KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
CATTLE TRADE OF THE WEST AND SOUTHWEST, BY JOSEPH G. McCOY




Chapter XV.


THE PACKING INTEREST AT KANSAS CITY -- ESTABLISHMENT OF PLANKINTON & ARMOUR -- PIG KILLING -- CATTLE KILLING -- DRESSING AND SAWING BEEF -- T. J. BIGGER -- E. W. PATTISON.

     Before Kansas City assumed to be a live-stock mart, even before any fitting accommodation to feed or rest any large number of cattle in transit was provided, it attracted the attention of packers, as being an eligible point for packing establishments. As early as 1868, the house known as the Stone house, now owned and operated by Messrs. Noffsinger & Co., was erected, and as soon as completed was occupied, first killing cattle, then hogs, and preparing the product thereof for commerce and consumption. In a few years other and larger houses were built, until four are now standing upon the banks of the Missouri River, just where it makes the "great bend," turning abruptly from its southerly course, rolls onward in an almost direct eastward course across the State of Missouri, pouring its turbid waters into the Mississippi river. Two of the houses are in the State of Kansas, the other two are in the State of Missouri. It is enough to say that the location for packing houses could not be improved upon or surpassed in the west. This may be truthfully said as to the exact grounds upon which they are built, as well as the point in the west at which they are located. For Kansas City with her network of railroads, already built, and in process of building, being located in the center of a district of country fully three hundred miles in diameter, which -- an inevitable result of its unparalleled fertility, and its immense yield of corn annually -- must ever be a prolific hog country as well as a great cattle-feeding district, and must not only be, from the very nature of the situation, a good and great live-stock mart; but also a choice point for packing establishments. Just beyond the corn producing area to the westward and southwest, is the illimitable grass belt, which will ever furnish ample supplies of suitable cattle for packing purposes, at prices and in conditions not attainable at other points. Again its proximity to the plains and mountains will, in consequence of the pure air, enable it to put up meats successfully at times, and temperatures which would forbid operation at any other packing point east of it. These reasons in connection with the fact that large establishments for packing cattle exclusively cannot be profitably maintained, ensures the future permanency of the beef-packing to it. Shrewd, practical operators, seeing these truthful reasons and advantages, have occupied the grounds in part. Now as large and prosperous packing houses arranged for handling both cattle and hogs, are already in operation there, as can be found on this or any other continent, and that, too, without likelihood of ever being removed or excelled by any other point. Among the largest and most completely equipped and operated establishments, is that of Messrs. Plankinton & Armour's--an establishment which covers an area of land equal to three acres, with capacity to handle one thousand cattle and three thousand hogs per day. Built of brick, its massive walls rise up in imposing strength and extent, like the battlements of some ancient fortified city. There are few, if any, superior establishments of the kind in the United States. It is but one of three packing houses owned by the same firm--one being located in Chicago, the other in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their brands and trade-marks are favor- ably and widely known throughout the United States, and not unknown in the Old World. The other Kansas City packing establishments have an aggregate capacity equal to that of Plankinton & Armour's, so that in a single day it is possible at Kansas City to slaughter and dress two thousand cattle and six thousand hogs, and in the same time to cut and salt the carcasses of as many more.

     The country surrounding and tributary to the point when developed can furnish annually one half million cattle and two million hogs. It is evident to the thoughtful observer, that the Missouri Valley must develope some metropolitan live stock mart, some point at which her live stock production can be converted or manufactured into merchantable commodities. Such a point Kansas City seeks to be, and if the brief past shall be a criterion whereby to judge the future, success may as well be conceded. But for the purpose, if possible, of conveying to the reader a correct idea of how meats are prepared for market and export, a few pages are devoted to the packing business, or the mode and manner of transforming live stock into merchantable product. The illustrations so far as practicable were made from sketches and photographs on the ground, and are from scenes at the establishment of Plankinton & Armour, their facilities being the most complete and extensive, embracing the very latest improvements and conveniences.

     The hog crop for packing purposes is the most important, from the significant fact that the consumption of salt beef is annually decreasing, and the use of fresh beef is increasing, while the use of salt and cured pork is annually increasing very perceptibly, and the consumption of fresh pork is diminishing in a marked manner. But the manner of slaughtering and curing pork has of late been extensively illustrated, so that it has been thought best to give greater attention to cattle than hog packing, although in point of numbers and value it is inferior. Yet it is by no means an insignificant branch of commercial industry. During the fall seasons of 1871 and '72 over 68,000 cattle were packed at Kansas City, and at the same point during the single season of 1873, fully 26,500 were slaughtered, and the product fitted for commerce. During the packing season of 1872 and '73 180,000 hogs were packed, and the number slaughtered during the season of 1873 and '74 falls not much short of 200,000. The panic of '73 embarrassed the packing business greatly.

     The manner in which the porcines are hurried from the feed pen to the pork barrel is summary and expeditious. When they are made fat by the farmer, chiefly on corn -- every well-to-do husbandman raising and fatting a herd of greater or smaller number, owing to his thrift, enterprise and facilities -- they are gathered together at the most convenient railroad stations, and loaded upon the cars and hurried to market, where their stay is usually brief before they are sold and hustled to the establishment of some packer, in whose yards they do not remain long before they are driven up an inclined plane or gangway, securely boarded up on either side, reaching to the uppermost story of the building, where they are secured in a large pen, from which they are passed in little squads into smaller pens within the slaughter room. Overhead an endless single bar or rail track is firmly arranged, upon which are movable single wheel pullys to which are attached self-tightening grappling hooks or chains.

     Before piggy is aware of it, one of those clamps is around one of his hind legs, and he is hoisted by steam power off the floor. Thus suspended he is rolled over a platform arranged to receive and carry off his gore, upon which platform stands a muscular, active and skilled fellow, who grasps the suspended, frightened, struggling pig by the fore leg with his left hand, whilst with his right he thrusts a keen blade to the pig's heart, letting out life-blood copiously, at the same instant giving him a heave toward the scalding tub. An inclining chute terminating in the scalding tub receives his dead or dying body, the instant his foot is disengaged from the grappling irons by an ingenious contrivance. Down the chute he glides, and in an instant is submerged in the hot scalding water which is maintained at just the required temperature by means of steam pipes. Over and over he is rolled until near the other end of the scalding vat, where in a twinkle he is thrown up by mechanical appliances on to the scraping table or platform toward the other end of which he never ceases to be rolled, all the while being scraped by the score of laborers who speedily denude him of his coating of hair. /

     When the lower end of the cleaning or scraping table is reached, he is under another single track railway upon which run single pulleys with a flat hook attached suitable to receive a gammon stick, each end of which is inserted beneath the strong leader of his hind legs. So soon as the gammon is placed, piggy slides lightly off the platform and hangs by his hind legs. A push, and a whirl, and he is in the presence of the butcher, who with an expedition incredible, disembowels the subject almost in a moment; an insertion of the knife, twist of the wrist, a rip down piggy's belly, and his entrails are out, flying through the air en route to the tables where they receive proper attention, whilst steaming disemboweled piggy's carcass goes spinning off on its easy moving pully to the cooling room; it is there placed upon guys and permitted to hang over night to cool.

     On the following day the carcass is taken down and thrown upon the cleaving block, and is speedily cut into such shaped pieces as are desired. Meats for certain markets and for certain purposes are cut different to those intended for other purposes or different markets. After cutting, sorting and trimming, the meat passes down inclining chutes to its proper salting-room below, where it is salted in bulk or barreled as desired. The reader should bear in mind in following a single subject in its quiet transit from the living pig to salt pork, that the way is thronged by a host of others following in close succession. The establishment from which the illustrations are taken, when run to its full capacity employs near five hundred men, active, muscular fellows, who under the direction of a foreman move things at a very lively rate.

     A story illustrative of the expedition with which business is dispatched at a packing house is told of an old Territorial farmer, of Illinois, who declined current prices for his little squad of long-nosed hazel-splitters, but concluded an arrangement with a packing firm, which was doing a large business, to have his hogs slaughtered and packed on commission. Accordingly he placed them in the yards belonging to the establishment, and essayed to watch what become of them, and so prevent any stealing--or substituting mean hogs for his good ones--which he was very suspicious would be done. But the process through which his hogs were taken was so unexpectedly rapid, that he was thrown into unutterable confusion and bewilderment. When he saw great burly, stalwart, powerful men, with iron hooks, hurling his indistinguishable porkers, with others, over a partition into, he could not tell or find out where, he became wild with excitement and fear, but finally gave up in despair, and rushed to the office of the establishment. Sinking heavily down into a chair he exclaimed in a voice expressive of ruin and despair: "Mr. Clerk, I cast myself upon your honor. Yes, sir, right upon yer honesty. If you ever do find them thar hogs of mine, and can get anything outen em, jist let me know; jist now I want to go home--I feel so bad! Oh ! so bad! I want to see my wife, then go to bed, I do. Yes, Mr. Clerk, upon your honesty--I trust upon your honor--oh, dear me!" The old farmer rushed from the office to his "old mar" and was off for home, fully determined next time to sell out his "crap" of hogs, and leave the business of packing to those who could understand it.

     But the manner of slaughtering and dressing cattle, they being much larger animals, differs greatly from that of hogs. Cattle packing is chiefly done in the late fall and early winter months, when a supply of grass-fatted stock can be had, and the weather is sufficiently cold to thoroughly cool the meat. It is only grass-fatted cattle that can be had at prices sufficiently low to justify packing. For this reason, corn-fatted cattle are seldom, if ever, packed. Hence a point near the plains where cattle are cheaply bred and fatted, at which supply of hogs can also be had, is the one most likely to do the principle portion of cattle packing. Such a point Kansas City rightly claims to be.

     When a herd of cattle is placed in the yards adjoining a packing establishment for the purpose of being packed they are separated into squads of two or three and driven through a long narrow lane, and forced into a small box pen, the gate being securely fastened behind them. A dozen or more of those box pens are located side by side, all connected with the main lane, or drive way, so that the men in the yard always have empty pens to fill. So soon as a pen is filled, a man standing upon a narrow gangway, just above the cattle heads, with a rifle loaded with fixed ammunition, shoots the bullocks in the head. 'The ball ranges down into or through the brain, producing instant death. Of course the bullock instantly drops, only to receive the falling body of his comrade.

     Formerly a long pike was used, with which the brute was speared just behind the horns, or forehead, upon the top of the neck, where the vertebrae joins the head. But this method of killing was abandoned, as being less humane than the rifle. Often when good aim was not taken, or the animal, at the critical moment moved its head, it would be mangled horribly, but not killed without repeated blows.

     So soon as all are shot down in any one pen, a rising door, which divides the pen from the inner portion of the establishment, is hoisted, and a man enters from within the house dragging a long chain with a noose formed at the end thereof. This chain extends back and around certain pulleys: and up to a revolving drum, or windlass, which is driven by steam and governed by means of a lever in the hands of person whose sole duty is to manage the machine, stopping and starting it instantly at the call of the man who handles the chain. This he drops over the bullock's head, around his neck, or horns, as may be convenient, then calls for power, which the man at the lever at once applies, and the bullock drawn out on a narrow floor, inclining toward a gutter, or drain, near to which the head of the bullock is stopped. The chain loosened the drawing out operation is repeated upon the comrade, which is left lying beside him. Then the chain man shifts his chain into the next pully and enters the next pen. So soon as the bullock is stopped upon the narrow inclining floor, a butcher opens the skin on the under side of the neck and cuts both jugular veins, thus letting the hot blood run freely upon the floor, thence into the drain, which conducts it from the building and empties it into the river. Even before the blood is done flowing, and before the bullock is quiet in death, the butchers begin dressing it, one taking off its head, first denuding it of the skin, another peels the hide down the legs to the knees, then adroitly separates the joint, throwing the feet and shins upon the floor, from whence an urchin removes them to the proper room. The bullock is then turned upon its back, being propped by a short pointed brace, and another pair of butchers take it in charge, and whilst the first two are beheading and unlimbing the next bullock, they quickly strip the hide from belly, quarters, and sides of the animal. Then comes one or more men and insert a strong gammon, of four or more feet in length, in the hocks beneath the hamstrings of the hinder legs. In the middle of the gammon stick a flat iron hook is adjusted, which is attached to a strong rope running over a pully aloft, and is wound up on a windlass so rigged and geared, that a muscular man can raise slowly upward the carcass of the bullock, which is fast relieved of its hide and entrails, whilst so moving. So soon as the hide is off and the inwards taken out, the carcass is split in twain, dividing the back bone with a broad-bladed ax, save a small portion of muscle at the back of the neck. The hide is dragged off to a small hole in the floor, through which it is tumbled to the salting cellar below. The paunch and entrails are dragged with hooks of steel to their proper rooms, whilst the lungs are thrown into the drain with the blood and other filthy waste, and passes out of the building. In the mean time the carcass is windlassed to a height which brings it clear off the floor and the gammon level with a series of skids, a distance apart equal to the length of the gammon; the ends of which groove into smooth slots. The hook and rope being relaxed, the carcass rests upon the skids, which run parallel the entire length of the cooling room, at right angles to the dressing floor. Upon the skids the carcasses are permitted to hang in close proximity until they are thoroughly cooled and the fatty parts become hard and firm, which occur as soon as all animal heat is out.

     When the reader bears in mind that of the four score or more of men engaged, each one has a certain part only, which he performs, and then passes to the next bullock -- one assisting. some throwing feet, others dragging off heads, others scraping and cleaning the floor, whilst others are doing various duties, -- and that the space over which the work is done is more than one hundred feet in length, and that a score or more of bullocks are being operated upon at the same time, he may rightly conclude that the scene of cattle dressing is one of entirely to great activity, life, and space, for one illustration to do ample justice.

     When the carcasses are properly cooled, the work of cutting up may begin. This requires a large number of men to do the work expeditiously. However, of late years, the saw, propelled by steam, is largely substituted for the cleaver and knife. A full complement of saws to do all the different styles of cuts, comprises five, each of which is operated in a separate frame, and driven by a belt which receives its motion, or power, from a shaft and pulley overhead, which is driven by steam power. These saw frames stand in position describing a flat-iron, the first one being next to the hanging carcasses, at the opposite end of the large cooling-room from which the cattle are dressed; the other saw frames stand two and two, just opposite to each other, and behind the first frame; still farther back the remaining pair of saw frames are stationed; trimming tables are near, and also suspended platform scales for weighing of each barrel or tierce of beef, care being taken to have as near the same pieces and the exact weight in each package as possible. Near by the barrels are brought, and a given amount of salt provided to each. Meats for certain brands and markets are cut in uniform shape and size, and from certain portions of the carcass. Quite a large number of men are required to operate all the saws, to bring the carcasses, handle the meat on the frames, trim on the tables, weigh up and pack in barrels, bring up salt, empty barrels and take away full ones. The quarters of beef are brought one at a time, and thrown upon the first saw frame where two men adjust the quarter and pass it up to the saw, which divides flesh and bone in a jiffy, and the pieces pass on to the next saw, and over trimming tables, and then to the scales, thence to the barrel.

     When the reader remembers that the capacity of the house from which the illustrations are taken is one thousand bullocks per day, making four thousand quarters to be handled and cut within ten hours, he will not hesitate to believe that the corps of laborers is large, and that each man moves quick and steady; no dilly-dallying, no playing, no foolishness, but work quick, fast, and constant is the order of the establishment. The fat or tallow is trimmed off and rendered in large tanks, which are heated by steam; the hides are usually salted, packed in large heaps or piles, then, after draining for a few days and taking salt, they are rolled up in a snug bundle, tied with a strong cord and are ready to go forward in bulk to the tannery. The entrails are emptied of their contents, washed, heaved into a tank, and steamed out into grease used for mechanical purposes. The hoofs and horns go to the glue and comb-makers. The stomachs, or manifold, is carefully saved, cleansed, and prepared for tripe. Thus nothing is lost, almost everything is utilized pertaining to the bullock.

     A great part of the beef packed is consumed in the lumber regions, and aboard sailing vessels, whalers, and naval vessels; a part is consumed in Europe, for which the best grade, called India mess, is required. The fleshy part of the ham is put up in various shapes, but is mostly salted, then dried; by far the largest portion of the dried beef seen in provision and grocery establishments is prepared in this manner.

     It requires a large capital to build and operate a packing establishment of great capacity. Inasmuch as the hog and beef product is, like cotton, a staple article of commerce and consumption, therefore always in demand, it is not difficult in ordinary times to hire abundant capital with which to prepare the crop of the west, which in these later years has become immense, especially of hogs; yet the full capacity of the country for their production is not now, nor never has been, taxed or developed to one-half its abilities.

     Of the enterprising firm from whose house the illustrations herein presented were taken, little need be said; their meats are well known in most of the world's markets, and their manner of dealing with their fellowmen is such as to inspire confidence in their patrons, and a respect bordering on veneration in their employees, to whom they pay promptly liberal wages, and among whom the firm, in the year 1872, is reported to have distributed as a gratuitous present, the sum of twenty thousand dollars.

     One thing worthy of note, which strikes the observing stranger on entering their establishment -- either when it is in operation or standing idle -- is the perfect neatness, cleanliness, and good order in which everything is kept and done, and the entire absence of the stench and filth so common to similar establishments; this is not by accident, but by vigorous persistent attention to cleanliness, to preserve which many men are constantly employed scraping, scrubbing, and washing all parts of the house in use. This fact alone should make a preference for their product over houses run in the usually unsavory, not to say stinking and filthy style. No blood or filth is allowed to so much as dry up within the house, much less to decompose and fill the air with its repugnant effluvia. Their success has been great and as deserved as great.

     The first person who engaged in packing pork at Kansas City, was Thomas J. Bigger in the fall of 1868. This gentleman is a native of Belfast, Ireland, and came to New York City for the purpose of preparing meats especially adapted to the Irish market. After engaging in business for five years in the American Commercial Metropolis, he determined to change his base to the source of supply -- the great West. Accordingly after carefully looking over the country for a suitable, favorable location, he finally selected, and located at Kansas City. After five years residence (and as many years business), he has no occasion to regret his selection of location. Although his establishment is not so imposing as others, yet it is ample for his present business, which ranks second to but one in the city. It is a fact of which Kansas Cityans may well boast, that one of the packing establishments of which she is so justly proud, is engaged almost exclusively in preparing meats, especially for a particular foreign market, to which they are shipped direct. As every market requires its peculiar cuts, so does the Irish market, and for this Mr. Bigger prepares his product. During the great panic, when other packers' financial arrangements were deranged, his being with European houses, was undisturbed. This gave him substantial advantages of which he was not slow to avail himself, and the close of that season showed a goodly number of hogs to have met death and dissection in his establishment. Mr. Bigger is an affable, unassuming business man, one who has many friends and whose successful career is regarded with interest and pride by every true Kansas Cityan. However, there were others who engaged in pork packing the same season at Kansas City, prominent among whom was Edward W. Pattison, who is a Kentuckian by birth, but in early childhood his father removed to Indiana, then a new heavily timbered country, and engaged in the laborious and tedious task of clearing up a farm. He was so successful that he was enabled to give his son Edward the benefit of a good common school education.

     When Mr. Pattison had attained the age of seventeen he engaged in driving live stock to Cincinnati, -- the principal market for that portion of the country, -- which business was continued for ten years. Having acquired a snug capital for those days, and becoming familiar with the mode of packing cattle and hogs, he determined to build a packing establishment in Indiana and try the business upon his own account. After operating for two years the canal, (his only means of sending the product to market,) was destroyed, and he moved to Cincinnati and there opened a commission house for the sale of provisions, especially the product of live stock; but not liking this business he went to Indianapolis and for ten years engaged in live stock shipping, and, during the winter seasons packing pork; occasionally stall-feeding cattle in eastern Illinois. Returning to his former business he erected at Indianapolis a packing establishment, of capacity to handle three hundred cattle or one thousand hogs daily, which was for that day and generation a large establishment. After conducting the packing business for five years, he went to Western Kansas in the fall of 1867, and formed a company at Junction City, put up a packing house and slaughtered five thousand head of Texan cattle. The following year he decided to locate in Kansas City, and joining one or two associates in business they erected the first packing house of note ever built at that point; one of capacity sufficient to handle daily four hundred cattle or fifteen hundred hogs; after three years devoted to operating this establishment, he sold out and purchased land and established four stock ranches in Ellsworth County, Kansas, upon which he placed in the fall of 1871 five thousand head of Texan cattle. The reader will remember that was a cold, stormy winter, one of wide-spread disaster to cattle men, and Mr. Pattison lost many cattle although his losses were not so severe as were those of many other parties engaged in wintering on the buffalo grass; nevertheless they were such as determined him to change his business, accordingly the following summer he bought and shipped eight thousand head of cattle to market.

     The succeeding spring he formed connection with and took charge of the St. Louis branch of a prominent live-stock commission house. At the end of one year he opened a house upon his own account at the National Stock Yards, East St. Louis. If the reader has read this sketch closely, he will not doubt that Mr. Pattison ought to be posted in all the phases of the live-stock business, which is a truth. He is a high-minded, honorable business man -- one whose experience qualifies him to fill the station he now occupies to the satisfaction of all reasonable patrons. He is a man of the kindest impulses, and one who has experienced every phase of fortune, one whose eventful ever changing life has led him to entertain the most kindly, charitable feelings for his fellow man. Indeed he means and deserves well and is a man of integrity and perfect rectitude of purpose.



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