Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Columbia Conserve Co. mss., 1903–1953, are the papers of the Columbia Conserve Company, a cannery in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1903 Charles Hutchins Hapgood, a successful plow manufacturer, bought the controlling interest in the Mullen, Blackledge Company. His three sons, William Powers, Hutchins, and Norman, became stockholders. William, who had had nine years experience with Franklin MacVeagh's Wholesale Grocery in Chicago, first as assistant shipping clerk and later as head of the manufacturing department, assumed the managerial responsibilities of the company.

After losing the original investment, the company was reorganized in 1910 and moved to Lebanon, Indiana. Two years later the company moved back to Indianapolis locating on Churchman Avenue. Following the death of Charles H. Hapgood in 1917, the company adopted a program of workers' management and ownership operating through a workers' council. In 1932 following the employment of Powers Hapgood, John Brophy, Daniel Donovan, and Leo F. Tearney, labor troubles developed and culminated in the dismissal of the last three named leaders. A committee of four composed of Jerome Davis, Paul Howard Douglas, Sherwood Eddy, and James Myers was then appointed by the Council and Board of Directors to investigate the difficulties and submit a plan of settlement. On September 1, 1942, the employees struck for higher wages and the following year Marion County superior judge Hezzie B. Pike, dissolved the trust and ordered the stock distributed individually to all who had worked at Columbia for at least six months since January 1, 1925. From 1943 to 1953 the company again was back in the hands of the Hapgoods. In 1953 the plant was sold to John Sexton and Company, Chicago, which took possession on May 1. At that time the formulas were purchased by Venice Maid Company, Vineland, New Jersey.

Among long–term employees of the company were C. Estella Franz, a member of the Mullen, Blackledge Company, who joined the Columbia Conserve Company staff in 1903 heading the order department and Howard Herner, a member of the shipping department, who was engaged as bookkeeper in 1918, a few years later assumed the duties of treasurer of the company.

For fifty years the company manufactured twenty–seven varieties of condensed soup, twenty–one varieties of Ready–to–Serve soup, and other fancy products such as catsup, boned chicken, salad sprouts, and brown gravy with beef, which were sold under buyers' labels.

In addition to the material found in the collection, information on the company appears in Devere Allen's Adventurous Americans... (New York, [c.1932]), pp. 217–32; William P. Hapgood's "The High Adventure of a Cannery," Survey, LXVIII:655–58, 682, Sept. 1, 1922; John Bartlow Martin's Indiana: An Interpretation (New York, 1947), pp. 159–73; and Elfrieda Lang, "The Columbia Conserve Company Papers," The Indiana University Bookman, November 1957, pp. 18–23. Another account of the company is by Russell Edward Vance, "An Unsuccessful Experiment in Industrial Democracy: The Columbia Conserve Company," Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, 1956. (D40 .V222)

The collection is organized into the following series: I. Correspondence; II. Business. An inventory is available.

Acquired: 1953, 1955

Collection size: 56,321 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.