The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966 Page: 46
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
market in the East.5 The first commercial shipment of shelled
pecans proved lucrative, and Duerler set out to develop the busi-
ness. When a mechanical cracking machine was invented in 1889,
he took advantage of it. In 1914, the first power-driven cracker
was invented; Duerler incorporated it into his operation and
achieved mechanization of the shelling process to a considerable
degree. After the machines had graded and cracked the nuts, the
pecans were conveyed to another room where Mexican girls
picked the meats by hand.
Until 1925, the Duerler Company and the R. E. Funsten Com-
pany of St. Louis dominated the pecan shelling industry. In 1926,
the Southern Pecan Shelling Company was formed by Julius
Seligmann and Joe Freeman. Beginning with an investment of
$50,000, the company soon dominated the industry in the South,
and the gross amount of its business rose to $3,000,000 in 1936.
Since 1935, the Southern Pecan Shelling Company of San Antonio
has shelled from a quarter to a third of the country's seedling
The trend toward mechanization of the industry was reversed
in San Antonio as the entrepreneurs realized that a competitive
advantage could be had by employing the large numbers of Mex-
ican peasants living in the city. The great depression of 1929
made the labor supply available at wages so low that entire fam-
ilies had to work at pecan shelling in an effort to obtain the
minimum amount of food and shelter needed for survival. The
Southern Company found that it could operate at a greater profit
by paying those wages rather than by installing and maintaining
machinery. Consequently, the pecan shelling industry in San
Antonio reverted to a handwork basis.
An adjunct to the hand-shelling method was the contracting
system, a shrewd plan whereby the large companies "sold" pecans
to contractors who had them shelled and then "sold" them back
to the companies. Some of the contractors had subcontractors,
many of whom were families of Mexicans who shelled the pecans
in their homes. An investigation by the United States Department
5San Antonio-An Authoritative Guide to the City and its Environs (San Antonio,
6Menefee and Cassmore, Pecan Shellers of San Antonio, 8.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966, periodical, 1966; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117144/m1/64/: accessed May 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.