Manteca’s first industrial employer wasn’t Spreckels Sugar.
It was the Manteca Canning Company started in 1914 on Oak Street by partners Achille Baccilieri (who donated land to the city for the nearby park that bears his name), T.A. Nelson, F.M. Cowell, and Louis Vistica.
A winery that Baccilieri had built two years prior was used to anchor the new canning operation with the winery being converted to storage. The winery is the only building of the original cannery still standing today.
The cannery was launched only because farm production had grown tremendously with the initial flow of water through the South San Joaquin Irrigation District canals in 1914.
The open house in July 1914 brought sightseers from through the Central Valley to see Manteca’s first industry. The Irrigation Bulletin — the predecessor to the Manteca Bulletin — reported the partners projected the first year’s payroll would reach $5,000.
Peaches from W.W. Cowell’s farm arrived on July 22, 1914. A dozen women peelers sealed and stored 33 dozen cans on the first day of operation.
Then on Aug, 12, 1914 the first “Manteca Lady” brand of tomatoes was processed.
Tomato production grew to such a point that before Manteca was known for sugar beets when Spreckels went into full operation in 1917 the area was dubbed “Tomatoville.”
The Irrigation Bulletin printed letters from those who had tried Manteca Lady tomatoes including a resident of South Africa’s Gold Coast. Manteca soldier I. Elmer Blodgett wrote home during World War II reported he had eaten Manteca Lady tomatoes on the front lines in France.
The initial year’s production of 19,000 cases of vegetables and fruit reached 200,000 cases by 1918.
By the mid-1930s, cannery workers were earning 50 cents an hour.
The cannery ended production after completing its 50th season in 1964.
In its final year the cannery employed 260 people with the year-round payroll pushing $500,000.
The owners cited rising costs and increasing completion from more efficient canneries for the demise of the Manteca Canning Co.
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