| March 1, 1867: Burnham
& Morrill Company is founded by George Burnham and
Charles S. Morrill, Burnham bringing his meat and fish
packing experience from his days with Rumery and Burnham
(a packing company he helped establish earlier), and Morrill
bringing his corn canning experience from his work at
Richardson and Robbins in the mid-1850's. Morrill had
been one of Burnham's foremen at Rumery and Burnham. Their
first plant is opened on Franklin Street in Portland,
Maine (another source says that this is where the store
and offices were established and that the first plant
was, in fact, established at Bucks Harbor, near Machiasport,
Maine). First products included canned meats, vegetables
and fish; specifically: roast beef, mutton, pork, lamb,
roast chicken, roast turkey, carrots, turnips, a few other
vegetables, herring, clams, and lobsters.
By July 1868: A corn cannery is established at South
Paris, Maine, and the "Paris" trademark is acquired
for their canned corn. Their first sales of canned corn
begin that same fall. B&M corn was also packed under
the SACO label, as well as being distributed under many
private labels. Although corn was especially difficult
to can at this time, B&M soon solved the major production
problems and their canned corn business quickly boomed.
At one point, there were as many as nineteen corn canneries
scattered throughout Maine.
Lobster and clam canneries were soon established along
the Maine coast, in the Province of New Brunswick, and
on Prince Edward Island in Canada.
1860s: In order to meet increasing customer demands,
B&M buys goods from other manufacturers for resale
(e.g., clams and tomatoes from Underwood; canned oysters
and canned peas from Dunbar of Philadelphia and Louis
McMurray of Baltimore.) Sales in 1868/69 were listed as
corn, lobsters and clams from B&M's own facilities;
oysters, tomatoes and peaches through resale.
1869-1873: Several additional packing facilities
(primarily for packing clams and lobsters) are established
in the Northeast.
August 1893: George Burnham, Jr. receives a patent
on his corn-cooking machine. His invention is widely discussed
at trade association meetings and is advertised in trade
About 1900: B&M develops its first new product
in a number of years: Fish Flakes, made from codfish and
haddock (canned fish meat, without bones and skin). The
new product is advertised and sold nationally, and was
very popular for use in chowders and codfish cakes.
1901: Charles S. Morrill dies. Son George B. Morrill
becomes chief executive of B&M.
1910: The Burnhams sell their interest in the company
1913: B&M builds a new
four-story plant in Portland. By this time, most of the
canned meat products had been dropped and Codfish Cakes
had been added to the fish product line, along with Fish
Flakes. Both new products were quite successful until
the advent of WWII government-imposed restrictions on
the canning industry. Corn canneries are still quite active
at this time.
After WWI: Major corn-growing area in the U.S.
shifts from the Northeast to the Midwest (although the
Northeast had been the major corn producer since 1900,
by 1930 the Midwest grew 90% of all the corn packed).
As a result, "Paris" corn ceases to be marketed
nationally and becomes a regional brand.
1920s: B&M begins experimenting with Brick Oven
Baked Beans in an attempt to offset the loss in canned
1927: After years of experimentation, and successfully
resolving the high costs involved in the seven-hour baking
process, B&M begins selling Brick Oven Baked Beans,
packed in cans. Stiff competition from Friend Brothers
in Melose, Mass., who had put out a similar product just
before B&M. A court battle ensues over the process
patent, and B&M wins out, leaving Friend Brothers
with baked bean sales confined to the New England market
(where it remains the market leader until B&M takes
over in the 1960's). B&M begins advertising its baked
bean product throughout the U.S.
1931: B&M begins national advertising program
in The Saturday Evening Post. As the major store chains
begin picking up Brick Oven Baked Beans, increased production
capacity becomes necessary (although by the mid-30s, the
number of ovens had already been doubled from the original
sixteen). Twenty-four more ovens are added, and B&M
facilities are in operation twenty-four hours a day, six
days a week, to meet demand.
WWII (1940s): Fish Flake and Baked Bean lines run
into production obstacles as the U.S. government imposes
restrictions on can sizes for Fish Flakes, implements
price controls, and seizes fishing fleets for conversion
to mine sweepers. Fish Flake production virtually ceases
at this time. In addition, restrictions on the amount
of tin available for the commercial canned food industry,
as well as restrictions on rubber for gaskets and glass
for jars and pots, severely cut back baked bean packing.
Government contracts for special packs to the armed forces
help B&M survive this rough period. Lobster packing
is discontinued. A beef stew, developed for the armed
forces, looks promising for future commercial production.
Post-World War II: Production capacity for Brick
Oven Baked Beans is doubled yet again with the post-war
surge in baked bean sales.
1950s: The fledgling frozen food industry receives
a lot of attention. B&M begins freezing fish sticks,
codfish balls, and fillet of flounder, but withdraws from
the market within two years because of intense competition.
Two TV dinners, a Baked Haddock Dinner and Scallop Dinner,
are introduced. They, too, are soon withdrawn because
of competition with other companies who were producing
less expensive products. The beef stew, developed for
American soldiers during WWII, is successfully marketed
in the Northeast and Midwest. B&M introduces a chicken
stew and a lamb stew. Brick Oven Baked Beans are still
B & M's main product. Primary competition nationally
at this time comes from Campbell Company and Heinz, who
produce canned pork and beans (a product quite different
from brick oven baked beans). In New England, competition
comes primarily from the Friend Company and the Homemaker
Company. In 1951, the Friend Company had a major market
share of the New England brick oven baked bean market.
1960s: Further demand for Brick Oven Baked Beans
prompts B&M to search for a West Coast branch that
will enable it to increase production and cut back on
the steep transportation costs between Portland and the
West Coast. The Santa Clara Packing Company of San Jose,
CA, installs thirty-two ovens and begins producing B&M
beans in 1962. B&M ceases production of its clam products
due to persistent shortages of Maine clams (These shortages
had caused their canned clams and clam chowders to be
produced at a loss).
By 1964: Extensive promotion in newspapers and
on the radio means B&M takes over the New England
bean market with a 37.6% market share.
1965: The William Underwood Company acquires B&M.
B&M "was an old New England company with a national
reputation and a long history of canning meat, vegetables,
and fish products...There had been long-standing business
relations between Underwood and Burnham and Morrill, going
back to the earliest days of the latter. The ever-expanding
market of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
provided an environment in which firms could cooperate
in order to better serve their customers. Under such conditions,
mutual respect and understanding developed, cutting across
state lines" (from "The Red Devil: The Story
of the Wm. Underwood Company"). All plants, except
the Portland one, are sold off. Seasonal food items, fish
products, and frozen foods are eliminated from the line.
Office force is reduced, personnel at the Portland plant
are reorganized. Production is integrated with Underwood's.
1968: Underwood acquires Piermont Foods, a Montreal
food company, allowing for increased sales and distribution
of Underwood products in Canada. Begins manufacturing
Underwood Deviled Ham and B&M Brick Oven Baked Beans
as an associated company.
1982: Underwood operations are phased out in Westwood,
Mass. Underwood's U.S. operations join Pet's former grocery
products division to form a newly expanded grocery group
(The single largest operating unit within Pet. B&M
products become part of this group). Underwood's international
operations are consolidated with Pet's foreign businesses
to create the new International Group.
1995: The Pillsbury Company acquires Pet, Inc.
Pillsbury invests heavily in upgrading the plant with
computerized controls, new monitoring equipment, and automated
March 1999: B&G purchases B&M and five other
food brands from the Pillsbury Company. While B&G
has increased B&M's public image, they have maintained
B&M's proud heritage. Today, B&M still bakes its
beans in the traditional manner, in open pots inside brick
ovensa process that gives the beans a firmness and
authentic taste far superior to modern, cooked in the
can, "baked" beans.