Friday, February 26, 2010

Leafing Through Old Newspapers

I've heard stories about how the canneries were frantic when the fruit was in season, but I don't think I realized just how boom-and-bust the canning business was. Searching on Google is currently turning up articles in the San Jose Evening News, and a search for the Ainsley Cannery turned up this article from July 3, 1901, describing how the canning season really was either going full blast or completely idle:

Canners Expect to Begin Upon Apricots Next Week

"Early next week the canneries, which have been running but little in comparison with former years, will open for the season. The cherry crop has been so light that it required but a short time to dispose of the entire amount secured, and since that time the establishments have been idle. It was not certain today when the canning establishments would begin on apricots further than that they will begin within a very few days...

"The Ainsley cannery at Campbell has sent out word that if present expectations are fulfilled a start will be made with a good force Tuesday. From advices of growers it is expected that a quantity of apricots will be delivered Monday. The Golden Gate cannery has set no date certain yet, but yesterday believed that the start would be Wednesday or Thursday. The Sunol street cannery [which will become Del Monte Plant #3] will probably stasrt about Tuesday or Wednesday on apricots....

"The shipment of fruit from Santa Clara county as compared with the amount shipped up to this date last season, is just one hundred and twelve cars short. Last season the shipment up to this time was 155 cars, but up to July 4, but 43 cars have been shipped."

[Check out the whole article, including cursing at the strong morning winds recently.]

Another article from the 1920's talked about the huge production from the Los Gatos Hunt Brothers Cannery that is on my layout. In 1928, they canned 582,000 pounds of apricots, 12,000 pounds of plums, 1.3 million pounds of pears, and 6 million pounds of peaches. (I wonder if the pears and peaches were local, or if they were grown across the Santa Clara Valley.) Those boom years didn't continue; another article pointed out that the Hunt Cannery was closed during 1931 and 1932, and didn't produce anything.

1932 is pretty much the year I model. As much as I want to model the Santa Clara Valley accurately, I don't think I want to reproduce the business problems of the Depression. I'd prefer to be running trains than rolling past empty canneries.

Anyway, try archivesearch in Google and see what newspapers you turn up. I've also subscribed to Newspaper Archive when doing some family history research. They're also interesting if they have local papers for the area of interest. In my case, I liked searching the Hayward newspapers for family history, but was frustrated they didn't have any San Jose newspapers for railroad research. I'm happy Google has access to the San Jose Evening News, even if the paper seems a bit hysterical on the front page at times. Guess some things never change.

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