French confectioner, Nicholas Appert, published the methods for preserving meats, vegetables, and fruits in glass jars in 1810. He had discovered that the application of heat to food in sealed glass bottles preserved the food from deterioration.
A British patent on the preservation of foods in tinplated cans and glass jars was issued to Peter Durand, a colleague of Appert, in 1810 and gave rise to the name ‘canning.’
Canning is the process in which foods are placed in jars or cans and heated to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. This heating and later cooling forms a vacuum seal. The vacuum seal prevents other microorganisms from recontaminating the food within the jar or can. (Nummer)
A canning industry was established in Baltimore in 1819 and by 1850, five canning companies existed that mainly processed oysters. However, until relatively late in the 19th century, canned commodities remained beyond the reach of all but the wealthy and government troops on campaigns, ie the Civil War.
Baltimore became the canning center of America. Pineapple, initially imported from the Bahamas and later also from Cuba, was first canned there in 1865.
The fruits were of poor quality because they were picked green to reduce rotting during the 25- to 30-day sailing trip from the Bahamas. However, green pineapples “degreen,” but the quality and flavor only diminish with storage time.
Initially, the Baltimore pineapple canning industry was small because all work was done by hand. Machinery developed around 1870 to 1900 that could core, slice, and shred pineapples helped the industry to grow.
The ring-shaped slices so characteristic of premium canned pineapple originated in the Baltimore canneries and mechanical slicers were particularly popular with canners. (Bartholomew)
The earliest record of pineapple being canned in Hawaii was when the Kona Fruit Preserving Co., founded in 1882 in North Kona by John Douglas Ackerman and Waldemar Muller, sent samples of canned pineapple to Honolulu.
The fruit was reported to be of excellent flavor. However, the business apparently was unprofitable and only survived a few months.
The basis for the modern Hawaii pineapple canning industry was begun when John Kidwell, a trained horticulturist, arrived in Honolulu from San Francisco in 1882 and established a nursery in Manoa Valley.
Kidwell was encouraged by Charles Henson, a local horticulturist and fruit broker, to grow pineapples because he liked to include a few fresh pineapples in his banana shipments to the U.S. mainland.
In 1885, Kidwell started a pineapple farm with locally available plants, but their fruit was of poor quality. That prompted him to search for better cultivars.
A report in The Florida Agriculturist about ‘Smooth Cayenne’, a pre-Columbian cultivar first collected in French Guyana, prompted the importation of 12 plants. ‘Smooth Cayenne’ proved to be the best to grow and can.
The “development of the (Hawaiian) pineapple industry is founded on his selection of the Smooth Cayenne variety and on his conviction that the future lay in the canned product, rather than in shipping the fruit in the green state.” (Canning Trade; Hawkins)
The commercial Hawaiian pineapple canning industry began in 1889 when Kidwell’s business associate, John Emmeluth, a Honolulu hardware merchant and plumber, produced commercial quantities of canned pineapple.
Emmeluth refined his pineapple canning process between 1889 and 1891, and around 1891 packed and shipped 50 dozen cans of pineapple to Boston, 80 dozen to New York, and 250 dozen to San Francisco.
The test product was well received, but the profit margin was slim and he lost money because of the 35% duty on processed fruit imports to the United States. Kidwell and Emmeluth established the Hawaii Fruit and Packing Company in 1892 and built a small cannery.
The business was closed and the cannery was sold to the Pearl City Fruit Company after the 1898 season because the crushing tariffs and high shipping costs made the venture unprofitable. (Bartholomew)
One of the last laws passed by the Legislative Assembly before the overthrow had been an act to encourage the cultivation, canning, and preserving of pineapples in an attempt to diversify the economy away from sugar.
For a period of ten years after 1892, all tools, machinery, appliances, buildings, and all other personal property used in the cultivation, canning, or preserving of pineapples and held for export had been exempted from all taxes.
Furthermore, all tools, machinery, or appliances to be used exclusively in canning or preserving pineapples for export, or for the manufacture of containers for the same, and also all containers for use in connection therewith and the material for making them, could be imported into Hawai’i free of duty for ten years.
Kidwell was appointed the manager of the Hawaiian Fruit & Packing Company. The company’s cannery eventually had a capacity of ten thousand cans per day.
According to Kidwell, he received testimony from his customers that no other canned pineapples put on the American market came near to his in quality. (Hawkins)
In 1893 there were 13 pineapple growers, mostly on Oahu, with almost 400,000 plants in the ground and most fruits went to the fresh market. In 1897, almost 158,000 fruits were exported to the U.S. mainland. Production declined after 1897 and by 1901 no data on pineapple fresh fruit exports were collected.
Several events occurred in 1898 that facilitated the development of the new pineapple canning industry. First, the annexation of Hawaii in that year resulted in the revocation of the 35% duty on Hawaiian canned pineapple.
Second, the Republic of Hawaii legislature passed a law that made some 1,300 acres of government land near Wahiawa available for homesteading once a pasture lease expired.
In addition, Byron O Clark, Territorial Commissioner of the Board of Agriculture and Forestry, helped bring 13 southern California families to Wahiawa to homestead the land made available under the new law.
These early migrants and James Dole, who arrived in 1899, formed the nucleus of what would eventually become the largest pineapple industry in the world. (Lots of information here is from Bartholomew, Hawkins.)
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Owen Miyamoto says
The pictures bring back memories of work done by teens hired during the summer canning season. Most of the pictures show young ladies but there was an army of youngsters known as tray boys. Cans were filled with pineapple and the boys manually transferred the trays to pallets to be trucked to ovens for creating the vacuum preserved with covers.. One summer was interrupted by a labor dispute and the summer workers were challenged by union strong arms when the canneries attempted to pick up their workers at the Palace grounds.
While working the night shift (more money!) they’d endlessly play Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Please Release Me Let Me Go” on the PA system. That’s what was running through my mind all night! It was thus no wonder that, when I saw the bongo tags on the older workers I, as a high school junior, was aghast that some had been there for 30+ years. Not me! Cannery work instilled a thirst for the college doors.
Melissa Wheeler says
I worked in the Honolulu cannery, Night Shift during the summer of 1967. The song that was endlessly played was Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally”. Over and over again. “Pick your Pine Girly”. We girls would purposely inflict acid burns on our wrists (rub rubber gloves with pineapple juice on your arm) and go to the dispensary, hopefully, to be let off work.