Historic Eats: When the Petaluma Egg Exchange ruled the poultry business in 1909

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We’re all familiar with the days when Petaluma made its name as the Egg Basket of the World, a title we still honor every year at Butter and Eggs Day. Back at the turn of the 20th century, it was big business. According to a Pacific Rural Press article, the city produced and shipped 86 million eggs, which sold for $2.5 million in 1909, which is equivalent to $69 million in today’s dollars. The Petaluma Egg Exchange sat on Main Street (what is now Petaluma Boulevard) and was one of the city’s largest hubs for shipping eggs. In 1909 it distributed around 3.9 million eggs a month to places as far off as Alaska, Nevada and Montana, as well as up and down the western coastline. It was one of the few operations in town that had cold storage at the time to keep eggs fresh for longer periods. It was a popularly held opinion that Petaluma eggs just tasted better. In the article, the Mr. Hayward, the manager of the Petaluma Egg Exchange, explained this by saying, “Within a scope of a dozen miles in the Petaluma district there is absolutely no alkali in the soil. The presence of alkali deteriorates the process of preservation and affects the physical condition of the egg. A premium is offered by cold storage syndicates for eggs wholly free from alkaline influences.” Pictured here are workers inside the Petaluma Egg Exchange in about 1905 (exact date is not known).

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