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Tillie Lewis Foods Collection
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Collection Overview
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The Tillie Lewis Collection contains biographical materials, including newspaper clippings and typescript essays, by and about Stockton, California, food entrepreneur Tillie Lewis (1904-1977). Also included are related advertisements, product labels, scrapbooks, photographs, and factory plans.
During her lifetime, Tillie Lewis (1904-1977) achieved a stature unequaled by any other businesswoman in the world. Born Myrtle Ehrlich, she grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she early married a wholesale grocer and became involved in the wholesale food production and marketing business. Among the goods her husband sold were imported pomodoro tomatoes, which impressed her because of their tangy flavor. The marriage lasted only a short time. After it ended, Tillie Ehrlich began investigating the possibility of growing the pomodoro in America. She arranged a trip to Italy (1934), in the course of which she met Florindo del Gaizo, part owner of a Naples cannery. Del Gaizo taught her about the pomodoro industry and gave her ten thousand dollars to use as the beginning of a fund to acquire appropriate lands and establish a cannery. He later sent her seeds and used machinery, and together the couple formed Flotill Foods Corporation. Tillie Ehrlich selected Stockton, California as the site for the Flotill cannery, which was completed in 1935. The company went into full production the following year. In 1937, Florindo del Gaizo died, after which Ehrlich persuaded the Bank of Stockton to lend her one hundred thousand dollars to buy her partner's interest. By December 1937, she had paid back the loan and was the sole owner and manager of Flotill Foods. Over the next decade, Ehrlich branched out into other crops, acquired additional canneries, and purchased a can manufacturing plant. During the Korean War, Flotill was the largest supplier of Army C-Rations in the United States, and in 1951 she was named National Business Woman of the Year. With sales nearing twenty million dollars in 1952, Tillie established Tasti-Diet Foods and became one of the earliest marketers of artificially sweetened fruits and soft drinks. By then, she had married labor leader Meyer Lewis. Soon afterward, she changed the name of her company to Tillie Lewis Foods and began to sell shares on the American Stock Exchange (1961). Later, she expanded company facilities even further, adding the Anderson Split Pea Soup line (1962) and eventually merging with Ogden Foods of New York (1966). By 1971, Tillie Lewis Foods had sales of more than ninety million dollars per year.
2.5 linear feet
The library can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claimants of literary property.
Collection is open for research by appointment.