per year), Hunt Brothers Packing Company (75,000 cases/year), Ainsley Cannery (50,000 cases/year), and California Canneries Company (350,000 cases/year). Frank S. Johnson of the Johnson-Locke Merchantile Company of San Francisco even travelled back east to get financing for the new corporation, but there's no evidence it was ever created.

In the summer of 1900, farmers in San Leandro accused the CFCA of forcing prices lower by refusing to put any fruit under contract only days before canning would begin[2]

News articles in 1901 still claimed that the cannery combine was still being worked on, and highlighted that "all the canneries in Santa Clara County, with the exception of the big institution near the narrow-gauge depot, are "outside." These comprise the |Ainsley Packing Company at Campbell, the Los Gatos Canneries at Los Gatos, the Golden Gate Packing Company on North Fourth Street, the Flickinger Company in the Berryessa district, and the Pyle Cannery north of the city. Their combined output is slightly greater than the trust institution... Los Gatos Cannery is credited with being already under bond to the new company... Golden Gate Packing Company has been asked to name a price at which it will sell." [3] The negotiations hinted at later mergers, for the Los Gatos Fruit Packing Company and Golden Gate Packing Company later were merged into Hunt Brothers Packing Company.

The merger apparently never happened, though the problems fighting the CFCA continued; news articles in 1902 highlighted that the American Can Company tended to be more favorable towards the CFCA than to the independent canneries. "California's Finest", the history of the Del Monte Corporation, claims that Hunt Brothers merged into the California Fruit Canners Association in 1899, but in reality Hunt Brothers appears to have been fighting against the huge association and its ally, the American Can Company. Because American Can would not sell cans at competitive prices, Hunt started their own can plant, and in 1901 built a plant double the size at the foot of Oak Street in Oakland, and began selling cans to the other non-association members. American Can relented, and offered to buy the Hunts can plant and guarantee buying cans at a reduced price for five years as long as Hunts stayed out of the can business for ten years[4]. There is some mention of Hunt Brothers owning Portland's Rose City Packing Company, which was part of the CFCA[5].


  1. "Outside" Canneries To Combine: October 12, 1899 San Jose Evening News.
  2. Fruit Growers About to Combine: May 17, 1900 San Francisco Call.
  3. "Big Cannery Combine About to Be Realized": [November 18, 1901 San Jose Evening News]
  4. Trust Secures Can Plant: March 15, 1902 San Francisco Call. Full article.
  5. Fruit Canners: The California Association Now and Assured Fact: July 18, 1899 Sacramento Record-Union. "The first legal controversy in which the new organization has been involved developed today through a suit brought by Charles W. Pike against the Hunt Brothers' Packing Company. The latter company owns the Rose City cannery...shares of stock in the California Fruit Canners Association held by the Hunt Brothers' Fruit Packing Company have been garnisheed by the plaintiffs."