Collection processed by Don Walker and Leigh Johnsen
1998 and 2012 San Joaquin County Historical Society
11793 North Micke Grove Road
Lodi, CA 95241
Phone: (209) 331-2055
Fax: (209) 331-2057

Tillie Lewis Foods Collection, 1935-1979

Collection number: Ms52

San Joaquin County Historical Society
Processed by:
Don Walker and Leigh Johnsen
Date Completed:
Encoded by:
Leigh Johnsen
San Joaquin County Historical Society. All rights reserved.

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

Collection Contents


Series 1 Biographical Material 1935-1979

Scope and Content Note

Includes articles, manuscripts, and books by and about Tillie Lewis and her industry, as well as awards and honors.
Box 1, Folder 1

Articles by Tillie Lewis, 1953-1977

Box 1, Folder 2

Articles about Tillie Lewis (1 of 2), 1935-1979

Box 1, Folder 3

Articles about Tillie Lewis (2 of 2), 1935-1979

Box 1, Folder 4

Awards and Honors, 1952-1968

Box 1, Folder 5

McCormack, William, Jr. "Tillie Lewis," 1978

Box 1, Folder 6

Sigel, Eleanor Record. Good Food for Diabetics, 1951

Box 1, Folder 7

Stillman, Irwin Maxwell, and Sam Sinclair Baker, The Doctor's Quick Weight Loss Book, 1969

Box 1, Folder 8

"Who is Tillie Lewis?" 1976


Series 2 Advertising and Corporate Information 1953-1968

Scope and Content Note

Includes packaging labels, advertising copy, brochures, and various kinds of display material. Also contains survey of customers and annual business report of Tillie Lewis Foods.
Box 2, Folder 1

Advertising in Periodicals, 1953-1954

Box 2, Folder 2

Brochures and Recipes, 1948-ca. 1968

Box 2, Folder 3

Posters and Display Material, ca. 1955

Box 2, Folder 4

Sample Package Labels, Undated

Box 2, Folder 5

Survey of Customers, 1954

Box 2, Folder 6

Tillie Lewis Foods Annual Report, 1962


Series 3 Photographs and Albums 1937-1973

Scope and Content Note

Includes photographs and photograph albums of Tillie Lewis and her business activities.
Box 3, Folder 1

Photographs (1 of 2), 1937-1967

Box 3, Folder 2

Photographs (2 of 2), 1937-1967

Box 3, Folder 3

Photographs, ca. 1955-1965


(See Oversize, Box 5) Photographs, 1967-1973

Box 3, Folder 4

Photograph Album, 1935-1959


Series 4 Oversize Scrapbooks 1952-1956

Scope and Content Note

Includes oversize scrapbooks of marketing initiatives.
Box 4, Folder 1

"First Market Tasti-Diet, Des Moines, Iowa," 1952

Box 4, Folder 2

"Operational Turnover" Marketing Plan, ca. 1955

Box 4, Folder 3

Scrapbook of Twenty-One Day Diet, ca. 1953

Box 4, Folder 4

Tasti-Diet Promotional Material, ca. 1954

Box 4, Folder 5

"There Can Be Only One Leader: Tillie Lewis Tasti-Diet," ca. 1956


Series 5 Oversize Photographs and Plans 1951-1975

Scope and Content Note

Includes oversize photographs and plans related to construction of Tillie Lewis residence.
Box 5, Folder 1

Photographs, ca. 1935-1975

Box 5, Folder 2

Building Plans for Tillie Lewis Residence, 1951