My father, Berwin “Webby” Webster worked as the night maintenance man for Foster Beef Co. of Manchester New Hampshire from 1953 to its closure in 1976. He was a mechanic and with an expertise in motor maintenance he repaired elevators, chillers and the company vehicles when they broke down. My uncle, Frank Manning, worked there too as a meat cutter.
It might not have seemed a glorious occupation to some, but it did insure that our growing family had plenty of meat, which my father bought at a great discount as an employee. We were never wanting for hamburgers, hotdogs and pot roasts.
I often saw the outside of the building, on those occasions when my mom had the family car, and would have to pick up Dad very early in the morning. She would take us along, but I never set a foot inside. So I knew very little about the history of the company before I started researching this story.
According to the book, Manchester Yesterday and today by New England Advertising Associates 1946, “The Foster Beef Company began business in 1920 and its plant at 413 Elm Street is one of the most modern in this section. Besides beef and meat products, the company deals in frozen foods. Jacob Foster II is its president and general manager, while [his brother] Joseph Foster is vice-president and superintendent.” NH State records show that the company was incorporated (filing) on July 28, 1925.
The 1920 Manchester City Directory shows that the company’s first location was on a little known alley way: “Foster, Jacob 2d (Foster Beef Co.) 104 Hampshire lane rms 151 Pearl. By the 1932 Manchester NH Directory, Foster Beef Co was located at 22 Granite Street with Jacob Foster pres-treas whole meats. [This is now the back side of the SNHU Arena], By 1935 the company was in its last location on Elm Street, as evidenced by this circa 1935 photograph showing the building with signage.
In a newspaper story from Jefferson City News and Tribune of October 11,1936, the headline read: “Business Increases After Remodeling.” Manchester N.H.–Jacob Foster II, president of the Foster Beef Co., which has just modernized its plant under the Modernization Credit Plan of the Federal Housing Administraiton, says that his business has shown a marked increase. Before modernization the volume of business per week was approximately 55,000 pounds, but since the company has been occupying its remodeled plant the volume has increased to 78,000 pounds.”
In 1959 the Nashua Telegraph newspaper mentioned that Amherst third-graders took a field trip to Manchester. They visited Hood’s Dairy, Cote Brothers Bread and the Foster Beef company. Some of the students also experienced their first trip on an elevator.
At the time of its closure in 1976, the Foster Beef Co. was located at 409,413, and 427 Elm Street. In late 1976 M. M Mades Co. Inc bought out the facilities of Foster Beef, and moved to off Route 3 in Bedford NH (that facility later also closed), and the Elm Street building was demolished within the last few years.
As for Jacob Foster 2d,was born 23 Sep 1893 in Boston Massachusetts, son of David & Annnie (Zukovitzski) Foster [nee Michalowski], and died 6 March 1965. David was a picture-frame maker by trade and both parents were born in Russia. They immigrated to the US in 1890. He married by 1932 to Edythe Robinson, daughter of Alexander & Bessie (Rabinovitz) Robinson, and had 3 children: Deanne, David, and Stephen F. Foster.
Jacob Foster 2d had started a meat and provisions company before 1917 in Boston, Massachusetts reporting it on his 1917 World War I Registration form. At that time he was single, self-employed at his company that was located at 22-1/2 Blackstone Street (this location appears to be missing, built over, and is near the Fanueil Hall Market Place). At the same time he was living at 242 Magnolia St. Boston MA. He was single and support of parents and sister.
Jacob Foster 2d served in the U.S. Army during World War I, as a sergeant in Butchery Co #331 Q M C N A [part of the service of supply]. He left the United States on 31 Jul 1918 on the ship America from Newport News VA bound for Europe. He returned in 1919, departing Bordeaux France aboard the ship Susquehanna on 27 May 1919 arriving at Newport News VA. [Editor’s note: I must admit after 3 years of researching WWI soldiers, this is my first realization that there was a Butcher’s Company. Obviously someone had to slaughter fresh meat when it was available, and someone already skilled at this would be the appropriate choice.]
Jacob and his family resided at 413 Walnut Street in 1940. At time of his death in 1965, Jacob was living at 385 Blodgett St. in Manchester NH. After her husband’s death Edythe Foster ran her husband’s portion of the company. Edythe & David Foster set up a named Fund at Temple Adath Yeshurun, Manchester NH.
Jacob’s brother, Joseph Foster was born 28 March 1909 in Boston MA, and died 19 Jan 1995. He also was the son of David & Annie (Zuckovitzsky) Foster. In 1939 he was vice-president and superintendent of the Foster Beef Co. and lived at 390 Ray Street and 109 Lexington Street in Manchester NH. Also had a home at 16 Wentworth Cove Road in Laconia NH. Reported he attended 4 years of college. He married Marianne Powers, daughter of Harry & Anna R. (Fish) Powers. She was born 10 March 1910 in Boston MA, and died 29 July 1997 in Bedford NH. They had children: Michael H., and Robert D. Foster.
Foster Beef Co 1955 advertising and discussion by Richard Duckoff, Manchester NH historian [on FaceBook]
Foster Beef Co. 1961 advertising page and discussion by John Patrick Jordan, Manchester NH historian [on FaceBook]
Op-Ed: How We Went From Beef on the Hoof to Mystery Meat in a Box (LA Times)
The Atlantic: The Troubled History of Horse Meat in America