Several Aylmer businessmen invested in the Aylmer Canning and Evaporating Company which they registered as a Joint Stock Company in 1881. David Marshall, one of the original bought the entire company in 1886 after selling his Red Star Grocery to concentrate on the canning business. In 1887 Thomas Nairn, another original stockholder, became Marshall’s partner. Nairn died in 1888 before he saw his investment prosper. His son Junius did help make the company a success during his four decades as company manager and when he served as president during two amalgamations of provincial canneries from 1917-1927.
The first Aylmer canning factory was on Fourth Avenue in Aylmer using buildings recovered from the Aylmer Furniture Factory. The first label (1903) was Canada First. In 1903 provincial canning plants amalgamated to form Canadian Canners Ltd. David Marshall was their first president. In 1906 David Marshall resigned as president to become an MP for East Elgin. By 1910 conflict amongst other canning companies in the province forced 60 companies to amalgamate under the name of Dominion Canners. The Canada First label was changed to the Aylmer name around 1912 because consumers kept asking their grocers for the canned peas from Aylmer. Aylmer’s second canning factory was built on Myrtle Street in 1912 and officially opened in 1913. In 1923 Dominion Canners reverted back to Canadian Canners.
In 1935, the people of St. Thomas decided to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Jumbo, the world’s most famous elephant. He died after being hit by a train in St.Thomas following his performance in the P.T. Barnum Circus, on September 15, 1885. We believe the Aylmer Canners introduced this label in 1935 to honour Jumbo’s memory. Records do not exist to tell us how long the Jumbo Peas remained on grocer’s shelves. The Aylmer plant closed in 1960 and the factory was used for storage for a few years ad then torn down to make way for the construction of a senior’s residence. Now the Canner’s whistle that echoed throughout Aylmer is only a memory. This part of our town’s proud heritage remains in the form of a label on canned products marked AYLMER in area stores and others throughout Canada.