Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Hammond, George

Born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on May 5, 1838, meat-shipping magnate George Henry Hammond moved to Detroit in 1854 and built a mattress factory. Two years later the mattress factory burned down and Hammond took up the butcher trade, opening a shop at Howard and Third streets. Involved in the retail and wholesale of meat, he became wealthy as the city of Detroit grew. Hammond purchased the patent for a refrigerated railcar from William Davis, who adapted his original design for shipping fresh fruit and fish to accommodate hauling fresh meat across the country.

The first shipment of beef by refrigerator car was made from Detroit to Boston in 1869. Hammond’s next step was to build a meat packing plant next to the Michigan Central Railroad line in Indiana, close to Chicago and an ice supply from area lakes. What began as Hammond, Plummer and Company became the George H. Hammond Company in 1873. Incorporated in 1884, the town that grew as a result of Hammond’s meat packing business was named Hammond, Indiana, in honor of him, though Hammond continued to live in Detroit.

Omaha, Nebraska was the site of his next plant, in the mid-1880s. The first national meat packing company to establish itself in Omaha, his company was moving meat from over 100,000 cattle annually on 800 refrigerator cars. Beyond the meat packing business Hammond was active in Detroit affairs, a director of Commercial National Bank, among other positions, and one of the founders of the Museum of Art, precursor to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

George Hammond left behind a massive, 10-story building, the Hammond Building, that stood at Fort and Griswold streets, where Chase Tower, formerly the National Bank of Detroit building, now stands. His death at age 48 came well before the building was completed, leaving his widow, Ellen Barry Hammond, to see the plans through.

Hammond died on December 29, 1886 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit. His company became overshadowed by the giant Chicago meat packers, and in 1903 was acquired by the National Packing Co.



Hammong Building postcard, 1915

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