Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

Browse the Collection

Mission brand yellow cling peaches label

View a database that includes artifacts, photographs, and documents in the History San José collection which relate to Del Monte Plant #3 in San José, California.

View Collection

Sponsored by KB Home

Presented by History San Jose

In Their Own Words

Beatrice and Friends

Learn about Del Monte Plant #3 from the people who worked there.  See videos of former Del Monte employees sharing their memories.

View Videos

 

1872-1916

William Geiger's Orchard near Willow & Cherry Streets, c. 1885.The fruit canning industry began in San José in the 1870’s.  The bumper crops of the late 1860’s and early 1870’s cost many orchardists their livelihoods, as prices plummeted with the glut of fruit in the local market.  Entrepreneurs, fruit growers and scientists applied their energies to finding a way to preserve the bounty of the valley’s fruit harvest long enough to reach distant markets.  The solution would be found in drying and canning the fruits of the Santa Clara Valley.

Boy picking prunes, c. 1900.A number of small, usually family-owned, canning and packing companies began operations in the 1880’s.  San Jose Fruit Packing Company [SJFPC] was one of the most successful in the Valley and grew to include several factories.  SJFPC competed in a crowded field of dozens of enterprises.  Small canneries ruthlessly competed with each other to gain any small share of the emerging market.  Some canners stole crops from their competitors.  Others filled their own cans with sawdust or other filling material to save money.  In the 1890’s, growers and canners formed cooperative organizations as a way to strengthen their presence in the marketplace and try to guarantee their livelihoods.