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Local History Index: 

Mammoth Spring Canning Co. : 


Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly

Last Revised 05/03/2009

    In 1920 the Kraemer family came to Sussex and built the Mammoth Spring Canning Company. John Kraemer, one of the leaders of the Kraemer family, helped found the Sussex Fire Department in 1922. This was such a successful endeavor of community cooperation that Kraemer led a group of 16 men to petition the joining of Sussex and Templeton into one incorporated Village, separating from the Town of Lisbon. This was officially recognized in September 1924 and shortly Sussex had its first Village Board with Frank Grogan as the first Village President. John Kraemer remained in the forefront and also behind the scenes as in 1939 he helped form the Sussex Lions Club that has had a tremendous influence on the development of the Village and its park system. Kraemer is considered the co-founder of the Lions Club and founder of the Sussex Park System.

    Sussex has become something of a world famous place because the character "Kewpie" was adopted as a logo for the products for the canning factory in 1924, and remained so until the mid 1960s. Worldwide Kewpie collectors have sought out Sussex to visit and to further their collections as they seek the Canning Company's logo items from the 1924-1965 era. (Source: History of Sussex By Fred Keller, local historian)





Above - Kewpie Sliced Beets l LB. 1 oz tin can. Packed by Mammoth Springs Canning Co., Sussex, Wisconsin is on the paper label. Can measures 4 1/4 inches tall by 3 inches diameter. The bottom of the can has embossed 41 53 6541. On the back is a recipe for Sweet and Sour Beets. The other side has a small Teamster Union seal.

In the years around 1910, the Waukesha Canning co. contracted with farmers in the Lisbon and Sussex area to grow peas. Viner sheds were built on Silver Spring Drive near the creek. The peas were taken to sheds by teams and wagons. The peas were wined, shelled, packed in boxes, and hauled to the Soo Line at Templeton by mule teams. Source: Recollections from the Past: Sussex, Wisconsin, Presented by Farmers & Merchants Bank, August 4, 1972

Templeton souvenir returns after 50 years

The Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society Museum recently received a historical artifact from Carol Bolin of Manchester, Ky.

About two years ago she called me, the museum curator, after reading about our display of Kewpie products and accessories from the Templeton-based Mammoth Spring Canning Co. (1920-1996) on the society's Web site.

Bolin said she had, but could not find, a leather-covered 2- by 5- by 1-inch thick first-aid kit embossed with "Mammoth Spring Canning Corp./Sussex, Wisconsin/Fine Canned Foods." Bolin asked if the museum would want this company giveaway, if she ever found it again.

I told her the item would be appreciated and exhibited in our Kewpie/Mammoth Spring display case.

I then forgot all about our conversation until a couple of months ago, when a small package arrived in the mail, accompanied by a short letter from Bolin explaining that a move occasioned by a job change had uncovered this small first-aid kit. I immediately responded with documents for her to sign that would allow the museum to accept her donation.

"It was given to me from the estate of Katherine Rice by her son, John Rice," she wrote. "He owned the Manchester Wholesale Company."

This wholesale company brokered the sale of Mammoth Spring Canning Co. canned foods, and a representative of the Sussex company had given him this token of the company's appreciation for his business.

One of the company's principal owners and its longtime president, John P. Kraemer, thought it was important to have giveaways with company identification and logos, especially for its premium Kewpie brand.

The first-aid kit is probably from the early 1960s in the waning years of Kraemer's control before he gave way to Kurt Kneiske.

Kraemer was born April 22, 1894, served in World War I and died Sept. 27 1977. When he arrived in Sussex in 1920, his extended family had preceded him by two years. They had bought the old Holman stone quarry and kiln site for a reported $5,000, with the idea of turning the 8-acre site on Main Street and Waukesha Avenue into a canning company.

The young Kraemer was not only active with the company but in 1922 became a founding father of the Sussex Fire Department and the incorporation of Sussex two years later. In 1939 he co-founded the Sussex Lions Club, and was the man behind the scenes of the 1958 purchase of the 78 acres for Sussex Village Park for about $37,000, starting the Sussex park system.

The miniature first-aid kit advertising gimmick probably had Kramer's hand in its selection. Opening the zipper reveals a small pair of scissors, three band aids, a roll of adhesive tape and two items seldom used today: a tube of Unguentine (a pain-relieving antiseptic ointment) and a small corked glass bottle of Mercurochrome (a topical antiseptic and painless alternative to iodine).

With the opening of the display of Sussex- Lisbon pioneers this month, this item will go on display in the east room.

The Mammoth Spring Canning Co. shut its doors in March 1996, but demolition of the factory did not begin until 2000, and only this past winter did the resulting pile of crushed concrete finally disappear, leaving a site of low rolling ground fronting an unseen water-filled stone quarry all waiting for future development.

Retrospect: The Big Stinky

The old Mammoth Spring Canning Co. used to operate a stationary pea vinery, which separated peas from their pods and vines, on the north side of Main Street east of the Wisconsin Central Railroad crossing, where Quad/Tech is today.

Three pea vineries operated in the village from 1905 to 1960. The first, a rural pea vinery for a Waukesha canning company, sat on Silver Spring Road across the street from the present-day Petro Pantry.

The second started up in 1921. The canning company ran the vinery on its own site at Main Street and Waukesha Avenue, but after complaints about the stink, the company moved it after World War II to the future Quad/Tech site, where it appears in this photo.

Pea vinery machines thresh out the peas, separating them from their pods and vines. Despite the mechanized process, it was still labor-intensive work that created an odorous - very, very stinky - byproduct: the rejected pea vines.

Vinery workers stacked the wet and green vines next to the vineries, where they would rot. They made excellent feed for cattle, however. Cows liked the vines and produced good milk. Lisbon farmers sought out that high-nutrient feed, which they could acquire free if they sold peas to the canning company) or at a very low price, like $1 a ton, if they did not.

Farmers would go to the piles, fork the vines onto their trucks or wagons, and weigh up at the canning company's scale to pay for the load. As their vehicles went down Main Street, the ammonia smell generated by the vines caused people to hold their noses.

On their way back home, farmers would stop at local stores to get supplies for their families, and the clerks would have to hold their noses to serve the farmers. Sometimes they'd stop at local taverns for a bit of refreshment after their labors, creating a big stinker of a problem at those establishments.

Juices from the pea vine piles at the Silver Spring Road plant would also leach into Sussex Creek. Back in the 1950s, old-timers recall, the creek would run putrid green all the way down to Lisbon Road and beyond.

Before World War II, the vinery's neighbors would send nasty letters to newspapers, village officials and canning company officials. After the war, the company moved the vinery from downtown Sussex to east of what was then the village limits, where Quad/Tech is today. Prevailing winds traveled east and carried the stench toward the less densely populated Whiskey Corners.

Problem solved! But wait, that was next to where the cannery's Tex-Mex migrant workers lived, and the wind did not always blow eastward.

Soon after World War II, in-field pea viners-harvesters took over pea threshing, and the days of the stationary pea vinery ended soon after this 1957 photo was taken.

The kids missed the trucks going through town with the freshly cut pea vines in July. If the truck stopped or slowed down, kids (and adults) would steal gobs of vines and harvest their own fresh peas. Those pilfered peas were a treat for the community.

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