:: Food Machinery Corporation Photographic Collection
The Food Machinery Corporation (FMC) collection consists of photographs taken in the middle of the Twentieth century. The photographs illustrate various aspects of the FMC business from its fruit packing machine division to its military contracts, and from the clerical staff to the workers on the factory floor. The photographs include not only shots from the plant during business hours but also recreational and social functions attended by FMC employees. The photographs document a brief period in the history of a local Riverside business. But some photos reflect national trends, such as women in wartime factories (the Rosie Riveter image) and even the social mores of Americans during the 1940s.
The collection consists of one box, measuring .5 linear feet.
The Food Machinery Corporation in Riverside traces its origins to three men operating in the first half of the Twentieth century. In 1903, Fred Stebler opened the California Iron Works at Ninth and Vine Streets, where he produced citrus washing, drying, sorting, and packing equipment. In 1909, George Parker bought the Riverside Foundry and Machine Works (renamed the Parker Machine Works) at Twelfth and Pachappa (later known as Commerce) Streets, where he manufactured nailing and boxing machines as well as citrus washing equipment. Parker's Orange Box Maker was widely used by citrus packing houses in California and Florida.
Business rivals, Stebler and Parker filed numerous patent infringement cases against each other, and against other competitors. Upon the advice of banker W.B. Clancy, and based on economic necessity, the two merged in 1920 to form the Stebler-Parker Company, which produced the packing and handling machines at Stebler's plant. Parker continued at his factory with his nailing devices and wire-tying machines.
During the 1920s, a third competitor entered the business. Hale Paxton developed a nailing machine that was faster, lighter, and could be easily transported to the fields, unlike Parker's machine. Paxton also made lidding machines, which were gentler to the fruit than Parker's version. Paxton's machine raised the box to the lid while Parker's machine had the lids slam down onto the boxes. Parker and Paxton competed in the field, making improvements on their lidding and box-making machinery. Meanwhile, Stebler had no competition, and thus made no improvements on his machines. He further consolidated his holdings by having packinghouses buy not just his patented machinery but entire citrus packing systems, including non-patented parts.
The California Fruit Growers Exchange encouraged the Food Machinery Corporation to enter the field of citrus machinery. FMC started as a national consolidation of various manufacturers of vegetable drying and packing equipment, fruit canning machines, and agricultural spray pumps. In the 1930s, the Stebler-Parker Company became a division of FMC under the name Citrus Machinery Co., with Stebler a large stockholder. Paxton also joined the corporation as superintendent in 1938, moving his equipment from its Orange County location to the new FMC building at Parker's old plant, which FMC bought at a liquidation sale several years after Parker's death in 1930. The Stebler location became a warehouse for FMC. The company eliminated the wire typing machinery division after the consolidation.
In 1940, FMC helped design a light amphibious tracked vehicle. The government gave FMC the contract to build military versions of the vehicle, with an assembly line in Florida and another in Riverside. Several types of the Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT, also known as the Water Buffalo) were produced, with Riverside responsible for the gun turret version, the LVT-4. The Riverside main plant also manufactured spare parts for the vehicles. During World War II, FMC built 11,251 LVT vehicles, receiving in 1945 the Army-Navy "E" award for outstanding war production. Changing its name to the Food Machinery and Chemical Corporation in 1948, operations continued during the Korean War with retrofitting of the older LVT models and also building different vehicle types. In 1949 a monument, complete with LVT, was dedicated to the factory war workers at Fairmount Park near the location where they had conducted testing.
The FMC Corporation (its moniker since 1961) continued operations worldwide with its chemical divisions, military contracts (including ones for the M113 and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle), and its agricultural and machinery systems. Though FMC Corporation continues to have a sales and service location in Riverside on Linden Street, it sold the building at the site of Parker's old factory and moved its citrus system and food technology headquarters to Florida.
Scope and Content
The Food Machinery Corporation Photograph Collection consists of two series. Series I contains the originals which have been divided into seventeen folders based on the apparent activity photographed. Many photos are unidentified. What little notation some photos do have consists of either a photographer's mark, some identification of the people or activity photographed, or a title of the scene, such as "Johnny on the spot." Rarely does a photograph have a date, though the material seems to be from the mid-1940s to perhaps the early 1950s. The photos, all black and white, range in size from 3" x 5" to 8" x 10", the latter being far more common. The physical condition of the photographs is fair, with several having large creases and others with a rubbery substance on their backs. Many have handwritten notations indicating measurements and areas to be cropped. Other editorial remarks include further defined subjects, while in some photographs, the subject matter was blacked out. Series II, Folder 1, has one item relating to the photographs: an undated newspaper clipping of several military transport vehicles. This collection also includes a browsing book consisting of photocopies of the original 178 photographs. Additionally, in the Local History Pamphlet File and the Ephemera File, is a color brochure from the FMC on their fruit preservation activities.
Series I: Photographs
The series consists of photographs documenting aspects of the Food Machinery Corporation taken by various photographers, including Otto Rothschild of Los Angeles and Bert Eby. The Riverside Main Plant, the FMC auxiliary location in Pomona, the Riverside Municipal Auditorium, Fairmont Park, and the Riverside National Armory are among the locations photographed. Only a few of the photos have dates written on them (such as the grape packing table photos from 1947) or show the year somewhere in the photo, as in an item from the factory floor folders. The folders are arranged alphabetically by subject, except for the last folder of miscellaneous photos. Many of the photos are of people at work on the factory floor or group portraits of the FMC workers, including a photo of women employees. Folder 4 includes two copies of a photo showing a group of women at work on the assembly line. On the reverse is a stamped notation stating that the Navy Department approved the photos for publication. Potential publication may have played a part in the censorship of some photos. Folder 5 has a photo with a handwritten remark noting that a cigarette needed to be marked out. Folder 7 has a group portrait with blacked out pin-up art in the background. Some photos show items manufactured by FMC. Folder 1 has photos from the 1945 Army-Navy presentation and a photo from a convention in Boston showing a mock up of a conveyor system, one of the FMC products. Folder 8 has photos of another FMC product: the LVT.
Folder 1: Assemblies, Presentation, and Convention (10 items)
Folder 2: Blood Drive (20 items)
Folder 3: Factory Floor (23 items)
Folder 4: Factory Floor (22 items)
Folder 5: Grape Packing Table (3 items)
Folder 6: Group Portraits (17 items)
Folder 7: Group Portraits (17 items)
Folder 8: Military (8 items)
Folder 9: People (4 items)
Folder 10: Portraits (14 items)
Folder 11: Professional and Clerical (10 items)
Folder 12: Recreational Activities – Dining and Breaks (6 items)
Folder 13: Recreational Activities – Golf (2 items)
Folder 14: Recreational Activities – Picnic (6 items)
Folder 15: Recreational Activities – Shooting (5 items)
Folder 16: Recreational Activities – Social (7 items)
Folder 17: Miscellaneous (4 items)
Series II: Related Material
The folder has a newspaper clipping showing several military transport vehicles.
Folder 1: newspaper clipping (one item)
The Fred Stebler Collection at the Riverside Municipal Museum
Guide to the Historic Landmarks of Riverside County, California. Riverside: Riverside County Historical Commission Press, 1993.
"History of FMC." 2000. FMC Corporation. (2 April 2001).
Patterson, Tom. A Colony for California. 2nd edition. Riverside: The Museum Press of the Riverside Museum Associates, 1996.
Patterson, Tom. Landmarks of Riverside and the Stories Behind Them. Riverside: Press Enterprise Co., 1964.