| Mike Ippoliti and Frank Schwartz with the
steam whistle recently donated to the Society.
After a little less than half a century and a journey traversing the state to the Ohio River and beyond, an icon of days when workers were summoned and dismissed via a shrill screech is returning home to Canal Winchester.
A 21-inch tall brass whistle from the Winchester Canning Company, which began operations as the Central Ohio Canning Company, was presented to the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society during their June meeting.
The artifact was donated by Richard Rutter, who lives in California, who was represented in the transaction by Joseph Rutter of Marietta. In a May letter outlining the donation, Richard said he obtained the whistle from the manager of a dog food canning operation occupying the building after Winchester Canning Company closed its doors.
At the time, workers were razing the boiler house following a wind storm that toppled a smokestack circa late 1961 or early 1962. In exchange for a watercolor painting of the cannery in operation, Richard took ownership of the whistle, which was manufactured in Philadelphia. It was originally mounted on a two-inch pipe above the roof line of the cannery and then stored in family garages since the 1960s.
"Frank Schwartz (a retired high school history teacher and past president of the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society) said he kept in contact with a friend, who lives in Marietta, who told Frank they had the whistle from the cannery," reported society President Mike Ippoliti. "A family member acquired the whistle decades ago and said he wanted to donate the whistle back to where it belonged. We got it a week ago. Right now it is on display in the elevator and we’re going to try and hook it up and blow the whistle on Labor Day."
The Central Ohio Canning Company opened in Canal Winchesters in the summer of 1904 and was in business for 50 years. Hundreds of seasonal employees worked at the facility located west of Elm Street and south of the railroad.
Owned and operated by local businessmen-including Dr. L. Beery, Marion Corwin, Irvin Snider, C. Boyer, and Herman Shade-the complex was capable of producing thousands of cans in a single shift in the two-story factory.
"Six weeks after the opening of the cannery, there was a near catastrophe," wrote Lillian Carroll and Frances Steube in a book published by the Canal Winchester Historical Society. "At 5:30 a.m., L.C. Sarber, the night watchman, had steam ready for operations to begin. He had just left the main building when the supports under that section gave way and dropped the building three feet. Damage was minimal, but the canned goods stored there all rolled into a heap at the center of the collapsed floor."
A revival arranged by a trio of local churches was held in the cannery’s heated storage shed-which, reportedly, could accommodate up to 800 people-in 1914 since operations were down for the winter season. The business remained in local hands until 1916, when it was sold to a Chillicothe company and later to F. L. Dutton Company of Columbus. Produce vining stations were established in Brice, Monk’s Corners, and Kirkersville.
"The corn husks and pea vines were sold to farmers for cattle feed, a blessing since these were the drought years and feed was scarce. In 1931, the cannery was struck by a high wind which toppled a conveyor killing Joseph Secaur.
"During World War II, the cannery was a busy spot serving food for the armed forces and civilians. It was a difficult time because of the shortage of workers…By the mid-1950s, the (food) cannery ceased operations. Ralph Phelps of the Safety Committee of village council inspected the buildings because of complaints that they were hazardous. He declared them safe except for a few loose boards."
The buildings were razed in 1968 following a fire.
Historical information courtesy of the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society and "Canal Winchester: The Second Ninety Years" by Lillian Carroll and Frances Steube.