|Name:||Gustavus Franklin Swift|
|Birth Day:||June 24, 1839|
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He grew up on a Massachusetts farm and began working for a butcher shop when he was 14 years old.
Swift was born on June 24, 1839 in Sagamore, Massachusetts, the 9th of 12 offspring of William Swift and Sally Crowell. His parents were descendants of British settlers who went to New England in the 17th century. The family (which included Gustavus’ brothers Noble and Edwin) lived and worked on a farm in the Cape Cod town of West Sandwich, Massachusetts where they raised and slaughtered cattle, sheep, and hogs. This is where he got the idea of packing meat.
A number of attempts were made during the mid-19th century to ship agricultural products via rail car. As early as 1842 the Western Railroad of Massachusetts was reported in the June 15 edition of the Boston Traveler to be experimenting with innovative freight car designs capable of carrying all types of perishable goods without spoilage. The first known refrigerated boxcar or "reefer" entered service on the Northern Railroad (New York) (or NRNY, which became part of the Rutland Railroad) in June 1851. This "icebox on wheels" was a limited success in that it was only able to function in cold weather. That same year, the Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain Railroad (O&LC) began shipping butter to Boston in purpose-built freight cars, utilizing ice to cool the contents.
As a young boy, Swift took little interest in his studies and left the nearby country school after eight years. During that period he was employed in several jobs, finally finding full-time work in his elder brother Noble's butcher shop at the age of fourteen. Two years later, in 1855, he opened his own cattle and pork butchering business with the help of one of his uncles who gave him $400. Swift purchased livestock at the market in Brighton and drove them to Eastham, a ten-day journey. A shrewd businessman, he purportedly followed the somewhat common practice of denying his herds water during the last miles of the trip so that they would drink large quantities of liquid once they reached their final destination, effectively boosting their weights. Swift married Annie Maria Higgins of North Eastham in 1861. Annie gave birth to eleven children, nine of whom reached adulthood. In 1862, Swift and his new bride opened a small butcher shop and slaughterhouse. Seven years later Gustavus and Annie moved the family to Brighton (near Boston), where in 1872 Swift became partner in a new venture, Hathaway and Swift. Swift and partner James A. Hathaway (a renowned Boston meat dealer) initially relocated the company to Albany, then almost immediately thereafter to Buffalo.
The first consignment of dressed beef to leave the Chicago stockyards was in 1857, and was carried in ordinary boxcars retrofitted with bins filled with ice. Placing the meat directly against ice resulted in discoloration and affected the taste, hence proved impractical. During the same period Swift experimented by moving cut meat using a string of ten boxcars which ran with their doors removed, and made a few test shipments to New York City during the winter months over the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR). The method proved too limited to be practical. Detroit's William Davis patented a refrigerator car that employed metal racks to suspend the carcasses above a frozen mixture of ice and salt. He sold the design in 1868 to George H. Hammond, a Detroit meat-packer, who built a set of cars to transport his products to Boston using ice from the Great Lakes for cooling. The loads had the unfortunate tendency of swinging to one side when the car entered a curve at high speed, and the use of the units was discontinued after several derailments. In 1878 Swift hired engineer Andrew Chase to design a ventilated car that was well-insulated, and positioned the ice in a compartment at the top of the car, allowing the chilled air to flow naturally downward.
An astute cattle-buyer, Swift followed the market steadily westward. On his recommendation, Hathaway and Swift moved once more in 1875, this time to join the influx of meat packers setting up shop in Chicago's sprawling Union Stock Yards. Swift established himself as one of the dominant figures of "The Yards", and his distinctive delivery wagons became familiar fixtures on Chicago's streets. In 1878 his partnership with Hathaway and Swift Bros and Company was formed in partnership with younger brother Edwin. The company became a driving force in the Chicago meat packing industry, and was incorporated in 1885 as Swift & Co. with $300,000 in capital stock and Gustavus Swift as president. It is from this position that Swift led the way in revolutionizing how meat was processed, delivered, and sold.
The meat was packed tightly at the bottom of the car to keep the center of gravity low and to prevent the cargo from shifting. Chase's design proved to be a practical solution to providing temperature-controlled carriage of dressed meats, and allowed Swift & Company to ship their products all over the United States, and internationally. This radically altered the meat business. Swift's attempts to sell this design to the major railroads were unanimously rebuffed as the companies feared that they would jeopardize their considerable investments in stock cars and animal pens if refrigerated meat transport gained wide acceptance. In response, Swift financed the initial production run on his own, then — when the American railroads refused his business — he contracted with the GTR (a railroad that derived little income from transporting live cattle) to haul them into Michigan and then eastward through Canada. In 1880, the Peninsular Car Company (subsequently purchased by American Car & Foundry) delivered to Swift the first of these units, and the Swift Refrigerator Line (SRL) was created. Within a year the Line's roster had risen to nearly 200 units, and Swift was transporting an average of 3,000 carcasses a week to Boston. Competing firms such as Armour and Company quickly followed. By 1920 the SRL owned and operated 7,000 ice-cooled rail cars. The General American Transportation Corporation assumed ownership of the line in 1930.
He died on March 29, 1903 at his home 4848 Ellis Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
Currently, Gustavus Franklin Swift is 183 years, 0 months and 8 days old. Gustavus Franklin Swift will celebrate 184th birthday on a Saturday 24th of June 2023.
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