A Gift from Swift

March 5, 1918 – Full diary entry: 

“Got a nice box of candy from Swift & Co.”


Swift & Company was founded in 1855 by Gustavus Swift. The ninth of 22 children(!), Gustavus had been working as a butcher for his brother’s business in Cape Cod. He wanted to strike out on his own and move to New York, but his father offered him $20 to buy a heifer, if the then 16-year-old would stay in Cape Cod. 

From that humble beginning, Swift & Co. grew into one of the largest in the meat industry. By 1915 the company was selling hams, sausage, bacon, chickens, eggs, butter, lard, shortening, oleomargarine, bouillon cubes, and various soaps (including scented toilet soaps). In 1920 sales exceeded $1.1 billion.

Swift opened a meatpacking plant in South St. Paul in 1897 with 300 employees. By 1917 the plant employed more than 3,500. Robert was working as a traveling salesman for Swift at the time he left for Camp Dodge.

This is Swift’s Chicago office, unfortunately, not St. Paul.

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On the South St. Paul map below, the St. Paul Stockyards are shown at “C” and the Swift & Co plant is at “F”.

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Where was Robert today? See the timeline.

Next: Letter to Robert’s Sister

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