By Barbara Young
By the mid-1800s, industrial canning factories or "canneries," as they were often called, were fairly widespread throughout Indiana as a commercial industry.
Work inside one of these old buildings was said to have been unpleasant, to say the least. Large vats were heavy, and were often sealed with a health hazard using lead. It wasn't until about the time of the Civil War that better methods of commercial canning came into being.
After the invention of the Mason canning jar, with threaded lips and pressure seals, canning factory workers and homemakers alike were able to engage more efficiently in the canning of fruits, pickles, relishes and even tomato sauce and some meats such as pork sausage.
Most of the early commercial canning factories employed what was called "the open kettle method," in which boiling down brine, in the case of making pickles, was poured into steaming hot jars to the point of overflowing. The purpose of this was to kill bacteria, both inside the jar and on the lip. Although it was a decent enough method, by today's standards, it would not be nearly good enough.
What strikes one to the point of amazement about these canning factories is that, because of small, cramped working spaces, it was popular for the owner to hire child labor. These children, who earned up to 25 cents a week, could move around easier than the adults, and, as one newspaper article said "the children didn't grumble so much about the unbearable heat inside the building."
The town of Newburgh had their own canning factory for several years. In Boonville, there was the Lippincott Canning Factory beside the old railroad tracks off East Division Street. This factory normally employed an average of 20 workers. Unfortunately, after a major explosion in the 1940s, the entire business was lost.