In earlier posts, canning plants have been mentioned in connection with some of the New Deal schools in Mississippi (for example, East Tupelo canning plant). Recently, I ran across this article on the Emergency Relief Administration’s opening of the Jackson Beef canning plant. The cannery was established to can “thousands of head of drouth [sic] relief cattle now being pastured on Mississippi grazing lands” (Clarion-Ledger, Sept. 26, 1934). Jackson’s Plant No. 1 was the first of seven canneries established in Mississippi to process the cattle brought from the drought-stricken west. Other plants were established at Crystal Springs, Centerville, Meridian, Greenwood, Louisville, and Tupelo.
In the above photograph, clockwise from the upper left: 1) view of processing room; 2) boning tables and meat cutters; 3) (center of photo) cut beef being packed into cans for the cooking process; 4) packing table for repacking, weighing, and sealing of cans; 5) beef in sealed cans is cooked before labeling and storing. The Jackson plant could process 150 head of cattle per day.
Curious as to where the Jackson Plant No. 1 was located? Nothing in the MDAH database identified the potential location of the warehouse, but several items in the Clarion-Ledger between 1933 and 1941 pointed to possibilities. First mention of a Federal Emergency Relief canning plant in Jackson was in June 1933, located in the former Wright Laundry on South West street at A & V railroad. This canning plant was for “surplus vegetables grown in the 1,782 gardens of the city belonging to the unemployed,” with the canning plant furnishing cans and labor, and half of the product. Persons not on relief could utilize the plant, but had to furnish their own cans, and contribute 1/4 of the raw produce in exchange for the canning.
From the description for the foreclosure sale of the Nap H. Wright Laundry in July 1932, the area inside the red lines seems to be the location of the vegetable canning plant that was opened in 1933. Nap Wright had sold his small interest in the Wright’s Laundry located on North Farish Street, and built a small plant on S. West and opened Nap H. Wright Laundry.
Because the beef canning project was related to the use of cattle affected by the drought in the west (no water or grazing), it was short-lived. By January 27, 1935, the 44,903 head of cattle brought to Mississippi produced 4,654,505 cans of soup stock and stew from the canning plants in Mississippi. The plants furnished work for more than a thousand people, and the Jackson plant employed 90 workers per shift working 4 shifts a day. Jackson alone processed “1,236,060 No. 2 cans of meat from 16,235 carcasses” (ERA processing program closes, Clarion-Ledger). The Crystal Springs plant was second largest after Jackson, and they were the first plants to open, and the first to close.
So, where could the beef canning plant have been? There were no indications in the 2 news articles I located about the beef canning. However, after the beef canning plant shut down in January 1935, a vegetable canning plant opened in June 1935.
The plant is established in a building of the Enochs Lumber company plant on South State street, and dozens of truckloads of farm produce are being run through the canning process every day. (Surplus vegetables and fruits saved for relief needs by canning plants, June 17, 1935, Clarion-Ledger)
Enochs Lumber plant was described as a “monstrous factory of brick and steel” in 1933, and was constructed in 1927 to replace a former frame building. It was located at South State and Silas Brown streets.
Four of the former Enochs buildings pictured here were sold by the Central Warehouse and Storage Company…Located on an entire city block at South State and E. Silas Brown streets…
The Google map view of today illustrates what I think may be remaining buildings of the former Enochs Lumber, and the canning plant of 1935. Unfortunately, these buildings are not identified in the MDAH Historic Resources Inventory.
The canning process described was the same as the beef canning process in terms of assembling the product, sealing, and steam cooking the sealed cans prior to labeling, packaging and distribution. It seems plausible that the canning equipment might have remained in the building and the vegetable canning plant that was opened 5 months later opened in the same location. The primary difference would have been in the preparation of beef versus vegetables. The vegetable canning project employed mostly women, working two 6-hour shifts.
Every county in the state participated in the Food Conservation Program conducted by the cooperative efforts of the home economics and works divisions of the ERA for Mississippi. In 1936, the program was under the auspices of the Resettlement Administration, and the focus moved from canneries to home canning, utilizing home pressure cookers.