San Pedro Canning Company

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Canning crawfish on Santa Cruz Island
Sunset Magazine, 1905 (238)
Photo by N. H. Reed

San Pedro Canning Company

In the News~

June 29, 1898 [LAT/SB]: “Captain Larco’s steam yacht Lizzie Belle W has been purchased by Captain Hall of the Coos Bay, to be used as a freighter at San Pedro in connection with the lobster cannery.”

August 13, 1898 [LAT]: “Display of citron and canned lobsters for Omahan… The second unique display will be the lobsters and crabs canned by the San Pedro Preserving Company. The crustaceans are caught off the Southern California coast, and prepared for market at San Pedro.”

May 5, 1899 [SBMP]: “The King of San Pedro paid. Two fishermen plead guilty and three ask for jury trials. Henry Oliver and Fred Bohman, two of the fishermen arrested by Game Wardens Loud and Hopkins on Santa Rosa Island and returned here night before last, yesterday pled guilty to the charge of taking crawfish out of season and were fined $20 each. F. Weiderwald, the “King of San Pedro”, paid the bill and the fishermen were released. The other three, John Osterman, Henry Belcker and Peter Lind, entered pleas of not guilty and demanded jury trials. Bail was fixed at $100 each, which they furnished, and the cases were set for trial as follows: Osterman, Tuesday; Blecker, Wednesday; and Lind Thursday of this week. H. C. Booth will defend the cases, that will be prosecuted by District Attorney Squier. In making the arrests the game wardens acted under instructions from the state fish commission that had received word that crawfish were being caught at the islands and great quantities were being shipped to canneries at San Pedro. Crawfish were found in possession of the fishermen and were confiscated and liberated by the officers. They also took possession of the gasoline schooner Lizzie Belle W, that was used by the fishermen, and brought her here on returning. The Lizzie Belle W was formerly owned here and and was sold by Captain Larco to the San Pedro Canning factory people, who have used her in the island fishing trade. Officer Hopkins went to the islands again yesterday to arrest three more crawfishers that were overlooked in the first haul.”

May 9, 1899 [SBMP]: “Constable Hopkins returned at 10 o’clock last night from Santa Cruz Island with three more fishermen arrested for violation of the new county ordinance against taking crawfish. The officer left for the island Saturday morning and began the return trip Sunday, but was becalmed in the channel all day and night and succeeded only yesterday afternoon and evening in completing the trip. These arrests, A. J. Kilger, George Cozens, and one whose name was not given, complete the force of men in the employ of the San Pedro Canning Factory whose depredations were called to the attention of the State Fish Commission and the game warden. Five were already under arrest, of whom two have pled guilty and paid fines and the trial of another is set for today…”

May 10, 1899 [SFCall]: “Santa Barbara, May 9. — Tons of fish given freedom. Second raid on Santa Cruz Island. Deputy Sheriff Hopkins and Game Warden C. A. Loud returned at midnight last night from Santa Cruz Island with three moer fishermen, arrested for having violated the State and county game and fish laws. These, with the five who were brought over several days ago, complete the force of men in the employ of the San Pedro Canning Factory, whose depredations were called to the attention of the State Fish Commission and the Game Warden. They have been shipping tons of crawfish to San Pedro from these islands in violation of the law, under which the season closed on May 1. Twenty-one cages of fish, containing about ten tons, were found and liberated. These had been caught recently and were just being put aboard a vessel for shipment to the factory. Of the first five men arrested on Santa Cruz, two have pleaded guilty and paid heavy fines. The case of another was heard before Judge Wheaton and a jury today, the District Attorney representing the prosecution and H. C. Booth the defendant, Peter Lind. Lind was accused of having taken and had in his possession two tons of live crawfish on May 5, 1899. The closed season on crawfish begins on April 15. The case will go to the jury tomorrow morning. From the questions propounded to the jurors and the witness it seems that the defense will be that the waters surrounding Santa Cruz Island are not within the jurisdiction of the State, while extending three English miles from the mainland, take in the islands, but not the waters surrounding them; that the ordinance of the Supervisors providing for a punishment for having crawfish in possession during the closed season without specifying where they were taken is extraterritorial and beyond the jurisdiction of the Board of Supervisors. The captain of the San Pedro Company's schooner and his mate were the only witnesses for the defendants. Charles Vogelsang, secretary of the State Fish and Game Commission, was in attendance and helped the prosecution. Santa Cruz Island has been claimed by Mexico and has been disputed ground for many years. Like Santa Rosa Island, owned by the A. P. More estate, and San Miguel owned by Captain W. G. Waters, Santa Cruz Island is a principality in itself. A number of years ago A. P. More, who had murdered a Chinaman, escaped punishment for his crime because the trial judge ruled that the waters surrounding the islands were not under the State's jurisdiction. It is currently understood that the case tried today is a test in the interest of the San Pedro Company, although this is denied by the attorney for the defense. The crawfish industry of the islands, it is estimated, is worth several hundred thousand dollars a year to the canners.”

May 12, 1899 [SFCall]: “The trial of Peter Lind, charged with having crawfish in his possession and thus violating the State law, after having occupied the attention of Justice Wheaton for three days was given to the jury, which agreed to disagree, standing six to six. Many interesting points of law were brought out in the trial and the old dispute as to the waters surrounding Santa Cruz and the other islands of Santa Barbara channel was again brought up. The defense claimed that these waters are not within the jurisdiction of the State of California., for while its jurisdiction extends three English miles from the mainland it takes in the islands and nothing else, not even the waters surrounding them. Perhaps the argument of the defense which had the greatest affect upon the jury was that the law did not intend to reach the fishermen themselves, but that they were only acting as employees of the San Pedro Canning Company, and as the law provides means for reaching the corporation itself it is the one to be punished for the infringement of the law, as the fishermen, who had no means of communication with the mainland for two months, were ignorant of the law itself. Peter Lind belonged belonged to the camp which was seized some time ago. He was arrested at a small inlet on the northeast side of Santa Cruz Island known as Pelican Bay. This particular part of the island is very rough and during the greater part of the year it is impossible to reach it by water. For this reason and on account of the great numbers of crawfish that are found there the camp was so located by the San Pedro Company. The men from this camp were caught loading on board the Lizzie Belle W, the 25-ton schooner which is in the employ of the canning factory, several crates of fish, several tons in all, and not only were the fishermen themselves put under arrest, but also the captain, mate and engineer of the schooner. The officer's sloop, the Olita, was anchored in Pelican Bay, and they rode across the channel with their prisoners in the Lizzie Belle W. The trial of John Osterman began today. He belongs to another camp, and is case was considered a stronger one for the prosecution than that of those arrested in the Pelican Bay camp, for in the one instance the crawfish were found in their possession and in the other they were caught in the act by Officer W. W. Hopkins. Hopkins had been lying in wait for these men for several days, in the hopes of catching them at their work. While it is thought that these men will not be found guilty, yet it is known that these arrests will virtually compel the San Pedro Canning Company factory to close its doors for several months, until the open season, when crawfish can again be had. At the time of the different arrests fifteen or twenty tons of crawfish were liberated. Over sixty talesmen were examined today in the Osterman case, but only ten jurors were sworn. The case may take two or three days more.”

August 28, 1901 [LAH]: “The San Pedro Canning Company began operations yesterday. It expects to have a boatload of lobsters here by Saturday and will begin canning them by the first of next week. Twenty people will be employed.”

April 14, 1902 [LAT/SP]: “The reformation of the abalones found a place among the industries flourishing about this seaport town… The San Pedro Canning Company is handling between two and ten tons of abalones per week, not counting the weight of the shell. The abalones are gathered about the Channel Islands and brought to this port on the power sloop Alta. Most of those that have been brought up to the present have come from Santa Cruz and San Nicolas islands. The meats are treated so that they become tender and are packed for shipment to the Orient. The company is expecting within a short time to pack them for American consumption.”

July 25, 1902 [LAT/SP]: “The San Pedro Canning Company was incorporated today with a capitalization of $50,000, of which $25,000 has been subscribed. The officers and directors are George de la Vargne, president; Paul F. de la Vargne, vice-president; Frank K. Burns, secretary; State Bank of San Pedro, treasurer; W. W. Beach, manager. It is the purpose of the new corporation to establish a new canning factory in this city for the manufacture of all kinds of sea foods, and canning of fish, lobsters, abalones, clams, turtles, etc.”

March 21, 1903 [LAH]: “W. W. Beach, manager of the San Pedro Canning Company, has returned from an extensive business trip to Lower California and states that his company has in view the purchase of the plant of the Pacific Canning and Exploration Aompany. The company holds valuable concessions from the Mexican government. Its headquarters are at San Quintin, and if the negotiations are completed Beach states that the principle place of business will be established at this point. At present the San Pedro Canning Company is unable to supply the demand for its product.”

August 1, 1903 [LAH]: “The San Pedro Canning Company has been notified by the Southern Pacific to vacate the premesis it now occupies. This is to make room for the improvements which are under way along the harbor front and which make it necessary, too, for the railroad company to have possession of all its frontage.”

November 6, 1903 [LAH]: “It is reported that the San Pedro Canning Company has secured a location for its plant on the east side of the bay and will move to East San Pedro soon. Upon the termination of its lease with the Southern Pacific the company was unable to negotiate terms for a longer period and had contemplated moving to San Diego, but having secured a suitable location will remain here. The removal of the plant from its present quarters is in line with the improvements which the Southern Pacific Company has in contemplation for the port dating from the granting of concessions by the San Pedro city trustees, which gave the railroad possession of Timm’s Point. When these plans are carried out, the entire harbor front will be changed. About twenty acres of tide lands have been reclaimed at Timm’s Point and with the adjacent holdings of the Southern Pacific Company a large acreage is available. Here it is rumored the Southern Pacific allotted space for wharves and yards for lumber companies, which at present occupy the railroad’s wharves…”

February 17, 1904 [LAT/SP]: “The San Pedro Canning Company received six tons of abalones yesterday from Laguna. They are being canned at the factory on Terminal Island.”

November 1, 1905 [SBMP]: “The launch Irene arrived yesterday morning from San Nicolas Island with a cargo of several tons of abalone shells and meat, which were procured by Clarence Libbey and Frank Nidever during the last few weeks. They will now engage in the craw-fishing business for the San Pedro Canneries.”

March 3, 1906 [SBMP]: “Complaint is made by boatmen returning from the channel islands that the San Pedro Canning Company is carrying away large quantities of abalones from different harbors on the islands. They have established a number of fishing camps where eight or ten Japanese equipped with diving suits are bringing up many shells from the bottom of the ocean. A camp was established at Cuyler's Harbor last Monday and the Japanese gathered over a ton of abalone meat on the first day. It is contended that such a wholesale attack on abalones will soon exterminate them from the places where they grow, and that one of the main attractions of the islands will be destroyed. The Japanese are under yearly contracts to fish for the San Pedro company.”

April 25, 1906 [SBMP]: “Diving for Abalones. Japanese fishermen are threatening industry... Libbey and Nidever say that G. F. McGuire, owner of the powerboat Peerless, has a crew of ten Japs working for him at San Miguel, and that the San Pedro Cannery Company had the schooner Bolinas with A full crew of divers at work.”