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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


A. E. Bourke

Synonymous with the name of A. E. Bourke is the Must Hatch Incubator Company, of which he is the president and general manager. Mr. Bourke began experimenting with artificial incubation and artificial brooding about eighteen years ago, at which time he was a resident of Los Angeles, Cal. After experimenting for about six years in Los Angeles, with an unusually large expenditure of money and sleepless nights and other disagreeable features that go hand in hand with such undertakings, he finally perfected an incubator and brooder and many other poultry appliances that have become famous the world over and in a great measure have made Petaluma the greatest poultry center in the world.

In 1898 Mr. Bourke arrived in Petaluma with a cash capital of $10; a good wife, one of those wives that is willing to help, and four boys, babies and started the manufacture of incubators, brooders and other poultry supplies and also the hatching and raising of poultry. His plant, in the short space of four years, became one of the largest manufacturing and poultry plants in the world. In the spring of 1911 he concluded to discontinue the manufacturing end of his business, to enable him to devote his entire time and attention to the poultry end of his plant. Today, we find a poultry plant that covers four acres in the city of Petaluma, equipped with buildings and labor-saving devices that are a revelation to visitors. On this place are kept from nine to ten thousand laying hens; a hatching capacity of a million and a quarter chicks per year and brooding capacity of two hundred thousand chicks per year.

Mr. Bourke was the first man to ship day-old chicks by express to distant points; he devising the proper method to ship them with the least danger of loss, and today the hatching industry is one of utmost importance in Petaluma. One may ask, “How can so many chickens be kept on such a small place and be healthy?” It will be easily understood by anyone visiting the place, for everything is built and arranged in the most scientific and sanitary manner, so that thing is built and arranged in the most scientific and sanitary manner, so that disease is almost impossible and should disease get among the fowls, it could and would be soon cured. One man can attend to eight times as many hens on this place as he could attend to on the ordinary poultry ranch. The work is always under cover, making it pleasant at all times of the year. There is no feed or water to be carried, as that is done automatically or by machinery. No man works more than nine hours a day at this plant. All the green food for the hens and growing chicks is raised on the place, and also alfalfa and vegetables for several cows. The milk is used for the poultry. All the hauling is done by modern motor trucks, so no horses are necessary. The family is done by modern motor trucks, so no horses are necessary. The family garden is most complete, for in that garden is found every vegetable that one may desire, as well as all kinds of fruits and berries. This plant is the pride of Petaluma; visitors to Petaluma are always directed to this wonderful poultry plant and are at all times welcome.

Fraternally Mr. Bourke is a member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, belonging to Petaluma Lodge No. 901, and he is also a member of the Independent Order of Foresters and Yeomen. That Mr. Bourke does not despise the days of small beginnings, is amply proven by a picture which he has in his possession, showing him as he made the journey from Los Angeles to Petaluma in a “prairie schooner” drawn by two horses. With a cash capital of $10 and a good knowledge of the chicken business he began the business which has made his name famous through the success of the Must Hatch products. Mr. Bourke is a genius in his line and much credit is due him for the present standing of Petaluma as the greatest chicken center in the world.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011