REHOBOTH'S ATLANTIC CANNING COMPANY
WW I SABOTAGE
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware : Thursday, September 20, 1917:
Incendiaries succeeded early today in destroying a major portion of the factory of the Atlantic Canning Company, owned by Governor John Gillis Townsend of Selbyville and Edmund Mitchell , Jr., of Wilmington. The plant was one of the largest establishments of it's kind in this section of the state.
A $200,000 loss is estimated, which includes a large quantity of canned products and raw crops for processing. This financial loss is said to be covered by insurance.
At the time of the fire there were ten railroad carloads of raw product tomatoes and at the wharf were four barge loads of raw product tomatoes. It has yet to be determined the amount of damage that may have been done to them. A company representative has said it may be possible for the factory to utilize this raw product for it is believed work can be resumed in a day or two in the small portion of the plant that is left standing. Temporarily, there are 350 workers left unemployed.
The fire was discovered this morning about one o'clock and was started in three areas, and had gotten such headway it was impossible to take it under control even though the fire department was on the scene at once and worked very hard to contain it. The building were principally wood frame and there was some flames still seen this morning, being allowed to burn themselves out.
The four year old canning factory was one of the chief successful industries here and it's products in such demand that the capacity had been doubled this year.
A German plot is suspected in view of the fact that two attempts had been made before, and, the Rehoboth Canning Company plant, near by, was burned six weeks ago. Today's blaze bears unmistakeable evidence of incendiaries.
The office of Attorney General Reinhardt had been notified and a official investigation is already under way.
The object of the firebugs was to destroy as much food and food processing machinery as possible and a part of a pro German effort. It is significant that it is known the company was working on a government contract which arranged for the delivery of 18% of the tomato pulp for soup product which no doubt would have found it's way to the Army's camps here and abroad
The week after the Rehoboth Packing Company fire was burned, piles of inflammable material were found by the Atlantic Company watchman but the miscreants were frightened away before they had a chance to apply the match.
Efforts to disable canning plants in lower Delaware are continuing , the latest, Tuesday last, someone with a good knowledge of the machinery, entered the Lewes Packing Plant, six miles from the Rehoboth factories, and put the largest most used equipment out of commission by removing the vital parts.
Abstract: Wilmington News Journal, September 2, 1917