© 2022 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
KSOR Header background image 1
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

As It Was: Rogue River Catsup Captures Portland Market in 1930s

The Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon is well known for its pears, but it also used to produce delicious catsup.

An early pickle and vinegar producer from Portland, Frank L. Knight, had heard that the best catsup tomatoes were grown in the Rogue River Valley, so he opened a packing plant in Medford in 1916.  It was so close to the fields that tomatoes were processed within hours of their picking.

Large kettles steamed and cooked the washed tomatoes with onions, garlic and spices.  The final product went to Portland for bottling.  By 1925, the Medford plant produced 35 tons of tomatoes a day, enough for 2,750 gallons of catsup.  In 1936 the expanded and modernized Medford plant began bottling the catsup in Medford.

The Rogue River Catsup brand soon captured 75 per cent of the Portland market and was distributed to parts of Washington, Idaho and California.  Knight even copyrighted the name “Rogue River” for any tomato-based product.

Rogue River Catsup was a great success for 25 years, but by 1942 the packing company was no longer listed in local directories, and Medford’s catsup days became only a memory.

Sources: Alley, William. "Rogue River Catsup." Southern Oregon Heritage Today, vol. 4, no. 11, Nov. 2002, p. 5.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.