Ferguson Canning Company

Since we were in the neighborhood of the Ferguson Farm last month — now the future site of the Aquatic Center, off of Maple Avenue — why not track down the location of the former Ferguson Cannery? Not so easy. It took an animated discussion between both Ferguson brothers to pin it down.

As teenagers, the brothers along with their older sister, Sharon, worked summers at the cannery started by their grandparents, Cecil and Clara, in 1914.
Bruce (L) and Gary on the site of the Ferguson Cannery.

According to their uncle Emory’s account in River Reflections, Part II: “the original cannery was a lean-to, consisting of three sides … It had a tarpaper roof, a dirt floor, one ten-horsepower steam boiler and one steam engine.”
An early photo of the cannery interior.

The homegrown company seems to have come into its own with the renewed popularity of Victory Gardens during World War II. Called a “custom cannery,” it meant that the customer brought the food already prepared to the plant for packing. The Ferguson Cannery ran several large ads in the Tribune promoting the Victory Garden business during the early 1940s.

With the end of the war, the commercial canning business, Ferg’s Finer Foods, expanded with new products and retail outlets. Mountainous displays of canned goods was a popular point-of-purchase style in food stores well into the 1950s. Ferg’s Finer Foods topped their displays with a small sailboat, one of Bruce’s souvenirs from those days.
Price list dated 1941.

The company wasn’t incorporated until

1954 with the boys’ father Burdette, uncle Emery, aunt Madeline and grandparents as officers. Clara died in 1961, but Cecil, E. C. Ferguson’s only son, lived to see the production of “Puget Sound Air” — yes, canned air — a novelty item sold at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. Cecil, the cannery founder who preferred working barefoot, died in November, 1964.    Cecil (L) with his sons Burdette and Emory.

The canning industry by this time was ripe picking for manufacturers influencing the regulations. The investment required to continue did not pencil out, and operations ended in 1971.

Gary, Bruce and their sister Sharon were free to look for another line of work.

Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson photographed with Burdette Ferguson on the cannery’s Berry Porch for Life Magazine.

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About the now image in the animation above: Gary is standing at the south end of the parking lot as it appears in the historic photograph. Maple was not as wide then as it is now. The building to Gary’s left is the former cannery warehouse built in 1945 as reported in the Tribune, December 6: “[Fergusons] Construct $3,000 Addition To Cannery On Maple St.” The Fraternal Order of the Eagles renovated the old warehouse for their use after selling their historic building at 801-807 First Street.

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Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, May 16, 2012.

One thought on “Ferguson Canning Company

  1. Bruce Ferguson

    People were paid 8 cents per pound for blackberries,  12 cents for raspberries.  Picking “flats” were provided, as seen on berry porch with Scoop and my dad.    Flats were stamped ” Ferguson Frozen Foods.”   Berries were washed and taken to  Everett Cold Storage each night.  …………Bruce Ferguson

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