Many bloggers have asked me recently what the big deal is with pumpkins in the US. This may explain the beginnings on a large scale!
The history of Olney and Floyd Canning Factory in Delta, NY goes like this……..
In 1884, George B. Olney and C. Frank Floyd purchased three or four acres of land by the Mohawk River. It was the first canning factory to be built in this area. The buildings were two stories high and spread out. North of the buildings were long sheds where horse-drawn lumber wagons loaded with sweet corn were placed. On the west and south side of the large building were the store rooms, where the canned goods were stored. The corn was raised by the local farmers. In the fall the corn was cut by hand, shucked by hand, packed into the cans and labled by hand. It was then packed into wooden boxes, and loaded on large wagons pulled by a stout team of horses.
Canners in those days spent their winters making their own cans. On November 20, 1881, a local newspaper stated “Olney and Floyd canning factory owners have purchased a boat load of Welch tin and are preparing to make cans for the next season.”
The Olney and Floyd Company canned corn as the only product at first. Then four years later the Delta plant was purchased. By 1886, both canning factories together had reached the total of one million cans a year. The work at the plant included snipping of beans, shelling peas, shucking corn, all done by hand. Then there was the slow process of filling and hand soldering the tin containers. Can you imagine processing one million cans a year by hand?
In 1881 about 30 people were employed at the can producing factory. In 1887 they were making 4,000 cans a day. It would need to make 600,000 cans to supply both factories. At that time both factories were canning corn, succotash, green and yellow beans, peas, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, spinach, red kidney beans, lima beans and beets. The Rome Sentinel stated on September 27, 1891, “Olney and Floyd had put up 400,000 cans of corn at the Delta plant. The Westernville factory did the same number that year.”
In 1894 there were 100 people employed in the Delta factory. With George Jr., John and W. Floyd Olney at the Lee Centre factory, they employed over 200 people at the peak of their business. The Lee Centre plant sold canned goods to many of the local grocery stores such as Loblaws and A. & P.
Around the turn of the century, more produce was canned in Oneida County than any other county in New York. Produce was grown by area farmers. Lee Center Canning Factory was built to replace the Delta factory that had closed it’s doors in 1907, to make way for the Delta Dam project. The Lee Center Canning Factory closed in 1971.
The final verdict: Pumpkin fed people and provided jobs! We still love our pumpkin today!