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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

West Springfield Canning Factory

Contributed by Evelyn Baker

The following article has been compiled and submitted by Evelyn Baker from the Cosmopolite Herald Files of May 4, 1924. Source: Memoirs of Elizabeth Guernsey Louden. Please submit any comments on this article to Evelyn.


In 1917,  our World War 1 soldiers needed tomatoes.  F. B. Guernsey contributed to the war effort by building a canning factory and glass greenhouse. Tomato seedlings were planted , then transplanted to hotbeds when they were about 3 inches high. To protect them from the night frost, heavy muslin sheets were rolled over the plants. A large vat of water was used for sprinkling. On hot summer days, daughters Elizabeth and Olive, were allowed to play in the vat with neighborhood children. Women were hired to transplant the seedlings, and farmers contracted to raise tomatoes. Cost of the plants was deducted from the price of tomatoes at harvest time. Men were hired to scald the tomatoes at the conveyer belt. Tomatoes then passed to women at peeling tables. They were paid by the pail, for peeling. During the winter, Mrs. Guernsey made oil cloth aprons and hats for the women. Tin cans were ordered from various can companies and arrived by boxcar. Guernsey hired a farmer with a team of horses and haywagon to bring the cans to the factory. After tomato season, came pumpkin canning. Farmers delivered them in wagons and filled one section of the factory. The Guernsey's hosted a Halloween party at the factory for the school children. The blackboard invitations read "Come to a party at Mr. & Mrs. Peter Pumpkin's House - bring your own sandwich". As years passed, electric motors replaced the old gasoline engines, which pumped water thru hoses to water the plants. Farmers now came in trucks. In May, 1924, the Canning Co. was incorporated with $150,000 in capital stock. F. B. Guernsey, M. M. Oschier, and Rolla Marshall held controlling interest. Old age finally retired Frank and Susan Guernsey and the factory was sold. It was eventually torn down.    


This page was last updated on  Sunday, September 02, 2001 .

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2001 Erie County Pennsylvania Genealogy