Campbell Soup Company Artifacts Tell the Story of its 149-Year-Old Existence

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The staff at the Campbell Soup Company has been able to collect and store artifacts from every department since the company's start almost 150 years ago.

Employees say those artifacts have been able to help them remain a big part of America's story.

"For 149 years, which is an incredibly long amount of time, [and coinciding with] any major American history event, Campbell’s was there in some way," said Sarah Rice, corporate archivist. "We are so, literally, [interwoven] in what it is to be an American [and] the American experience [that] you can not tell the story without us.”

Campbell's archives have not been dug through by researchers or scientists as the doors are closed to the public.

The seemingly large, white room is filled with hand-written recipes, old cans, and items passed down through company members. The stories they have are told by the people that know them best, starting with the company’s roots as a canning company.

Joseph Campbell and Abraham Anderson partnered up to produce more than 200 products — mainly canned vegetables, fruits and condiments.

Their most popular item was their Beef Steak Tomato, which was a full large tomato in a can. There were no soups during this time.

"Soup comes into [the] portfolio as an afterthought, to be honest," said Rice. "Again, we had over 200 products at this time, none of which were soup. Soup comes into the picture in the 1890s after a company called the Franco-American Food Company comes into the picture and starts selling ready-to-serve soups in a can, on the shelf.

"One of their best selling soups in our area was tomato and that’s when we started to have some serious issues with them as far as the turf," Rice continued. "We had covered the tomato [and] cornered the tomato market. Our specific breed of tomato was beloved and still is to this day in this area.”

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The company eventually came out with a ready-to-serve soup to compete with the rival Franco-American Food Company.

It wasn’t until 1897 when the nephew of the president during that time, Arthur Dorrance, asked for a job with the company. Dr. John T. Dorrance was 24 years old and working as an engineer and a chemist.

After just three months, he was able to perfect the soup recipes, turn them into condensed soups and help pave the way for them to become Campbell’s best sellers.

Campbell will be turning 150 years old in 2019. Experts say that they don’t know the exact month the company was born, which means the entire year will be one big celebration.

Plans for a party are in the works for sometime late next year.


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