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Iowa History Daily: December 4 - John H. Morrell & Ottumwa Meat Packing

Iowa History Daily: On December 4, 1921, John H. Morrell, President of Morell and Company meatpacking of Ottumwa died. A major contributor to the development of one of the world’s largest meat packing companies, Morell’s life demonstrates the shift from urban to rural meatpacking in the early 20th century.

Born in Ireland as the third generation of the Morrell Meat Company (originally founded in Bradford, England), John H. immigrated to America when his father George headed stateside to head up the company’s operation in the Chicago Stockyards. After five years in Chicago, Morrell headed west to Ottumwa to serve as the plant’s assistant general manager in 1889.

Elevating to President, Morrell oversaw the expansion of the Ottumwa operation to include the Yorkshire Creamery Company of Bloomfield until heart problems forced him into early retirement in 1912. After a few years as a non-official member of management, Morrell returned to the presidency in 1915 and oversaw significant expansion of the Ottumwa plant’s role as a major international exporter.

Spurred to growth by World War I, the demand for pork products paired with the company’s international presence to accelerate sales, especially of bacon and lard, during the Great War. In a market position as the leading American pork exporter to England before the war, the company’s ability to source, process, and send pork from Iowa farmers abroad accelerated the company’s growth. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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