Where Was It Made? – Part IV – Evaporated Milk

“When it says Libby’s Libby’s Libby’s
on the label, label, label, you will like it, like it, like it,
on your table, table, table.”

Is there anyone over a certain age whose mother didn’t serve Libby’s Corned Beef for dinner at least once or twice a month? It was a staple in many American homes, and if memory is reliable the flavorful meat along with some boiled cabbage and mashed potatoes made a fine and healthy dinner. Surely you remember the “trapezoid” can! It was the only product in the pantries of American families that was opened from the bottom.

Archibald McNeill was born in New York in 1838. Archibald married (1861) Lizzie (nee, unknown) who was five years younger than he. They had one daughter, Florence. When he opened a meat processing business in Chicago, Illinois, with the help of the Libby brothers, Arthur and Charles success came immediately. The reason for the peculiar arrangement of the names in the corporate papers remains a mystery, but it has been suggested that the names were arranged according to the amount of money each man invested.

The business began with its famous canned meat product and quickly expanded its product line to more than sixty food and bakery products. Through the first half of the 20th century, the descendants of Charles Libby expanded the company’s industrial base to a dozen states and four foreign countries. Ninety percent of their product line was canning operations.

By the late 1950s L M & L provided Americans with meat, canned fruit (domestic and tropical) and vegetables, pumpkin, juices, and evaporated milk.

Today, the Libby brand is still available in most parts of the county but there are no longer McNeills or Libbys involved in the company’s operations.

After a long line of owners and managers, that include Nestlé, Harvest Hill, Seneca, Niagara, Home Foods, and most recently, Walton & Post, Inc., every part of Libby product line has been sold, either by mutual agreement of hostile takeover.

Of little consequence but interesting,  is how the men of Libby, McNeill, & Libby had themselves recorded in public records of the era.

Archibald McNeill, born probably 1827, died 1904, listed himself in the 1870 Federal Census as a pork packer.

Arthur Libby, born 1831, died 1899, listed himself as a beef packer.

Charles Libby, born 1838, died 1895, listed himself as President of Libby, McNeill & Libby.

As in previous issues in this series, factory postcards are not a big part of our hobby, but they illustrate a big part of American history. The postcard above is just one of the places where Libby, McNeill & Libby made evaporated milk.

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Ania Michas
2 months ago

Super interesting article, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge!

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