Cannery Life, Del Monte in the Santa Clara Valley

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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.

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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.

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The Early Years

Fruit Drying in H. Booksin's Orchard, 1896The early years of fruit production in the Valley witnessed extensive experimentation to perfect the processes of preserving, canning and drying fruit.  It was by no means obvious how to properly prepare and cook the fruit, how to safely seal the cans, or even which varieties of fruit would work best. 

Drying could be done easily at an orchard, with cut fruit spread on wooden trays to dry in the sun.  Experiments in this area eventually produced several fruits that dried beautifully and retained their taste and appearance, including le petit prune d’Agen.  Throughout most of the 20th century, fruit was dried in the orchards and then sent to factories to be packed and shipped.

The Jelly Room at San Jose Fruit Packing Company, c. 1895.Canning, on the other hand, required a considerable capital investment.  Despite its backyard origins, canning was most efficiently done in a factory.  As with so many other industries in this era, fruit production benefited from the emerging science of industrial efficiency and the adoption of the assembly line.  Innovators like the Dawson family, J.C. Ainsley of Campbell, and others worked out the kinks of preparing and packing fruit.  In these years, all steps along the production line were done by hand, including steaming, peeling, cutting, slicing, sorting, packing in cans, cooking, soldering, labeling and warehousing.