The 56 year old bronze marker is titled, "1858 California Caning Industry's 100th Anniversary" and proclaims, "Here in 1871, Dr & Mrs J. M. Dawson founded the first cannery in this area. Thereby helping Santa Clara to become the foremost U.S. Fruit Canning County and a major factor in Californi's present rank as America's leading food canning state. Marker installed May 20, 1958 by the Canners League of California and the American Can company."
Dr. James Madison Dawson
Using his medical education and the growing understanding of how germ theory worked Dr Dawson spent his free time looking how he could preserve fresh fruit using the canning process that was in widespread use during the American Civil War (1861-1865) for feeding the troops.
Using the bounty of their backyard provided Dr Dawson canned the first 300 cases of peaches, apricots, pears and plums. The solution worked so well that Dr Dawson and his son decided to build a business around the innovation. The business was named the San Jose Fruit Packing Company.
Here is an early label from the San Jose Fruit Packing company. I love how it showcases the patriotic American Eagle engaged with the California Grizzly Bears over a can of fruit.
Dawson's first plant was at Fifth and Julian Street where the Mi Pueblo grocery store is today. The business grew and became Calpak (1916) and later Del Monte (1967). Stockton Avenue was the epicenter of the canning industries including the famous Del Monte Plant 51 at Bush Street & The Alameda in the St Leo/Cahill Park neighborhood. Our neighborhood's involvement in the fruit industry peaked just prior to WWII when San Jose, with its 18 canneries and 13 packing houses, was the world's largest canning and dried-fruit packing center.
So next time you are in the grocery store and you see a can of Del Monte remind yourself how it all started here, in the Valley of Heart's delight.