From Del Monte Corporation to Griffin House in Los Altos Hills
Part 1

I. Francis Cutting, "godfather" of Del Monte Corporation and the California canning industry

California Packing Corporation emerged from the consolidation of four companies which, in turn traced their roots back to dozens of pioneer California firms. Among the new arrivals in 1850s from the East Coast was a 24-year old Bostonian named Francis Cutting.

His instincts tell him there is opportunity enough in California for an enterprising Yankee trader. The gold mining prospectors will need provisioning, and eagerly will buy hermetically sealed goods. Francis Cutting was aware of the process, now known as canning that was invented in 1810 by a Frenchman Nicolas Appert. Appert discovered a way to preserve and package foods which permitted the products to be stored indefinitely at room temperature without loss of nutrient value, flavor. The product could be consumed without heating or other preparatory work and came neatly packaged in a virtually indestructible but easy-to-open metal containers.

Francis Cutting

By November 1858, Cutting has bought a half interest in a small vinegar works in Gold Rush City and is packing pickles for the local mining camps. There was some problem though, the high cost of glass jars, which have to be imported from the East. He sold his interest in the pickle business and rents a place on Sacramento Street near Battery.

Cuttings 1st pack plant, c. 1860

With few hired hands the packing of pickles, cider, vinegar, catsup, tomatoes and preserves begun under his own name. For the next 39 years until the merger of the Cutting Fruit Packing Company into one of Del Monte's predecessor companies,

Cutting business continues to prosper. Cutting was the first western packer to introduce metal containers, the first to export California-grown-and-processed fruit to the East coast and Europe.

By 1899 Cutting Fruit Packing Company was operating plants in San Francisco, Santa Ana, Colton and Santa Rosa. And has the assets of $600,000. At the end of the century his business was absorbed into the California Fruit Canners Association (CFCA).

Inside Cannery, c. 1880



II. The post-railroad agricultural boom of the 1870s and 1880s

The opening of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 brought a new wave of western migration as hundreds of thousands of settlers were attracted by the promise of cheap land, fair weather, and "The California Dream".

The early rail tariff limited the transporting canned food. Instead it brought a new wave of migration of new settlers. Some took up fruit and grape growing. Others were settled in agricultural communities in Fresno, Merced, Modesto and Bakersfield. With its year-around growing season and fertile soil, California had been recognized as one of the great agricultural regions of the world. Growers, then as now, needed canners, just as canners needed growers.

Preserving the fruits by drying them in the sun was introduced by missionaries. But it was not until the 1870s and 1880s that the commercial processing of dried fruits and raisins begun.

Peach-drying-yard, c. 1890

The dried fruit business was a major element of the early California fruit and vegetable processing industry.

Griffin & Skelley, established in 1881, was one of the pioneers in the commercial development of California's raisin and dried fruit industry, and though it later engaged in canning as well, it remained preeminently a dried fruit packer up to the time of Calpak merger.

III. Willard M. Griffin's good fortune

It happened that while vacationing at a hotel in Riverside, California, in the summer of 1881, Griffin ran into an old friend, Seegar who had recently retired there.

Willard Griffin

Seegar asked Griffin if he ever considered go into business of packing some of these fine Riverside oranges and shipping them to east to market. Seegar would put up all the initial capital. That day the great fruit packing enterprise of Griffin and Seagar -later "Griffin & Skelley".

Griffin Skelley Calpacker, c. 1880

When Seegar died in 1884, E.R. Skelley joined the firm as partner and manager of the Riverside orange packing operations.

They added raisins to its line and prunes. Griffin & Skelley remained active in the orange packing business until around 1895 when Skelley retired and the Riverside operations were closed.



Griffin's two sons, Charles W. Sr. Griffin and Andrew G. Griffin, assumed leadership of the company when he died in 1913, and became officers and directors of California Packing Corporation following the 1916 merger.

Charles W. Sr. Griffin and Andrew G. Griffin, c. 1916

IV. California Packing Corporation-1916

In 1916 the merger of California Fruit Canners Association (CFCA), Griffin & Skelley, Central California Canneries and J.K Armsby Company, created California Packing Corporation. It began marketing its products under the Del Monte brand. This brand name, however, predates originated with one of CFCA's founders, the Oakland Preserving Company. The Del Monte name comes from the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey peninsula built in 1880 by millionaire Charlie Crocker, and operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Del Monte Logo Shield, c. 1899

In 1916 the new company operated over 60 canneries including several in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The San Francisco based Alaska Packers Association processed salmon at its Alaska canneries.

Alaska Ship Star of Finland

The company's star Fleet used to transport men and supplies north each spring, then return them and the salmon pack in the fall.

The square-rigger Bal Clutha berthed at Fisherman's Wharf is in reality Alaska Packer Association's "Star of Alaska", which was transporting salmon as late as 1930.

Plant Number One, Beach St. Cannery, San Francisco, c. 1920

The cannery now is the collection of restaurants, shops near Hyde Street Pier, was once Calpak's Plant Number One. It was closed and sold during 1930s. The company always was sorry that they didn't hang on some of the lucrative landmarks.

In April 17, 1917 Saturday Evening Post, the first national ad for Del Monte appeared.

Del Monte First National advertisement, c. 1917

In 1967 the decision was made to change corporate name to Del Monte Corporation.

Armsby Building, 101 California Street, San Francisco, Calpak headquarters from 1917 to 1950.

All administrative and marketing functions were centralized in the Armsby Building at 101 California Street. James K. Armsby was a president. Andrew G. Griffin and Charles W. Griffin, vice presidents and co-founders.

Calpak's Sales Dpt, c.1921

This is an account of Charles W. Griffin, Jr., Vice president (retired), Del Monte Corporation.

During my college vacation in 1920 I got a job at Calpak's Fresno Plant, 15-65 cents an hour for the first eight hours, 85 cents for the next four, and anything over 12 hours was $1.00. Pretty good wages. When I graduated from college in 1922, I was fortunate to get a job at Plant 12 in Sacramento - 40 cents per hour and no overtime. I remember thanking, my dad for letting me finish my education, but telling him I didn't think it did much for my earning capacity.

Please click here for the Part 2 of the presentation.







Contact Us




Home   |   About LAHHS   |   Events   |   Timeline   |   Resources   |   Membership   |   Contact Us