The Wayne County Produce Company was a manufacturer of cider and vinegar that was headquartered in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn for over 60 years
The Company’s founder and first president was a German immigrant named Peter Knecht. His obituary, published in the January 21, 1916 edition of Brooklyn’s “Times Union,” gets the company’s story started.
Mr Knecht was born in Bavaria, Germany, on May 19, 1844, and came to this country in 1855. He settled in Calicoon, Sullivan County, N.Y., and also lived in Galilee, Wayne County, Pa., before coming to Brooklyn in 1878.
According to a story published in the September 24, 1905 edition of the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle,” the company was established sometime in 1901. Initially called the Wayne County Produce Cider & Vinegar Company, it was listed in Brooklyn’s 1902 directory with an address of 202 Oakland Street. Certainly a family affair, the directory named Peter Knecht as president, his brother, Charles Knecht, treasurer and son, Peter N. Knecht, secretary.
That being said, the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” story made it clear that while Peter was president, it was Charles who served as general manager of the operation.
Charles Knecht, who is the proprietor of the Wayne County Produce company, is a pioneer of the trade. For the past thirty-two years he has been in the business, twenty-seven of which were spent with the John Doust Company.
Two years after it was established, the business incorporated as the Wayne County Produce Company. Their incorporation notice was published in the May 14, 1903 edition of the “Times Union.”
The Wayne County Produce Company, of Brooklyn, has been incorporated with the Secretary of State. Its capital is placed at $30,000, consisting of shares of $100 each, and the directors for the first year are as follows: Peter Knecht, Charles Knecht, Peter M. Knecht and Edward F. Knecht, of Brooklyn.
At the time it appears that all manufacturing, bottling and distribution was accomplished in their factory that was located, along with their offices, in the block bounded by Greenpoint Avenue, Oakland Street, Calder Street and Newell Street. The 1905 “Brooklyn Daily Eagle’ story summarized the operation like this.
The apple juice is brought from the upstate counties, particularly from the section just north of Albany, and near the town of Raven, in barrels. The pure apple juice is of course cider. The cider is taken from the barrels, placed in a large vat, from which it is allowed to run into a generator, which is tightly packed with rattan. Sugar is also used in the process, and the combination changes the juice into vinegar…
The story then went on to provide this brief description of their Greenpoint plant.
The Wayne County Produce Company, which has a large plant at 200 Oakland Street, Greenpoint, is one of the foremost of the companies in the cider and vinegar trade in New York. In the company’s plant there are at present eight large tanks, or vats, which have a capacity of about 500 barrels. From these vats the cider, or vinegar, is barreled by means of hose, which is thoroughly sterilized before the beginning of each day’s work.
Several years later, this June 1, 1911 item found in the “Times Union” suggests by then they were manufacturing their vinegar at an upstate New York plant before shipping the product to their facility in Greenpoint, which now included a second location on Meserole Avenue, for bottling and distribution.
Bottled goods are a specialty with the Wayne County Produce Company, located at 200 to 206 Oakland Street and 179 to 193 Meserole Avenue. The concern produces cider and vinegar received from its country branch upstate, and the products are bottled and distributed from the two Greenpoint depots.
This advertisement, published in the same edition of the “Times Union,” mentioned both Greenpoint distribution points.
Around the same time their Greenpoint bottling operation was described like this in an August 31, 1912 item in the “Times Union.”
The bottling and labeling departments are conducted on the most cleanly up-to-date methods…The daily sales in bottles of Vinegar alone runs about 500 dozen. None of the empty bottles come back.
Newspaper advertisements for their cider and vinegar that ran during the 1920’s exhibit the the same ribbed style bottle as that of the subject bottle.
That being said, Thanksgiving and Christmas advertisements in 1922 make it clear that bottles weren’t the only way to get your cider.
By the mid-1920’s the company was operating as many as nine plants in upstate New York, as evidenced by this story that appeared in the October 31, 1925 edition of Brooklyn’s “Standard Union.”
At Marion, N.Y., the newest plant of the company was recently opened. Here a staff of 100 men, working under the most sanitary conditions, turn 250,000 pounds of apples into cider and vinegar each day during October, November and December.
Eighty-three tanks with an average capacity of 72,000 gallons each, store the cider and vinegar for the months when apples cannot be obtained. Others of the company’s plants are located at Highlands, Kendall, Catskill, Modena, Albion, Red Hook, Cheviot and Clintondale, all in New York State, in counties where the finest apples are grown.
That being said their main office and distributing plant remained at their Oakland Street location where, according to the 1925 “Standard Union” story:
Twenty-five horse drawn trucks operate from here, with fourteen auto trucks, delivering the bulk of apple products. Tank cars are used for shipments to the Middle West.
Around this time the company was advertising four different vinegar types; Cider, White, Malt and Tarragon, all of which are mentioned in this February 1, 1927 “Standard Union” advertisement.
In the Fall of 1929 the company began advertising apple sauce in addition to their cider and vinegar. One of the first ads I can find was this New Year’s advertisement for Wayne County Cider that appeared in the December 30, 1929 edition of the New York “Daily News.” A reference to their apple sauce which appears introductory in nature, appeared at the bottom of the advertisement.
Later, certainly by 1936, the company had added pepper relish and jellies/ preserves to the menu as well, as evidenced by this March 23, 1936 advertisement in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle.”
The company was still advertising in the late 1950’s. This ad for their cider, now in “handy new 4-packs,” appeared in several 1957 editions of “Newsday”
In 1960, the company’s run was coming to an end. By then they had lost at least one of their upstate plants when the Marion N.Y. plant was put up for public auction. The auction notice appeared in the January 3, 1960 edition of Rochester New York’s “Democrat and Chronicle.”
Three years later the business was sold. Today the business is run under the name of “Wayne County Foods.” Their web site, http://waynecountyfoods.com, completes the story.
In 1963 the company was purchased by the Nemeth family. Vincent Nemeth, a Master Cooper had been making barrels and tanks for the wine industry in Hungary before immigrating to America with his wife Katherine after WW II. At the time of their purchase they were operating out of Brooklyn, New York. In 1969 Vincent’s son Peter joined the company, carrying on the tradition of supplying natural food products to greater New York markets. By 1975 they had outgrown their Brooklyn facility and moved to the Bronx, operating their growing business from this location for 24 years. Once again having outgrown their current facility, in 1999 they moved to their current location in New Jersey.
The bottle I found is machine made, 10 inches tall and contains 20 ounces. A little over 2-1/2 inches in diameter, its design actually consists of 10 narrow, vertical panels. The bottle matches those pictured in advertisements published during the 1920’s.
As early as 1935 and throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s their cider was available in several sizes, namely quarts, as well as half-gallon and gallon jugs. This December 18, 1947 advertisement in the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” mentioned all three sizes.
Finally, here’s the 1940’s version of what is likely their quart size, found in the October 13, 1949 edition of the “Mount Vernon Argus.”