Stewart Fruit Company

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Dried Fruit Packer
Main Location

San Francisco, CA

1904 - 1930

Signal [1]

Stewart Packing Co
Advertisement for Stewart Fruit Co.

Stewart Fruit Company was a California-based fresh- and dried-fruit packer in the early part of the 20th century. The company was founded in 1904 with $100,000 capital. By 1915, the company had thirty packing plants across California[2].

There were hints that Stewart was a front for the Santa Fe's efforts to compete with the SP to get fruit shipments from Northern California[3]. W. H. Stewart and R. E. Lyons were both connected with SP's Southern California representative for their fruit agency, and the VP was connected with the distributor's combine, both closely allied with the SP, but Santa Fe's refrigerator manager hinted that Stewart was being inspired by Santa Fe's new push. Both principals were also former employees of Earl Fruit. Lyons had been Alden Anderson's personal assistant while Anderson was general manager of the California Fruit Distributors and Earl Fruit Company, then left Earl in 1904 to start his own company. Stewart had been at Earl Fruit as well[4].

Stewart was a commission packer or marketing agency, selling fruit from farmers and tacking on a 7% fee to the eastern buyers to cover the packing and shipping costs[5][6]. Stewart packed many different kinds of fruit. They packed oranges, and installed a packing house at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition[7]. They shipped plums from Kings County in 1909[8]. They also packed raisins. They even had a record sale of cherries in 1920, with one boxcar from San Jose selling for $8,280 in New York[9].

Some farmers disliked the commission system because of the uncertainty. A 1927 lawsuit against Stewart started when Stewart's district manager encouraged grape growers to consign fruit through them. When the farmers declared "they were not going to consign anything to anybody and would not consign grapes". The manager claimed the company had been selling grapes at a dollar a crate f.o.b. Clovis (freight-on-board - shipper pays to load, buyer pays transportation from Clovis). The farmers only delivered the fruit upon being promised that the grapes would be sold as soon as delivered[10]. Stewart didn't operate only on commission. A comment at the end of the decision notes that "Hays was the District Manager the year before and admittedly had then authority to take f.o.b. orders. Now the appellant claims that the next year he did not have that same authority. Why?"

J. L. Nagle of the California Fruit Exchange criticized Stewart in 1917 for confusing the pear market in New York in July 1917[11]. The company had offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles[12]. That article has a blow-by-blow description of sales in New York on the fateful day.

The company increased their stock to $250,000 in 1918, and added George A. Charters as a director. Charters had formerly been the eastern manager for the California Fruit Growers Exchange, and later the operator of the Fanning-Charters Fruit Distributing Company, which handled eastern sales for California Fruit Distributors[13].

Stewart Fruit Company went into receivership on March 2, 1926[14], and assets were still being sold by 1930[15][16].


Location Years Address Details
Armona 1933 Being used by Kline-Simpson as a receiving station[17]
Hayward 1925 Built for packing cherries[18].
Lodi 1918
Martinez 1923

Oakland Trib article from 1914 comments on pear harvest.

Melvin (Clovis) 1927 Mentioned in lawsuit. Mr. Rough was houseman, John Hays was district manager[19].
Porterville 1910- Next to Southern Pacific depot[20].
San Dimas -1933 Bonita at Depot St.[21].
San Jose 1911 Pleasant Street at Julian Street
San Jose 1916 New Street at corner of Pleasant Street Just west of 299 Bassett St - building resembles extension at right in group portrait[22].
San Jose 1931 Pleasant Street at Bassett Street

On SP, Sanborn map.

Suisun 1910-1925 Sacramento St. at West St.[23]
Vicksburg 1923

Stewart Packing Company in San Jose

Stewart Packing Company had several buildings in the Bassett Street area of San Jose. The land was bought by Stewart in 1918[24]. A 1931 SP Valuation Map shows them at Pleasant and Bassett, next to the railroad tracks, as does 1932 Sanborn map. The plant was run by Alexander Matracia[25][26].

When the company went into receivership, E.G. Potter, receiver for the Stewart Fruit Company, was selling the lot west of Terraine Street and north of Bassett/South of the railroad tracks. The lot was ~160x860 feet, and included land in reciprocal leases for use with Anderson-Barngrover[27].


Group Photo of Employees at Stewart Fruit Company, San Jose: panoramic photo from John C. Gordon collection, San Jose State Library.


  1. Orange crate fruit label: Huntington Library Digital Collection.
  2. Frank Morton Todd, "The Story of the Exposition, being the official history of the international celebration held at San Francisco in 1915 to commemorate the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the construction of the Panama Canal". 1915. "The Stewart Fruit Company, operating some thirty packing plants in various parts of the State, established a fruit packing plant where it showed the improved methods of grading, cleaning, packing, and stamping fruit.
  3. Santa Fe Joins With Fruit Men: Stewart Packing Strongly Suspected of Being Part of Plan for Competition: May 26, 1904 San Francisco Call
  4. R.E. Lyons, of the Stewart Fruit Company, Meets Accidental Death: January 1, 1921 California Fruit News
  5. W.H. Stewart, Stewart Fruit Company. In U.S. Department of Agriculture Report #98: Systems of Marketing Farm Products and Demand for Such at Trade Centers. Article describes the business.
  6. Henry F. Ellis: in George H. Tinkham, History of San Joaquin County, California, Page 915. Los Angeles, Calif.: Historic Record Co., 1923. "In January, 1918, Mr. Ellis became district manager for the Stewart Fruit Company, this being one of the largest concerns in this line in the state, with shipping and packing houses all over California. They ship strictly on a commission basis, and in 1920 sent out 410 cars of deciduous fruits and grapes from Lodi.".
  7. Citrus Fruits: January 23, 1915 Pacific Rural Press.
  8. Cannery and Packing News: June 19, 1909 Pacific Rural Press. "The Stewart Fruit Co. expects to ship 150 cars of fruit from Kings county this season. It expects to commence packing 15 cars of plums at Lucerne within the next few weeks."
  9. June 26, 1920 San Jose Evening News
  10. E.G. Potter vs Jack McFarland, Case #6323, U.S. Court of Appeals for 9th Circuit, 1930. Case decided October 6, 1930, Fresno. As part of the argument about whether District Manager Hayes had the authority to buy fruit for the company, the ruling contains details of operations.
  11. J. L. Nagle, "Scientific Distribution of Fruit". In California State Department of Horticulture, January 1917 The Monthly Bulletin
  12. Advertisement: July 23, 1916 California Fruit News.
  13. Stewart Fruit Company Enlarging its Operations and Personel: May 25, 1918 California Fruit News.
  14. First National Bank of Medford vs. Stewart Fruit Company, 17 F.2D 621 (N.D. CAL. 1927), decided December 19, 1927. Another creditor complained that the First National Bank of Medford shouldn't have been able to name a receiver on its own.
  15. Notice of Sale of Real Property: August 5, 1930 San Jose Evening News
  16. Moore vs. Maryland Casualty Company, Case #3735, Court of Appeal of California, Third District, September 20, 1929. The case involved the receiver for Stewart Fruit foreclosing on a chattel mortgage on a grape crop and harvesting the vines.
  17. Fresh Apricots Being Packed in Armona Plants. June 18, 1933 Fresno Bee. "Apricots are being shipped by truck to Los Angeles from the Stewart packing house In Armona, which is being used by the Kline- Simpson Company as a receiving station. No packing is being done there."
  18. Building complete, used for cherries: April 23, 1925 Hayward Review. Building cost $6,500, built by Eugene Strobridge, local head of the company. Near the Western Pacific tracks.
  19. E.G. Potter vs Jack McFarland, Case #6323, U.S. Court of Appeals for 9th Circuit, 1930. Case decided October 6, 1930, Fresno.
  20. Two Acreage Tracts Near City Sold to Southerners and Bring Good Prices: July 11, 1910 San Francisco Call. Plant construction under way.
  21. San Dimas: Historic Packing Houses of Southern California. The fire also consumed the Santa Fe depot next door.
  22. Group Portrait of Employees at Stewart Fruit Co., San Jose: John C Gordon Panoramic Photo collection, San Jose State.
  23. Southern Pacific Company, Station Map Suisun-Fairfield. 1910-1925. Reprinted in "SP Trainline Fall 2015" (Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society magazine).
  24. Covenant to Restrict Use of Property: Environmental Restriction: 333 West Julian Ave. between Sobrato Investments II and Reguonal Water Quality Board.
  25. Alexander Matracia: In Eugene T. Sawyer, History of Santa Clara County,California 1922, Historic Record Co., p. 1547
  26. 1920s corporate information
  27. Notice of Sale of Real Property: August 5, 1930 San Jose Evening News