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Olney & Floyd Canning Factory at Delta, NY

History of Olney & Floyd Canning Factories in Lee

As you traveled on the road leading to Long Hill or Short Hill, the first buildings you saw in Delta Village was the Olney and Floyd Canning Factory. In 1884, George B. Olney and C. Frank Floyd purchased three or four acres of land by the Mohawk River. It was the first canning factory to be built in this area.

The buildings were two stories high and well spread out. They were organized and neat looking. The engine room was on the north side, close to back of the plant. They had a 95 foot chimney towering over the buildings. North of the buildings were long sheds where horse-drawn lumber wagons loaded with sweet corn were placed. On the west and south side of the large building were the store rooms, where the canned goods were stored. The corn was raised by the local farmers on the fertile lands. In the fall the corn was cut by hand, shucked by hand, packed into the cans and labled by hand. It was then packed into wooden boxes, loaded on large wagons pulled by a stout team of horses and transported to Rome.

Canners in those days spent their winters making their own cans. On November 20, 1881, a local newspaper stated "Olney and Floyd canning factory owners have purchased a boat load of Welch tin and are preparing to make cans for the next season." The boat load referrred to came through the Black River Canal system. The Welch tin plate that was used for the cans was so good that the scrap dump near the factory still glisened in the sun more than 70 years later.

The Olney and Floyd Company was organized as a partnership in Westernville in 1880, with corn as the only product. The Delta plant was purchased four years later. By 1886 both canning factories together had reached the total of one million cans a year. The work at the plant included snipping of beans, shelling peas, shucking corn, all done by hand. Then there was the slow process of filling and hand soldering the tin containers.

In 1881 about 30 people were employed at Westernville factory. In 1887 they were making 4,000 cans a day. It would need to make 600,000 cans to supply both factories. At that time both factories were canning corn, succotash, green and yellow beans, peas, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, spinach, red kidney beans, lima beans and beets. The Rome Sentinel stated on September 27, 1891, "Olney and Floyd had put up 400,000 cans of corn at the Delta plant. The Westernville factory did the same number that year."

In 1894 there were 100 people employed in the Delta factory. A large part of the canned goods were sold in Denver, Salt Lake City, Boston, Philadelphia, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York City, just to name a few. With George Jr., John and W. Floyd Olney at the Lee Centre factory, they employed over 200 people at to peak of their business. The Lee Centre plant sold canned goods to many of the local grocery stores such as Loblaws and A. & P.

Around the turn of the century, more produce was canned in Oneida County than any other county in New York. Produce was grown by area farmers. During World War II, German prisoners of war were put to work at the plant in Rome.

Lee Center Canning Factory was built to replace the Delta factory that had closed it's doors in 1907, to make way for the Delta Dam project. The Lee Center Canning Factory closed in 1971.

Photos of a few of the labels used in the Olney & Floyd Canning Factories
Photo of an early can of corn canned at the Delta Canning Factory

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This page created November 1, 2002
last updated February 28, 2007
Kathleen L. Last and Virginia Ackerman
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