Friday, October 10, 2014

The Whole Hog: Butcher Shops in Early Junction City

The Geary County Historical Society has a new exhibit: The Whole Hog. This new exhibit features various tools of the butchering trade, including a few grisly meat grinders, a rather intimidating meat hook or two and some cleavers you don’t want to mess with! And as I was going about doing research for this new exhibit, I was surprised at how little the butchering business has changed over the past 4,000 years!
In fact, both Ancient Egyptian and Roman artwork display imagery of butcher shops. The Worshipful Company of Butchers Guild formed in 975 AD in London, England and still exists today. Both Ancient Romans and historic Londoners used the same, or similar, techniques and tools found here in Geary County many hundreds of years later!
 When Geary County was first settled, most fresh beef and pork consumed in Geary County was home-butchered.  The butchering process, particularly for poultry and pork, usually occurred in fall and winter months. Rather than spend the money to buy feed for the animals through the long winter months, they were butchered. The cold weather helped keep the meat fresher than would be possible if they were butchered in the warmer summer months, and what couldn’t be kept cold was salted and smoked.  A family event, every available hand was involved in the butchering process.
However, by the early 1900s, Junction City boasted a number of butcher shops and the community choices.  Home-butchering was not the only option. In 1911, beef steak was selling for 12 cents a pound and shoppers had a selection of competitive butchers to buy from.   In an advertisement for Bisheimer and Hartshorn, located at the corner of 14th and Washington, they declared, “the most appreciated business establishment in the resident district of a modern city is a well-equipped meat market located conveniently near that choice meats and other market supplies may be procured promptly when needed.”  Bisheimer and Hartshorn advertised a “full line of meats, lard and sausage.”
On 515 North Washington, Le Clair Meat Market featured 1000 square feet, three skilled butchers and a choice of fresh beef, pork, mutton, poultry and by products. Meanwhile beginning in 1913, the Steward Poultry Company, under the management of L.C. Stewart, both provided the community with fresh poultry and purchased surplus poultry from local farmers.
4th Ward Market with the Bryant Family circa 1913
In 1911, the 4th Ward Market was owned by Leonard (Tubby) Bryant and later by A.P. Allen, who changed the name to Allen’s Food Market. There was no electrical refrigeration when the Bryants ran the meat market, and there was certainly no walk-in cooler. The Bryant family had to rely on natural ice to keep the meat fresh.  As a result, market-goers had to buy meat the day they planned to use it. Unless it was salted, the meat would only be fresh for a day. Certainly a change from the frozen packages of chicken wings available at grocery stores today!
Stop in to see the Geary County Historical Society’s new butchering exhibit The Whole Hog, up now! Open Tuesday-Sunday 1:00-4:00 PM. Interested in volunteering? Ask us how you can be a part of the fun!