Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Many Fruit Lugs Does A Cannery Really Need?

You really don't need to know how many 40 and 50 pound lugs (crates for hauling fruit from the orchards) the Hyde Cannery in Campbell had before you can start building a model of the cannery. The answer, by the way, is 33,400...
Historical research can be a great thing as long as you don't mind the occasional diversions, side tracks, and interesting-but-potentially-irrelevant details you run into. After all, if you want to build a model railroad that others will say nice things about, all you really need is something that on the surface looks right. In my case, few people are going to check that I modeled the Campbell station right, or correctly placed a packing house, or ask whether fruit would have come to a cannery by rail or by truck. Few will care if there's boxcars at the Hyde Cannery when the plant was shut.

But those diversions can be part of the fun. I don't really need to know the exact date that a cannery changed ownership. I don't need to know details of the machinery. I don't need to know which doors were used for loading, and which for unloading. For me, though, learning about those details, poking around in old food machinery catalogs, reading the news reports of the day, or tracking down ownership is a treasure hunt in its own right. All that extra detail also gives me the background to really explain the setting that I'm modeling, and to add some of the details that might make things seem just a touch more accurate.

I'd still admit that leafing through dusty microfilm to check out old mortgages might cross the line from fun to a bit obsessive, but there's always the chance I might hit a Mother Lode. That's worth a bit of sneezing in the Recorder's office.

Our Hyde Cannery story left off a while back with a quick history of the Hyde Cannery, along with mention of how Mr. Hyde mortgaged the property and equipment for $190,000 back in 1923. Now, you'd think that looking through deeds and mortgages would be mind-numbingly boring... at least until you realized that the right mortgage might have some juicy details about life at the cannery.

And these mortgages do. Let's dive in, shall we?

It's 1923; the Hyde Cannery had a glossy spread in Cannery Age a few years before, but this year Mr. Hyde needs to deal with debt. On May first, the following mortgages appear at the Recorder's office:

  • Mortgage #1: Mr. Hyde borrowed $70,000 against about his cannery's machinery from the Merchantile Trust bank in downtown Campbell, payable May 1, 1928 (7/2/1923, book 41, pg 5).
  • Mortgage #2" Hyde also borrowed $60,000 from M.E. Lennon secured by the exact same list of equipment. (7/2/1923, book 41, page 11.)
  • Deed of Trust #1: Finally, Hyde borrowed $70,000 from M.E. Lennon and the San Jose Abstract and Title Co. against the lands where the cannery sat, property east of the railroad tracks along Dillon Ave., and land south of the cannery near Rincon Ave. (7/2/1923, book 41, page 15.)

Now, I find it a little interesting that the equipment can be mortgaged twice, but I'll trust the two mortgagees both knew about each other and assume that the equipment was worth enough for both of them to be made whole if Hyde wasn't able to pay them off. I don't have access to earlier mortgages to figure out if this is refinancing some of the equipment Hyde bought in previous years, but we can suspect that starting up a world-class cannery took lots of money.

But I'm not here to make wild-ass guesses about mortgage conventions in the Santa Clara Valley in the 1920's; I'm here to look inside and outside those canneries so I can build decent models of those canneries. The mortgage documents give all sorts of magical data I wouldn't be able to find out elsewhere.

Go check out those mortgages, and look at that nice, detailed list of the equipment in the Hyde Cannery, and see that data for yourself, and let's see what questions we can answer about the Hyde Cannery.

For example, how many people do you need to run a cannery, and what does that say about appropriate set-dressing - number of figures to put around the scene, or bicycles to place nearby? Obviously, you'll need lots of women to help cut fruit. The mortgage cites 125 Webber adjustable stools, 100 wood stools, and 25 cutting tables. You'll also need to feed that staff, and the mortgage includes the cafeteria fittings: 23 tables, 92 common dining chairs, a large commercial Montague range (wow, they're still in business, and still in the Bay Area!), and 77 trays. Hyde also lists seven 9x12 foot tents. I'll plan for evidence of a few hundred workers.

Or you could look at the tonnage of fruit coming in, and the number of cans going out. For hauling product around, Hyde had 5,930 can trays for carrying the filled cans over to the machinery, 1,000 tray stands, and 2,200 tin pans. There's also 3,500 fruit trays for sun-drying and 22 cars for the dry yard, 15,400 50 lb lug boxes, and 18,000 40 lb lug boxes. Hyde expected a lot of fruit to come in each summer, and needed enough boxes to hold seven hundred tons of fruit coming in from the fields. I need to plan on a huge pile of those lugs out behind the cannery during the off-season. The Dole cannery at Fifth and Martha had an entire city block reserved for fruit receiving and storage of lugs.

Hyde did have machinery to help those hundreds of workers with the tons of fruit. On the canning side, Hyde had a pair of Berger and Carter slicers (seven and nine blade), seven syrupers (for #1, #2.5, and #10 cans). A sugar conveyor. Five hundred feet of black pipe for carrying hot syrup around the plant. They had a "Smith pie foundry", which I assume was a cooker for turning cast-offs into pie filling. (The 1921 Canning Age magazine noted that they were using a Berger and Carter pie foundry - a San Francisco manufacturer that I'm sure made great pie foundries, but probably couldn't hold a torch to the fine San Jose craftsmen.) Four 21' canning tables from Smith Manufacturing, two 26' canning tables from Premier Machine, two 24' canning tables, two 20' iron slicing tables, and two 20' iron pear canning tables, all from Smith Manufacturing. Cooking vats. Cappers. Exhaust boxes. Hundreds of feet of conveyors, box nailing equipment, and some hand trucks. A "portable elevator". And powering this entire mess were three 50 HP steam boilers turning hundreds of feet of pulleys and belts to power the equipment. On the drying side, Hyde had a prune shaker, 48' sorting table, 24' "San Jose processor", and various sorters.

You'll need an office staff, though it doesn't need to be large. Hyde had two adding machines, four filing cabinets, two roll-top desks, an Underwood typewriter, and an Addressograph printer, and a mimeograph. (Note to self: make sure the plant smells of the mimeograph fluid.) They even had a "phone system", though I'm not sure how sophisticated that would have been in 1923.

From the model railroad perspective, the vehicles used by the cannery are more important details, both as a hint about common car and truck brands for the area, as well as what I ought to park near the cannery. The mortgage shows that Hyde had three Ford extension trucks (which I suspect are Model TT trucks), though the Canning Age article also mentions a four ton truck and trailer. That article notes that the larger truck made daily trips to SF; my initial suspicion was fruit to be sent by steamship, but it might have been more likely as fruit going to the San Francisco grocery wholesalers.

Getting this sort of detail in the county records must not be too unusual; I found a similar document for the sale of the Hunts Cannery on Fourth Street to Richmond Chase. Although the Hunts sale didn't list the exact number of items ("uncountable number of fruit lugs"), it does hint at the number of canning lines and favorite brands. For example, Hunts, in 1942, used a pie foundry from A.B. Draper, so we now know of at least three manufacturers making such a beast. (12/30/1942, book 1123, page 411).

So that's how a few trips to the Clerk/Recorder's office turned from a quick attempt to identify the owners of buildings to understanding the size of the pile of fruit lugs needed in the off-season, and a realization for the favorite brands and models of trucks to use for my cannery.

I also learned what a pie foundry is, though I'll need to look at some old equipment catalogs to find a picture of one. Luckily, there's a few collections of food processing machinery paper, such as the Floyd Hal Higgins collection at U.C. Davis, so with a bit of luck, I could see what a pie foundry looks like.

And the Hyde Cannery would have had a pile of 34,000 fruit lugs piled in the drying yard behind the cannery during the off-season... though I don't need to know that to build a model of the cannery.

[Panorama of Hyde Plant and photo of Hyde Cannery's original canning equipment are from the Bancroft Library via the Online Archive of California. Most of the photos from that collection were published in the August 1921 Cannery Age article about Hyde.]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ha Ha! You Fell Victim to One of the Classic Blunders!

Everyone remembers the Princess Bride, right? And Vizzini's famous gloat?
Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"
And of course, there's also the slightly less-known classic blunder: "Never try to break a prune pool when every prune grower in the Santa Clara Valley is trying desperately to stay solvent."

We've heard previously how the Higgins-Hyde packing company, based out of that packing house at San Carlos St. and the narrow gauge line, tried just that and managed to get pretty much every prune grower in the Valley out in force with pitchforks and torches, and encouraged the Sacramento politicians to demonize them for misstatements. Good times, good times.

When I first wrote about Higgins-Hyde, all I knew was that they had occupied the packing house I've previously described as Abinante and Nola around 1930 or 1931, and that they'd pissed off pretty much the whole Valley in 1932. I also showed how their chattel mortgages - loans to growers against the upcoming prune crops - show up in county records, giving us a chance to both understand what farm equipment the growers had as collateral, as well as the agreements that started the anger towards the company.

Luckily, there's a bit more available with some more poking around at the Clerk/Recorder's office, census records, and city directories. If you're into that sort of thing.

The Higgins-Hyde Packing Company appears around 1929, leasing the former Pacific Fruit Products / Sunsweet packing house right at the railroad tracks and West San Carlos St. The principals are Albert A. Higgins and Warren Hyde. As we saw previously, J.S. (Jack) Roberts, a salesman and fruit buyer, was a vice president, and Jacks's name often appeared on the fruit contracts.

Albert seems like a newcomer to San Jose, born in 1890 in New York. I'm not sure where he's come from; there's an Albert A. Higgins in San Francisco in 1928, an A. A. Higgins in Los Altos listed as a rancher at the same time, and an Albert A. Higgins, fruit merchant in Los Angeles in 1920, but I'm not sure which would be our man. He's newly married to Edith (Bea) Rea (he's 40, she's 23), and living with her parents on South 13th St. in San Jose.

His father-in-law, Edwin Rea, is worth an aside; a well-known San Jose lawyer, he's remembered these days primarily for defending David Lamson in his murder trial, and for getting in a fist-fight with the district attorney during that trial. Justice may be blind, but those lawyers have enough eyesight to know how to connect with a strong right hook.

Warren Hyde, however, was a very well-known and respected local citizen: an early orchardist in the Saratoga area, and a former Sunsweet director during some organization troubles back in 1922. Warren Hyde and George A. Hyde appear to have had adjoining properties out by Prospect and Quito Road at various times, making me think they might be related, or even brothers.

The building and lot at 750 West San Carlos St. were owned by H. H. Kooser and his wife at the time of Higgins-Hyde's occupancy. We know about the Koosers thanks to the legal documents associated with the building of the San Carlos St. Viaduct in late 1934. The re-routing of the road required selling a small strip of land and removal of a garage and scale, and the sale agreement included $200 for Higgins-Hyde as compensation for these changes (5/29/1933, book 652, page 386). (The viaduct was allowed by the California Railroad Commission decision 20559, if you're into that sort of thing.)

Higgins-Hyde is listed in the 1929, 1930, 1931, and 1932 San Jose city directories, hinting that they'd been around for at least a few years before the big kerfuffle with the prune pool in the dark days of summer, 1932. There were at least six chattel mortgages filed in 1932 with Higgins-Hyde: the Leo, DiSalvo, Oliva, Galvin, Greco, Rose, and Lester orchards all borrowed against a crop they were planning to sell to Higgins-Hyde that year. But once Higgins-Hyde challenged the Prune Pool and lost, they released all their growers from their contracts so they could join the prune pool. Higgins-Hyde probably lost their chance for a crop to sell over the winter of '32. At that point, having a packing house and storage space wasn't terribly useful, so Higgins-Hyde leased their packing house on July 19, 1932 to the Lawrence Warehouse Company, much as Hyde had done a few years earlier.

Higgins-Hyde could only hope for the 1933 year to be better, but it wasn't. In May, they cancelled their lease of the Hyde Cannery as storage space (5/8/1933, book 683, pg 374). On May 27, they cancel Lawrence Warehouse's lease on the 750 West San Carlos St. plant. They also appear to have started wrapping up the company in bankruptcy court. On May 29, Albert and Bea transfer orchard land in Saratoga to T. J. Miller, the trustee in bankruptcy for the company; the bankruptcy case opens for real in San Francisco on June 3. And then it's all over, except for unwinding all the various deals. It doesn't sound happy, but there's probably some stories there.

Early the next year, during that unwinding, T. J. Miller finds that Higgins-Hyde may have made the classic legal blunder: Never annoy people who might be jurors on your trial. The May 9, 1934 San Jose News has a little blurb under the title "Packing Firm Trustee Loses $2578 Prune Suit":

T. J. Miller, trustee of the Higgins-Hyde Packing Company, lost his $2578 action involving a contract for the purchase of 800 tons of prunes against Nathan L. and William Lester, growers, in Superior Judge William F. James' court yesterday when a jury awarded judgement in favor of the defendants.
I can't imagine the locals were friendly to the company that tried to break the Prune Pool, regardless of how good the contract was. I also have no idea whether this was one of the lingering contracts left over from the no-good-very-bad summer of 1932.


Warren Hyde's connection makes me wonder if the creation of Higgins-Hyde has anything to do with the demise of George E. Hyde Packing in Campbell. The reports that the company started fading in 1928 might suggest that Warren had been selling through his brother, but the looming demise of the Hyde Cannery and dried fruit packing meant that he needed a better place to sell his crop. I'll need to keep an eye out for more hints about the history of Higgins-Hyde.

Now, all this corporate information is quite fun for those of us with some obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but it really does have an application to model railroading. For, after all, I've always been uncertain about exactly what business should exist at the site where I've now got Abinante and Nola. Now, I can lay out all the options:
  • Before 1928: unsure.
  • 1928 - summer 1932: active packing plant run by Higgins-Hyde.
  • Summer 1932 - Summer 1933: Higgins-Hyde painted on the building, but used by Lawrence Warehouse.
  • Summer 1933 - Summer 1934: Higgins-Hyde painted on building, but probably empty.
  • May, 1934: San Carlos St. viaduct is being built.
  • Late 1934: San Carlos St. viaduct is completed.
  • Late 1934: Active plant run by J.S. Roberts. John C. Gordon takes photo of completed viaduct with old bridge still around, and J.S. Roberts painted on the packing house.
  • Pre-1935: Bypass line around San Jose built. Old San Carlos St. bridge removed as seen in unpublished John C. Gordon photo.
So that's it: if I'm modeling before 1928, I need to do more research. If I'm modeling before summer 1934, I can put Higgins-Hyde on my layout, but I can't have the San Carlos St. viaduct. If I'm modeling after Summer 1934, I'll want both the viaduct and J.S. Roberts.

There's only one problem: I spent last week ripping out the track around the San Carlos St. viaduct to get rid of some frequent derailments. As part of getting the track running again, I redid the scenery at the same time to include Los Gatos Creek and the former site of the old San Carlos St. bridge. It looks like I've just post-dated my layout to late 1934... or at least one corner of the layout to that year. Doing so means that the Hyde Cannery shouldn't be running and the Hunts Cannery in Los Gatos needs to be abandoned, which either I've just lost two key industries... or I've just arranged my model railroad so that half the layout will be set in 1928, and half in 1934. I should put a tricked-out DeLorean on the road between San Jose and Campbell just so folks understand why they're moving six years when turning round that corner. Oh, what a tangled mess I've gotten myself into...

[Photo still taken from the movie The Princess Bride. If you haven't seen it yet, you've missed something amazing. Go watch it. J.S. Roberts photo from a John C. Gordon collection panorama at San Jose State.]

Map of Wrights

It's still amazing to me how much cool data can be found out on the internet. This weekend, someone on the South Pacific Coast mailing list on Yahoo ( noted that the September 1895 issue of the Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies had a long article on the repair of the summit tunnel portal at Wrights. It seems that during the winter of 1892-1893, the hillside slid down across the tunnel.

(Wow, sliding hillsides in the Santa Cruz Mountains, who would have thought!)

The article describes not only the civil engineering necessary to keep the hill from sliding again, but a very nice map of the area around Wrights, along with the locations of the Sunset Park spur and the existence of a rooming house on the east side of the creek at the future site of the station (post-earthquake). It also mentions that the sand and gravel for the new tunnel came from the gravel pit in Campbell.

Amusingly, academic papers in those days included not only the actual article, but also the question and answer session from what I assume was the conference where the paper was initially presented.

The map also seems to show that the road over to the future station site went under the trestle, so it looks like I modeled that correctly!

Monday, March 4, 2013

How Much Is That Cannery II: Hyde Cannery

The two large canneries in Campbell, the Ainsley Cannery north of Campbell Avenue, and the Hyde Cannery south of Campbell Avenue, were awfully similar - both well thought of in the community and both significant producers. But each had it's own story.

Ainsley had started his cannery himself in the 1890's as part of early fruit canning experimentation. In 1898, Ainsley's cannery handled 400 tons of apricots and 450 tons of peaches. With family in Britain handling the sale, he had an immediate market for the high quality fruit, and the Ainsley Cannery put Campbell on the map. As we heard last time, Ainsley sold the cannery in 1933, but the business continued as Drew Canning and then as Hunt's well into the 1960's, ending only as the buildings were torn down and water tower toppled over around 1964. That's seventy years of canning and an immense amount of fruit, all being produced in Campbell.

George E. Hyde Builds a Cannery The Hyde Cannery came much later. George E. Hyde, the owner, was a California kid, born to Massachusetts immigrants in 1855. He turns up first in the 1880 census and in contemporary San Francisco city directories just married to Alice with a one month old son, and was working as a machinist in San Francisco at Pacific Rolling Mills. "Campbell: the Orchard City" mentions a move to Benicia in 1882, and then retreating to the wilds of Saratoga in 1886, ending up with his brother Warren on land near Prospect and Saratoga Roads. By 1907, he's managing the Rosenberg Brothers packing house on Ryland St. in San Jose, just north of the San Jose railroad yards.

But George, in his late 50's, must have wanted a try at running a place with his name on the side of the building, and in 1909, he got his chance. The Campbell Fruit Grower's Union, a co-operative, had operated a large plant in Campbell since 1892, but had started encountering problems with the growers. Orchardists were perfectly willing to sell their fruit to the co-op when prices were low, but when prices rose, many often wanted to break with the co-op and sell to other dried fruit packers when spot prices at harvest were higher than the promised rate. The "nondelivery penalties" in the contracts started chasing growers away from the co-op.

Enter Hyde and his partner, Ruel K. Thomas, a director and manager for the co-op. Together, they leased the Campbell Fruit Growers Union plant in Campbell for their new George E. Hyde Co., and begin processing and selling dried fruit. Like Hyde, Ruel was also a Saratoga orchardist and also from New England stock, and both men were in their fifties when they decided to bring better management to the former-co-op. The large drying yard south of the plant got lots of use, for the company packed a crop of 1000 tons of fruit in 1914, and covered the ground one day in 1914 with 1,300 trays of drying fruit. In 1913, Hyde bought out Thomas, and owned the plant completely as well as the drying yard acreage.

I suspect Hyde got into running packing houses because of his interest in the machinery needed to process all the fruit. Once he owned the Campbell plant completely, that mechanical interest could flourish. He branched out from fruit drying straight to the new and interesting canning world, and the George E. Hyde Co. started canning in earnest in 1915. The August 1921 Canning Age magazine states:

Mr. Geo. E. Hyde, the president, was quick to see the advantages of installing the most up-to-date equipment and has personally spent considerable time and has entailed considerable expense in experimenting with conveyor systems. He noticed that chain conveyors, belt conveyors, gravity conveyors, and elevators had come into the limelight and that amazing results had been accomplished by their use. The result of his investigations was the installation of a complete system of inter-departmental conveyors, and the success is apparent in the study of operations within the plant.
With that machining experience, I suspect it was obvious that modern mechanical help could show the more old fashioned plants in the Santa Clara Valley how it's done. One can imagine Hyde making a quick call to Mailler Searles (equipment sellers) in San Francisco, then visits by salesman and sales engineers, and before long, Mailler Searles would have dispatched some of Mathews Gravity Conveyor's finest engineers to plan and install their labor-saving conveyors all over the plant, all with George's full attention.

Hyde kept modernizing and expanding; in 1919, he added a new warehouse south of the Campbell Fruit Grower Union's original brick warehouse, and a new box storage building west of the old warehouse.

Taking a Chance with the Banks Hyde's growth, however, did appear to come at a cost, for the modern equipment can't have been cheap. I haven't found much in the pre-1922 records, but I get the feeling that growing the Hyde plant required a lot of borrowed money. As long as prices stayed high and he was producing as much as he expected, things would be fine.

In 1922, we start to see hints about the capital required to start up a modern cannery. In June 1922, Hyde mortgaged the cannery property to T.S. Montgomery, Sunsweet's president (book 156 trust deeds, pg 483), but paid off the $8,100 mortgage two months later in mid-August 1922. Details of that mortgage aren't available from the Clerk-Recorder; pre-1922 crop, chattel, and property mortgages never were microfilmed, so looking them up requires a visit to the Santa Clara County Archive to look at the physical books.

The next year, in a flurry of borrowing in early May, George mortgaged everything: $60,000 for the cannery equipment from the Merchantile Trust bank in downtown Campbell, payable May 1, 1928 (7/2/1923, book 41, pg 5); $60,000 for more of the equipment from M.E. Lennon, secretary of San Jose Abstract and Title Co., (7/2/1923, book 41, pg 11), also payable in 1928, and another $70,000 for for the cannery lands from M.E. Lennon (7/2/1923/ book 41, pg 15). At the same time, Hyde leased all the cannery's warehouse space to the Lawrence Warehouse Company for $1.00 on a month-by-month basis. (7/16/23, book 37 pg 368, as well as renewals in 1924) I don't know if this was a way to raise funds, or if there were legal reasons to have an official warehouse company handling those buildings, but overall feeling I get is that Hyde needed capital.

Hyde wasn't the only modern canner, for Ainsley modernized too - there's mention in the July 1918 issue of Western Canner and Packer about Ainsley buying new machinery for a "heavy pack" in 1918, but there is little sign of Ainsley taking on debt between 1923 and 1933.

At the same time, Hyde was finding other uses for the drying yard and property. George's son, Otis Hyde, ran the Hyde Investment Company and subdivided the Alice Avenue houses, and there's signs of land on the east side of the railroad tracks being subdivided. I suspect Hyde saw that care with the plant's real estate could be as much a path to riches as apricots. And It All Fades Away It's hard to tell what happened when those loans came due. Hyde would have been 72, and probably thinking about exit strategies - maybe deferring to his children, maybe selling the cannery. 1925 and 1926 had been years for huge crops and low prices in the dried fruit industry, and perhaps for the canned fruit industry. This is the same time that Charles Virden rethinks having a cannery empire.

At the same time, other, newer canneries were being built. The April 28, 1928 San Jose News congratulates its neighbors in Santa Clara for "becoming a genuine industrial city" with the addition of Pratt-Low, Libby, and the Block packing house. California Packing Corporation (Del Monte) expanded its dried fruit packing plant into the absolutely huge Plant 51 in 1926. Large plants were in vogue, and smaller canneries and dried fruit processors like George E. Hyde must have encountered some unwelcome competition.

Whatever the reason, Hyde began to fade, even before the trigger of the Great Depression. Some sources think the plant closed in 1928, others in 1929. But the Campbell Interurban Express got Sam Squibb, secretary for the cannery to speak on the record in June, 1930 about rumors that the cannery would be closed that year which suggests that although the plant had done all right in 1928 and 1929, things were significantly more iffy in 1930.

Our representative informed Mr. Squibb of the rumors going the rounds that the plant would be closed up and would not operate, and in his reply he stated that he has been at this plant for the past five years and each year he has been compelled to reply to these non-operating rumors… "I am sure that the business men who are behind this firm at this time would not even consider such a step, as they have the pride and goodwill of the community at heart, and I am sure that when the American Trust Company and their good and efficient officers of the bank here believe in us, why should our good neighbors spread these unfounded statements… Whether the present officers or help who have and will be laid off gets other work or not, I am advised that this plant will operate."

I've got to say that comment about "whether the present officers will be laid off…" would have me a trifle concerned for the future of the place. Explicitly citing the goodwill of the bankers holding the mortgage makes me very concerned.

Within a month, Squibb had to eat his words. On July 1, 1930, the Campbell Interurban Press led with the story that the "the directors.. advised Sam Squibb tonight that due to the fact that their negotiations to effect a sale of the plant were unsuccessful, the plant would remain idle this season":

"Prospects of leasing the plant are very slim, due to the advanced date. Sam Squib will remain on temporarily, at least, to straighten up affairs in the office. L. H. Vaughn, superintendent, has left for Live Oak where he has acquired an interest in a packing plant... The only possibility of the Hyde plant operating, it seems, lays in a possible war between the canners and peach growers. The growers have several canneries, but if they fail to deal with the other canners, they may be fored to pack their whole crop, and in that event it is more than likely that they will seek to acquire the Hyde plant. In that case it will operate on peaches. The possibility is very small, however."

...Unsecured creditors, it seems will not receive their regular interest, which they do not fail to get when the plant operates. A good many local people will suffer from lack of what they have come to consider regular seasonal employment.

The plant must've stayed dark the following season, generating enough concern that on October 20, 1931, the Interurban Press noted that the Campbell Chamber of Commerce was pleading with Sunsweet to use the Hyde plant for processing and packaging to keep jobs in town, and highlighting that "thousands of tons of prunes are temporarily stored here by the association."

But the mortgages were still hanging over the cannery like a dark cloud, and in late 1931, those debts finally caught up with the company. On November 5, 1931, American Trust, the successor to Merchantile Trust, won a $18,683.99 judgement against George E. Hyde & Co. Six months later, the other shoe finally dropped. On May 25, 1932, the Sheriff sold the land under the Hyde Cannery to cover the judgement. The new owner (and probably the only bidder) was American Trust; the sale price was the insulting price of $2,500 (5/25/1932, book 617, pg 141). Not many were even bidding for canneries in those days. That's quite a difference from Ainsley's $150,000 sale two years later.

Hyde went belly-up owing $189.88 to the Merchant's Association of San Jose, and even that tiny debt didn't get paid. The Sheriff's deputy came back from trying to collect the judgement in late 1932 empty-handed, unable to find any remnant of the company (5/23/1932, book 616, pg 148). Hyde Cannery was gone, and its machinery stripped. When the 1933 season came, Sunsweet was using the now-empty and cavernous cannery for storage, and the Infamous Higgins-Hyde Packing Co. was using the warehouse for receiving and storing their own dried fruit.

The Hyde Cannery was later used for maybe one or two years as a cannery. W.A. Bundy canned fruit as the "Campbell Packing Corporation" in 1933 and 1934 according to the Interurban Press, but the plant's fruit salad days were over. In 1937, the buildings were inherited by the Sunsweet plant next door, and served both as a dehydrator and addition to the dried fruit packing plant. By the 1970's, the property was reused for stores, restaurants and offices. George Hyde's well-built empire only lasted as a cannery for fifteen years, but his eye-catching buildings - the modern sawtooth roof for the cannery and the classic brick warehouse - meant that the buildings were both modern enough for reuse, and interesting enough to survive the end of the fruit era. Meanwhile, Ainsley's wood and corrugated iron buildings, immensely more productive but without the charm or the permanence, fell to the bulldozer and exist now only as memories underneath a row of townhouses.

Next time: If you actually looked at the mortgage documents listed above, you'll find they listed *everything* owned by the cannery in glorious detail. Let's look in detail at those mortgages, and see what they tell us about how the cannery operated.

[Panorama of Hyde Plant and photo of Hyde Cannery's original canning equipment are from the Bancroft Library via the Online Archive of California. Most of the photos from that collection were published in the August 1921 Cannery Age article about Hyde. Site plan for Hyde Cannery from 1930 Sanborn map of Campbell.]

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Working in an Orchard

I've mentioned Tim Stanley's Last of the Prune Pickers book previously. It's also worth mentioning Tim's been keeping up a blog with further stories and details about working in the orchards and ranches of the Santa Clara Valley. His stories may not tell me much about the Vasona Branch, but they say a lot about how I should detail my orchard scenes.