This week, we finish looking at the two sardine factories that existed in South Portland in the 1900s. The two canneries were both on the waterfront in Ferry Village. The E.W. Brown cannery was located farthest east, at the end of a dirt driveway that led from Front Street to the start of the breakwater that went out to Bug Light. Just to the west of Portland Street and the old ferry landing was the second cannery, constructed by Portland Products in 1915.

In 1933, Seaboard Packing Company of Lubec acquired the cannery in Ferry Village that was previously occupied by Portland Products. South Portland Historical Society

Portland Products not only packed sardines in the plant, but also had baked beans, brown bread and pickles in its product line. That company was in operation through the early-1930s. The cannery then became home to Seaboard Packing in 1933.

Seaboard Packing Company was established in 1932 in Lubec, with initial capital stock of $100,000. The founders included Chester L. Pike and Frank A. Pike, father and son.

The herring boat Helen McCall, pulled up at the Seaboard Packing sardine factory in Ferry Village. Cora Shaw Simpson Collection/South Portland Historical Society

Chester Pike, was the majority shareholder and served as the company president until his death in 1936. Born in Lubec in 1865, he was one of the first generation of Lubec men in the newly-founded sardine industry there. Chester was politically active, serving as both a selectman of the town and also as representative in the Maine State Legislature.

His son Frank was born in Lubec in 1901, graduated from Bowdoin College in 1924, and also served as a representative in the Maine Legislature. When he and his father first established Seaboard Packing, he served as treasurer, but after Chester died in 1936, he became president. Frank Pike also served as the vice president of Associated Fish Products Company, a fish by-products company based in Eastport, founded by Seaboard Packing, Peacock Canning, Holmes Packing, North Lubec Manufacturing, and B.H. Wilson Company.

Seaboard Packing was one of the largest sardine canneries in its day. They operated canneries in Lubec, Robbinston, South Portland, and Machiasport.


The herring boat Helen McCall, steaming along the Ferry Village waterfront. South Portland Historical Society photo

The South Portland cannery was purchased by Seaboard Packing in May of 1933. Both Chester and Frank Pike lived in Lubec, however, so they always had a superintendent to run the location here.

According to a June, 1933, article in the Bangor Daily News, the South Portland factory “opened for business this week and will employ about 150 persons, including 80 packers. Chas. Morrison of Eastport is superintendent of the factory, with Floyd Morrison as foreman.”

Seaboard Packing operated at least one company-owned herring boat, the Mary M. Lord. The company was known for its Neptune and Possum brands of sardines.

A former worker, Rita Devine Preston, remembered how she went to work for the sardine factory around 1933 at the age of 15. Rita would go to school in the morning and she received a permit to allow her to work at the canning factory in the afternoon. “I made $2.50 a week and gave the biggest part to my parents,” she said.

While Charles Morrison was listed as the first superintendent, it was Wilfred Stuart who was perhaps best known as the superintendent at the South Portland plant. Stuart was the vice president of Seaboard Packing and managed the factory here for roughly 15 years.

Group of sardine workers at Seaboard Packing Company, 231 Front St., South Portland. Photograph taken by Bernice Willard in 1933. No exact person was identified; people pictured include Edith, Helen and Audrey Archibald, Natalie and Helen Willard, and Willis Upton. South Portland Historical Society photo

Stuart was born in 1904 in New Brunswick, Canada, but his family moved to Lubec a few years later and he attended school there. He attended Kents Hill and then several colleges (Washington State Teachers’ College, Boston University, and Bates College), ultimately achieving a master’s degree. He first went into the education field, working as an elementary school teacher and then was hired as the principal of a junior high in Skowhegan in 1929.


In the early-1930s, he left that career when he went to work for Seaboard Packing. He moved his family to South Portland when he came to serve as superintendent of the packing plant here in the mid-1930s. He retired from Seaboard in the late-1950s and went back to work in education, working as a teacher and guidance counselor at Cape Elizabeth High School.

In 1954, Stinson Canning Company of Prospect Harbor acquired Seaboard Packing Company, including all of its canneries. Stinson Canning was owned by Calvin Stinson and was one of the largest sardine canners in the state. Stinson had grown his company through the gradual acquisition of smaller canneries along the coast.

Seaboard Packing continued in operation for many years as a subsidiary of Stinson Canning. With dwindling fish stocks and increased foreign competition, however, Stinson Canning slowly began closing various plants. The South Portland location was closed around 1964. The cannery and wharf were sold in 1965.

The Seaboard Packing cannery on the Ferry Village waterfront. Ralph Cary can be seen in the photo. South Portland Historical Society photo

MEMBERSHIP DRIVE 2022: The South Portland Historical Society researches and documents local history. If you enjoy reading about South Portland history, please lend your support. A one-year family membership is only $25 and supports our mission of preserving local history. Donations can be made through our Online Museum website at, or if you’d prefer to donate by check, please make it payable to South Portland Historical Society and mail to us at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106. Thank you. If you need to contact the society, we can be reached by email at or by phone at 207-767-7299.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at

Aerial view of the construction of the South Portland Shipbuilding Corporation, West Yard, South Portland. Fill is progressing in the cove between the breakwater and Cushing’s Point. Visible along bottom of photo, left to right, the breakwater, E.W. Brown sardine factory, ferry pier, and the Seaboard Packing sardine factory. South Portland Historical Society photo

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