Preston, Andrew W.

Preston, Andrew W. (Woodbury)

(1846–1924) fruit producer, merchant; born in Beverly, Mass. He worked in a shoemaking factory before he began selling fruit and produce in 1870. In 1882 he established the Boston Fruit Company to import bananas with nine other investors. Incorporated in 1887 with Preston as general manager, it merged with the United Fruit Company (UFC) in 1899, with Preston as president until 1924. In the 1890s he bought vast acres of Caribbean land, which he turned into banana plantations, and created a distribution network that included a fleet of refrigerated steamers. His company grew into a huge conglomerate with hotels, schools, hospitals, and other amenities for its employees as well as a communication and a transportation system, agricultural research facilities, and subsidiaries in England and France. The largest landowner in several Latin American countries—including 89,000 acres of sugar cane in Cuba—UFC wielded a significant influence on the governments of those countries. Preston was also a director of a number of banks and other companies such as the First National Bank of Boston and the U.S. Smelting, Refining and Mining Company.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.