SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Today Sacramento is known as the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America, but in the early 20th century it could have been known as the Canning Capital of America with its large and numerous canning facilities.
When the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, the Sacramento River was tamed with levees and miners gave up looking for gold, Sacramento became an agricultural hot bed and canneries were needed to ship that fresh produce across the country.
But before Sacramento was known for shoving peaches and tomato’s into cans it was the birth place of canned salmon along North America’s Pacific Coast.
In 1864, a barge moored on the banks of the Sacramento River and owned by Hapgood, Hume, and Company would start the canning legacy of Sacramento and salmon canning on the west coast.
The operation would only last for two years as salmon habitats were destroyed by mining, lumber and other industrial operations. The company relocated to the Columbia River area in Oregon.
By 1913, Sacramento was home to the largest cannery in the world at the time, the Libby, McNeill and Libby plant at 1724 Stockton Boulevard.
The Libby plant cost $750,000 to build and employed 500 men and women when it opened on Sep. 12, 1913.
On April 4, 1925, the new California Packing Corporation Plant No. 11 at 1701 C Street, also known as the Del Monte plant, surpassed the size of the Libby plant.
By 1927, the Libby plant had doubled the size of its Stockton Boulevard plant and was producing 1.25 million cases per year, matching that of the Del Monte plant.
The Del Monte plant would also see a large expansion in 1937, that would double the size of the plant.
These were not the only canneries and packing plants in Sacramento as nearly 20 others were scattered across the city.
During World War II, both Libby and Del Monte advertised for female employees as male labor was scarce.
Campbells Soup Company joined the collection of big name Sacramento canning companies in 1947 with their $8 million plant at 6200 Franklin Boulevard.
During this time it was estimated that 96 million cans of fruits and vegetables were produced in Sacramento and that 4,500 people were employed in the canneries.
During the early 1980s the Sacramento canning industry took a major hit as the Del Monte plant closed in 1981 and the Libby plant ceased production in 1982.
It would not be until July 2013 that the Campbell plant would also close its doors and leave 700 people without a job.
Today Blue Diamond factory occupies the former Del Monte plant at 17th and C.
The Libby plant at 1724 Stockton Blvd is now home to UC Davis Information Technology, The Cannery, The Sacramento Bee and more.
The Campbells plant is currently planned for demolition by their current owners Rabin Worldwide and Hackman Capital.