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Tillie Lewis Foods Collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Access Points

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Tillie Lewis Foods Collection
    Date: 1935-1979
    Date (bulk): 1953-1966
    Collection Number: Ms52
    Location: Erickson Vault
    Extent: 2.5 linear feet
    Contributing Institution: San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum
    11793 North Micke Grove Road
    Lodi, CA 95240
    Language of Material: Records written in English
    Abstract: 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.

    Access Information

    Collection is open for research by appointment.

    Conditions of Use

    The library can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claimants of literary property.
    Preferred citation: [Item name], Tillie Lewis Foods Collection, Ms52, San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum, Lodi, California.


    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.

    Scope and Content

    The Tillie Lewis Collection spans the years 1935 to 1979, with the bulk falling between 1953 and 1965. It consistes of five series: 1. Biographical Material, 2. Advertising and Corporate Information, 3. Photographs and Albums, 4. Oversize Scrapbooks, and 5. Oversize Photographs and Plans. The collection contains articles by and about Lewis, books and typescript essays, advertising copy, product labels, and scrapbooks. It also includes photographs and albums related to Lewis and her business activities.

    Access Points

    Personal Names

    Lewis, Tillie, 1904-1977
    Ehrlich, Myrtle, 1904-1977
    Del Gaizo, Florindo, d. 1937


    Canned tomatoes--California--San Joaquin County
    Canned vegetables industry--California
    Food industry and trade
    Ogden Foods
    San Joaquin County (Calif.)--History
    Soft drink industry--California
    Stockton (Calif.)--History
    Women in the food industry--California