Shortly after founders Robert Ganz and Sidney J. Marx launched The National Provisioner in April 1891, they wrote that trade journals should strive to be “something more than mere records of trade news.” Little did they know, the NP archives would someday become one of the most complete collections of history chronicling the American meat and poultry industry during the past 125 years.
Since serving as editorial director of The National Provisioner and Meat & Deli Retailer, plus editor of the latter publication, in the early to mid-2000s, I, too, became a tiny thread in this massive, ever-growing NP editorial quilt.
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During my NP years, I helped create and edit three unique, history-oriented supplements — and history has always been a passion of mine: the “100th Anniversary of the American Hamburger,” July 2004; the “100th Anniversary of the American Hot Dog,” October 2004; and “50 Years Built on a Handshake” — an exclusive, cooperative project between McDonald’s Corp. and NP, honoring McDonald’s first 50 years in business. That book published in April 2005.
Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to write the five monthly reports you’ve been reading this summer, celebrating the NP’s 125 years (1891-2016) in meat trade publishing. Research required rifling through scores of dusty storage boxes and scanning huge, fragile, hardcover issues of NP bound mostly inside semi-annual and annual volumes. Some pages in earlier issues resemble Egyptian papyrus — dry, yellowed pages that must be handled with extreme care to prevent them from disintegrating, tearing or separating from their binders.
Although a labor of love, it was a daunting task. Consider that NP was published weekly for its first 101 years — and then monthly from September 1992 forward. This required scanning approximately 5,000 issues, which took six months — plus almost 2,500 miles of driving — to complete. And squeezing the highlights of each 25-year segment into a 750-word report was no easy chore.
Few folks are given the privilege to review these archives — which contain a treasure-trove of history regarding industry/company/government news, weekly market reports, company/plant profiles, marketing and technology trend features — plus many remarkable historic people and plant photos.
How I wish I could meet and talk with all past NP editors to learn what they enjoyed covering and writing the most. Although most are now gone, their answers will forever be displayed on the tens of thousands of pages in the NP archives, where the spirits of editors-past are still very much alive — and their archived articles will forever do their talking. NP