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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Corn Canning Was Once A Top County Industry

Dallas Bogan on 22 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland:Heritage Press, 1979) page 24
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

In the late 1800's and well up into the middle of this century, corn canning was one of the top industries in Warren County. The writer well remembers the canning factory at Spring Valley, where he worked in the fall of '49. I lived in New Burlington at the time and would hitch a ride to and from the factory. My starting wage was seventy-five cents an hour, later raised to ninety cents. My first job was stacking the cans in the crates. Later I was assigned the chore of bringing the crates in from the outside. I'm sure many of the readers can relate to their own experiences.
Without going into the history of the corn canneries, the writer will try to focus on the actual operation itself. South Lebanon had a bustling corn canning business, which was owned at different times by several different businessmen. In this article, we will focus on its methods.
Corn canning was a production type operation where every employee was assigned a particular job. The workers were very proud of their assignment, and the results proved this decidedly. Mr. P.B. Dunham was superintendent of the South Lebanon Packing Company in 1884, its fourth full year of operation. About one hundred persons, young and old, male and female, were employed. All because of its system of order and perfect arrangement admired the factory. Working conditions and safety were upper-most in the relationship between management and the workers.
This year, 1844, saw about one hundred and sixty acres harvested, the amount being about half the acreage because of the adverse weather conditions.
Beginning the operation, the corn was pulled from the stalk un-husked, and conveyed to the factory, and thrown on the upper floor. After being husked by one set of hands, another, conveyed to a chute by a third, cut it from the cob and, through this, carried into a box below, where the canning machinery was brought into operation. The machinery was operated by steam power, and moved in a trip-hammer fashion. It consisted of an iron box, with a projecting tube about one and a half inches in diameter, which filled a can at every decline. A can per second was the goal. When filled, they were quickly conveyed to the weighing table, where every can was increased or reduced to a certain weight, about two pounds. Two ladies, who were very quick and capable, performed the operation.
Cooking the corn was the next operation. It was then sealed with perforated tips, and placed in amounts of about four hundred each in an iron rack, and thence swung into a vat of boiling water. After this first process, the cans, after cooking about fifteen or twenty minutes, were taken out. The perforated tips were soldered perfectly airtight, and the cans placed in a second boiler, where a second and final boiling process (perhaps an hour), completed the cooking.
The next process finds the canned goods being conveyed to the packing rooms, where the work of packing, labeling, etc., was completed. The packing room at the time contained about 200,000 cans, which were being speedily shipped to Cincinnati, Chicago and points beyond.
Operating efficiently allowed shipments to be sent on time. No goods were shipped unsold. The corn was shipped with the label "Royal" imprinted on it. The company, that season, shipped about 9,000 cases of two dozen cans each.

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This page created 22 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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