Swift, Gustavus Franklin

Swift, Gustavus Franklin

(1839–1903) meat packer; born near Sandwich, Mass. He worked in the butcher trade from age 14 in his brother's shop. By 1859 he was purchasing, slaughtering, dressing, and peddling his own steer to Cape Cod residents. His reputation as a shrewd judge of beef grew. In 1872 he became partners with a renowned Boston meat dealer. As a buyer, Swift followed the cattle market, moving steadily west until he got to Chicago (1875). He revolutionized the meatpacking industry by shipping east dressed beef instead of live steer (1877). His partnership dissolved, he independently hired an engineer to invent a refrigerator car for summer shipments. In 1885 he incorporated as Swift & Company and pioneered in the use of waste products to make glue, oleomargarine, soap, and fertilizer. The company expanded internationally and by 1903 was worth more than $25 million.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.