Tasteful Inventions: Dr. John Thompson Dorrance: condensed soup

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dr. John Thompson Dorrance: condensed soup

A rich warm tomato soup with a toasted melted cheese sandwich has a way of just hitting the spot. To my little belly's mind, they are the quintessential dynamic duo. When is the best time to sit down with a comfy bowl of tomato soup? Any time. You see that's one of the best things about tomato soup; it can be served either hot or cold, winter summer, morning, noon and night (and for late night snacks too.) I suppose you could say, tomato soup is just one of those things we take for granted. There when we need it for warmth and comfort, ignored at its fruit. It's hard to imagine a time without tomato soup and yet, dear visitor, dare I say, a time did exist when there was no tomato soup until it was invented. "What!" you say. "Tomato soup is just made out of pureed tomatoes. I could have invented that!" Perhaps...
A man in harmony with tomato soup, John Thompson Dorrance was born on November 11, 1873 in Bristol, Pennsylvania. Today as a matter of fact! Now, Dr. Dorrance didn't invent tomato soup. For the true inventor of tomato soup, we would have to gaze into the story of a man by the name of James H. W. Huckins of Boston, Massachusetts. He received a patent titled "Improved Tomato Soup" on May 2, 1865. If you don't believe me, follow his link to the patent number. What Dr. John Thompson Dorrance did was developed a way to reduce the water content in soup while retaining the nutrients and flavor. John Thompson Dorrance first prepared canned soup concentrate in 1897, while working on a laboratory at the Campbell's Soup Company. You can read all about the Joseph A. Campbell Preserve Company on my other blog. It's a Pop Quiz:) Let's get back to John Dorrance, after all, it is his birthday we're celebrating.

John Dorrance

By all accounts, Dr. Dorrance was a visionary. The son of John Dorrance and Elizabeth Cottingham Thompson, John Dorrance had a fine education. "As a youth he attended Rugby Academy, Philadelphia; then entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the famous "Boston Tech," where he took his B. S. in 1895. Going abroad, he studied at the University of Gottingen, Germany, and graduated with the degree of Ph.D. in 1897." A brilliant chemist, he received offers to teach chemistry at Goettingen, Columbia University, Cornell University, and Bryn Mawr College, but decided instead to join the Campbell Company in 1897. While in Paris, his inspiration for the marketing of canned soup fell upon him while observing the methods which were used in Parisian restaurants. He was convinced if he could find a way to lock in the goodness while reducing the bulk, which would in turn reduce costs, the American housewife would gladly purchase it at their local grocer. (A little reminder folks, up until that time, poor quality control in canning was a common source of spoil and food poisoning.) He was right. Dr. Dorrance was an expert in scientific agriculture and husbandry. He devoted much attention to developing improved varieties of fruits and vegetables. In 1911, he moved to Pomona Farm in Cinnaminson, New Jersey where he planted and tended to the tomatoes he had growing even on his front lawn. He was looking for the "perfect strain to make into tomato soup" as evidenced in the conservatories and gardens of his home. At his urging, the company embarked on a vast advertising campaign. The first ads were in trolley cars. The company felt women were their consumers and women rode trolley cars. Next the company's strategy included children, another aspect of targeting women, hence, the Campbell Kids were "born." As a result of Dr. Dorrance's persistent methods, applied both to production and commercial development, Campbell's Soups today are known wherever people eat soup. At his death, in 1930, he was the third richest man in the United States.
  • 1. Scannell's New Jersey's First Citizens and State Guide By William Edgar Sackett
  • 2. Soup & sandwich photo from wikipedia