The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

September 8, 2013

Grocer companies once thrived here

DANVILLE —

While browsing antique shows and shops, I’m always on the lookout for Danville grocery items. As far back as the turn of the last century, Danville was a major grocery distribution hub. Grocer companies such as Webster, Paxton and Peyton-Palmer called Danville home.

Each grocer company packaged goods under their own brand names, such as Webster’s Marvel and Dinette, Paxton’s Grab-It-Here and Peyton-Palmer’s Early Dinner. I have a large collection of spice tins and coffee cans — and even an oatmeal box and a vinegar bottle — representing all of those Danville brands.

So imagine my surprise when I ran across a Webster Grocer Co. “want book” at the Hobnob Market in June at Kennekuk County Preserve.

Despite the title on the cover, the “want book” contains yellowed blank pages inside. I can just imagine the woman of the household using it to jot down her grocery shopping list.

Inside the front cover is a table of standard weights and measures, which includes conversion charts for avoirdupois weight, dry measure, liquid measure, time measure, circular measure, long measure, cloth measure, mariner’s measure, square measure, surveyor’s measure, cubic measure and metric equivalents — all very intriguing, but I’m unsure how that might aid a homemaker in devising her grocery shopping list.

A percentage table fills the inside and the outside of the back cover of the book. The instructions that accompany the percentage table sound as if it is meant to assist an independent grocer in pricing his merchandise so that a percentage of profit can be factored into the selling price to offset the grocer’s actual cost of the goods.

An empty lot at the southwest corner of North and Washington streets is all that remains of the Webster Grocer Co. distribution warehouse that stood at 301 E. North St., as far back as 1915. According to the 1904 Danville city directory, Webster’s headquarters was located at 125 N. Vermilion St., where DC Fitness is now.

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