Underwood, William

Underwood, William

(1787–1864) food processor; born in London, England. He apprenticed at Cross & Blackwell's factory before moving to Boston (1819) to open William Underwood & Co. (1822), the first canning factory in New England. He expanded his fruit line to include pickles, milk, and sauces (1828), and canned tomatoes (1835). In 1839 he began substituting tin cans for glass jars and found them less expensive and more adaptable. He opened a lobster canning business in Harpswell, Maine, in 1844, and an oyster canning plant in Boston in 1850. As competition increased, he focused on specialty foods such as deviled ham, clams, and sardines. In 1860 he purchased the rights to advanced sterilization methods, and during the Civil War he canned roast beef for Union soldiers.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.