THE MEAT PACKING INDUSTRY IN WHEELING
IF FURTHER proof is needed to show that Wheeling is a trading center for a large surrounding territory, even a cursory examination of the statistics of the meat packing industry in Wheeling will furnish evidence beyond reasonable doubt. Here in the limits of our city is produced daily more meat than the people living here could eat in a week. None is wasted, however, because the fame of Wheeling meat products has spread over a great circle of cities, where wise buyers specify by the brand name, ham, bacon, beef and hundreds of other products which are produced by the packers of our city.
So long as we have sufficient meat for our needs we do not feel called upon to investigate meticulously the process of killing cattle, hogs and sheep to produce this meat. The subject has unsavory aspects, consequently even though it is one most necessary to our welfare few of us have much of an idea of its scope.
Without trying to go too deeply into the details of the killing of stock to provide meat we feel that an industry of such size has every right to such publicity as this magazine can give to it. It is one of the nation's outstanding businesses, giving the farmer an outlet for his livestock, giving thousands employment and giving millions wholesome food with which to build their bodies.
The packing industry has undergone great changes in the past few years. It was once considered a necessary evil on the farm but now it is a scientific process with modern machinery and highly skilled men completing it with speed and economy.
A trip through a modern meat packing establishment is truly a revelation and not nearly so repulsive as is often thought. Science has made it possible for the killing to be so sudden as to leave the witness certain that it is painless to the beasts. There is no unsightly corner in the modern establishments, in fact the rooms in which the killing and cleaning are done remind one of huge operating rooms they are so light, airy and sanitary.
Possibly the most interesting phase of the plant, however, is that department in which the by-products of meat are recovered. A local wag has said that in a modern packing plant they use every part of a hog except the squeal; --and they are now developing a method of canning it for subsequent use as automobile horns. Be this as it may it is certain that practically every part of the animal is used for something. Hides, of course are sent to the tannery for further treatment to change them to leather. The hair is scraped from the hides and shipped elsewhere sometimes to be made into mattresses. Strange to say some of the finest mattresses available today are made from the hair of hogs. The bones that are removed are made into fertilizer. Hundreds of other products are made in these modern plants almost upsetting tradition to the extent that purses are made from the sow's ear although the unknown poet who penned the famous lines that follow is probably still correct:
The pig he is a noble bird and wondrous fair to eat,
His ham is good, likewise his jowl, and eke his pretty feet;
But if yon try a thousand years I-wot that you should fail,
To make a silk purse of his ear or a whistle of his tail.
To become more serious however, the industry has a large place in the civic life and prosperity of Wheeling. It employs upward of a thousand persons not counting the hundreds who are engaged in retailing meat in the markets of the city.
Hygrade Food ProductsCorporation
The largest single institution operating in Wheeling today, is also the oldest, the F. Schenk & Sons Co., Division of the Hygrade Food Products Corporation.
F. Schenk and Sons Co. was founded in 1857 by F. Schenk and Sons and while there were no doubt other slaughter and packing companies in the city prior to this, it is the oldest that has survived throughout the years.
The plant is now owned by the Hygrade Food Products Corporation, makers of the famous Honey Brand Hams and Bacon. The officers of this company include Samuel Slotkin, President; A. W. Cushman, Vice President and K. R. Woodruff, Secretary and Treasurer. The local plant is under the management of F. W. Regan.
F. Schenk & Sons Co., division of the Hygrade Food Products Corporation is located in Fulton, on the National Road and is one of the most modern and capacious packing plants in the United States. The capacity of this huge industrial plant is 6,000 hogs, 400 cattle, 500 calves and 400 sheep each week. This enormous consumption of livestock results in the production of approximately 300,000 pounds of meat and meat products each day of the year.
357 men and women are employed at the Hygrade Plant and except under unusual conditions the employment is practically continuous for theirs are well known products the consumption of which is little affected by depressions of business.
The numerous bright colored trucks operated by this company are familiar sights around Wheeling therefore little comment is necessary upon them. An interesting feature of the distributing system of this company, however, is deserving of mention. The trucks which deliver products to Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia cities travel as far as Youngstown and Pittsburgh in a few hours taking Honey Brand products to the markets of the larger cities. The trucks leave the plant at intervals of about fifteen minutes each from midnight until between three and four o'clock in the morning, taking out each night, as far as possible, all the products manufactured during that day. This of course only applies to the fresh meats as the smoked and salt meats are stocked with no fear of their becoming unwholesome.
The city should feel fortunate to have such a steadily working and producing industry as this one. It is such organizations that help our city hold its own while others in its vicinity often slip backward.
John Wenzel Company
Another important company in the meat packing industry of Wheeling is the John Wenzel Company, beef and pork packers and ice manufacturers. The plant, located at 4317-4323 Wood Street and the sales offices at 4320-4324 Jacob Street, provide employment to some sixty persons in producing valuable meat products and about fifty tons of ice a day.
The John Wenzel Company was originally known as John Wenzel's Meat Market, having been started in 1890 by Mr. John Wenzel in a small and according to Mr. Wenzel, a very crude way. Under efficient management, however, it has grown to its present proportions with modern machinery and one of the most up-to-date ice manufacturing plants in the country.
The present company was incorporated under the laws of West Virginia in November 1927, and the present officers are: John H. Wenzel, President; George W. Oldham, Secretary; and John K. Wenzel, Treasurer and General Manager.
The plant has a capacity of 1,500 hogs per week together with 150 cattle, 150 calves and 150 lambs in the same period of time. In addition to these killings large amounts of poultry are killed and dressed for the market. All livestock and poultry that can be purchased locally is so bought but like the other large packing plants of the district the Wenzel Company has found the local supply inadequate at times. When such is the case the stock is bought in the markets of Chicago, Indianapolis, South Charleston, Springfield, Fostoria and Chillicothe.
The Weimer Packing Company
The Weimer Packing Company is another of Wheeling's large establishments. This business was founded in 1869 by Frederick Weimer, the father of the two Weimers now associated with the business. The first factory building was located at 2 5 Bow Street, Fulton. The original building burned to the ground in 1913, however, and was rebuilt on the same site by William and Henry Weimer, sons of Frederick Weimer.
The present officers of the company are William G. Weimer, President; Albert F. Schairer, Vice President and Henry Weimer, Secretary-Treasurer.
This plant employs about sixty people and has a weekly capacity of 1,000 hogs, 200 cattle and 500 calves. The meat is distributed by truck to local markets. A retail store is owned and operated by the company at 1033 Main Street.
Louis Schneider, Meats
One of the smaller packing establishments in the city is known as Louis Schneider, Meats.
This business was founded in 1903 by Mr. and Mrs. Louis Schneider and has grown from a humble beginning to its present proportions, with a packing plant at 158 National Road, Fulton, a retail store at 2719 Eoff Street and a retail stall in the Center Wheeling Market. The packing division of the business is not very extensive as killing is limited to supply the trade of the retail shops owned by the company.
Geo. L. Zoeckler and Sons
In 1858 George L. Zoeckler entered the packing business on the site upon which the present plant is located. In 1885 his son constructed the present plant building and organized the business which is carried on today under his direction.
The Zoeckler and Sons Company are limited in their business to the killing of hogs and the ultimate conversion of the meat into manufactured meat products. Their annual hog killings number about 3,500 and the weekly output of sausage is about 2,000 pounds.
The Zoeckler Company employ seven men and deliver their products to retail stores and other large consumers, such as restaurants, by means of trucks.
These firms complete the list of companies which actually kill livestock and manufacture meat products from the stock they slaughter. There are others engaged in the business, however, which manufacture meat products and distribute them throughout the tri-state district, doing no killing within their own plants.
Chief among these is the Charles Norteman Company. This organization was formed by the man whose name it bears, when he withdrew from the C. Kalbitzer Packing Company, at the time of its reorganization.
Starting work with three employees and one truck, the Norteman Company has grown until now it boasts of 85 employees and ten trucks, exclusive of salemen's cars. The company manufactures meat products, i. e., smokes hams, grinds sausage, makes puddings, bolognas, etc., and sell these products both wholesale and retail by truck throughout northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio.
The officers of the company are Charles Norteman, President; Miss Estella Bayha, Secretary and Treasurer, and August Coleman, Superintendent.
Friesmuth and Null PackingCompany
Like the Norteman Company the Friesmuth and Null Packing Company are primarily a distributing agency for meat products.
Headed by W. M. Freismuth, President and W. E. Null, Secretary and Treasurer, this company operates fourteen trucks through West Virginia as far as Clarksburg and Parkersburg and up the Ohio River as far as East Liverpool, Ohio. The company employs 20 persons.
Swift and Company
Although only a branch of a large foreign corporation, Swift and Company, must be mentioned in any discussion of Wheeling's packing industry.
The Wheeling branch was founded in 1902 and employs 52 people. Under the management of George Ford the branch manufactures sausages and processes smoked meats.
Distribution is attained by use of trucks which cover the territory adjacent to the Ohio River as far south as Sistersville, West Virginia and all through eastern Ohio.
And so we can visualize to some extent just what the meat packing industry means to Wheeling. Nearly a thousand persons are directly employed by the various companies and hundreds of thousands of pounds of products are distributed by them daily to practically every town of any size within a hundred miles of our city.
We have many mercantile and industrial enterprises within the limits of our city which employ thousands of workers and reach their tentacles into almost every corner of the globe, but nearly all of these are better known than the packing industry which works along quietly but efficiently to keep trade on an even keel in the district it serves.
All hail to the packers! Their industry is large, their personnel consists of steady and conscientious workers. It is such industries that will put Wheeling Forward into the vanguard of communities and make our city a better one in which to live.
Forward Wheeling (a publication of the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce), vol. 1, no. 3, March 1931. p. 11-13, 15.
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