John Taylor and the “Taylor Pork Roll”

John Taylor
Born on October 6, 1836, in Hamilton Square, N.J., John Taylor was the son of James F. Taylor, a brick manufacturer, and Rebecca Borden Taylor. Working at his father’s brick yard at an early age, he was but fourteen years old when his father died, at which time he took a job as a clerk in the grocery store owned by Anthony R. Rainear, and two years later he gained an interest in the business.

In 1856, he became associated with James Ronan under the firm of Ronan and Taylor, and, after Ronan’s retirement in 1860, he associated himself with Daniel P. Forst under the firm of Forst and Taylor, both of whom were wholesale grocers. When the latter firm was dissolved in 1870, he organized Taylor and Company (it was incorporated as Taylor Provision Company in 1889 and reincorporated as Taylor Provisions Company in 1939) and engaged in pork packing and livestock dealing.

The Combination Atlas Map of Mercer County, New Jersey (Everts and Stewart 1875) includes an illustration of Taylor’s meat packing house and livestock yard, and the map of the city’s “First and Fifth Wards” shows the location of the plant—simply labeled “pork packing est[ablishment]”—at the end of Perrine Avenue on the bank of the Assunpink Creek.

“The meats cured in this establishment are distributed throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” notes the firm’s business profile in the atlas, “and a considerable portion of them find their way to Europe, both on direct orders and through New York exporters. The cattle are received from Chicago and other western points, and a market-day is made once a week, at which time the butchers of the city and surrounding country procure their supplies.”

John Taylor’s packing house and livestock yard, illustration from the
Combination Atlas of Mercer County, New Jersey, published in 1875
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

John Taylor’s packing house and livestock yard, located at the end of Perrine Avenue
on the bank of the Assunpink Creek; section of “First and Fifth Wards” map from
the Combination Atlas of Mercer County, New Jersey, published in 1875
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

Far and away his most-liked product was the spicy, sugar-cured, and hickory-smoked “Taylor Ham” that, in response to the labeling requirements of the Food and Drug Act of 1906, was renamed “Taylor Pork Roll.” This product continues to be manufactured and is as popular today as it was then.

Aside from his business endeavor, Taylor served one term as a state senator representing Mercer County from 1880 to 1883. He also left his mark with a number of civic accomplishments, most notably the building of the Taylor Opera House, the city’s first theater, which opened in 1867, and the forming of the Inter-State Fair Association, which eventually became the New Jersey State Fairgrounds, in 1888.

Taylor died on February 10, 1909, and is entombed in the family’s hillside vault in Section F along Valley Road just south of and across from the Receiving Vault.

Taylor Vault

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