San Jose Fruit Packing

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Main Location

San Jose

California Fruit Canners Association
San Jose Fruit Packing Co. cannery at 5th and Julian. Advertising photo, probably from early 1890's.

The San Jose Fruit Packing Company was the first canner in San Jose, started in the mid-1870's, and the ancestor of Del Monte. The company was started by Dr. James M. Dawson who did early canning in San Jose. He first started canning in . an orchard near 21st and Julian, and later built the company's first official cannery at 5th and Julian in San Jose in 1874. The company canned 4,000 cases annually in 1874, and 25,000 in 1876. J.M Dawson left the company in the mid-1870's, but the company continued with his son, J.B. leading. J.M. Dawson later started another cannery under his own name.

The company constructed a new state-of-the-art cannery on 11 acres along the South Pacific Coast railroad tracks in 1893, soon after running into problems getting a railroad spur to the previous site at Fifth and Julian[1][2][3]. Construction was still proceeding in 1893, when Joseph Pinard complained about the company refusing to buy his property and erecting a fence on his side of the property line[4].

The manager in 1890 was W.H. Wright, who also licensed a sealed jar for canning in glass[5]. Contemporary photos show wooden buildings surrounded by muddy ground, with a house-like structure visible[6]. A San Francisco Call article from 1900 describes a fatal injury in the elevator of the Auzerais Street cannery[7].

U.S. Financial problems in 1894 caused the company to pack only 10% of their crop in 1892. The company blamed unemployment in the east keeping workers from being able to afford their products[8] The company also could not borrow money that year. The company noted that they employed from 200 to 900 people, and that 20% of their labor at the time was skilled. Skilled labor paid $15 a week, ordinary labor, $5 to $12 for a 60 hour work week. 16% of their canned goods were exported. In 1893, the company also had to issue scrip to its employees because of difficulties getting cash advances from banks[9].

The company was a drop-off location for the California Cured Fruit Association in 1900[10]. In 1899, the San Jose Fruit Packing company merged into the new California Fruit Canners Association.

History San Jose also summarized the history of the San Jose Fruit Packing company[11].


Location Years Address Details
San Jose 1875-1892 North 5th Street between E. Julian and Street James
San Jose 1893 -1899 Auzerais Street Often in directories as "San Carlos St. at narrow gauge"


San Jose Fruit Packing Company (precursor of Del Monte) Hstory San Jose


  1. Extensive Cannery Removal: October 28, 1892 San Jose Evening News. "It is reported that the San Jose Fruit Packing Company has decided to abandon its extensive buildings occupying a block on North Fifth Street and a site for a new plant to cover 11 acres has been secured near the narrow gauge depot. Some of the old buildings will be removed to the new site. The new warehouse, alone, it is understood, will cover several acres."
  2. Want A Track: Opposition to the Application of the San Jose Packing Company: March 14, 1890 San Jose Evening News. "The company desires to put in a switch connecting with the North Side Street Railway, and using that track for some distance, to put in an extension on Fifth Street to its place on Julian street. This is to be used to transport goods from the factory to the cars of the Southern Pacific Company. W.H. Wright argued for the company, and W.H. Lorigan represented a number of property owners who argued that granting of the franchise would depreciate the value of property in the vicinity."
  3. Preservation San Jose, Del Monte Plant #3
  4. A Missing Complainant: January 26, 1892 San Jose Evening News.
  5. Sunshine Fruit and Flowers, Page 196.
  6. Sunshine Fruit and Flowers, page 196
  7. Boy Meets Death in an Elevator: August 17, 1900 San Francisco Call
  8. Statement from San Jose Fruit Packing Co. over canned fruit tariffs. In U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Replies to Tariff Inquiries, Schedule G., Agricultural Products and Provisions.
  9. Scrip for Coin: September 1, 1893 San Jose Evening News. "Because of the difficulty of securing advances of money from the banks and to prevent the necessity of shutting down their operations, the San Jose Fruit Packing Company has decided to issue 90 day scrip to its employees in lieu of coin.... there are between 700 and 800 men and women employed at this season of the year, with a payroll of about $6,000 a week..."
  10. San Francisco Call
  11. San Jose Fruit Packing Company: Cannery Life: Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley.