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MUSEUM MUSINGS: New plant was eggs-actly what Harrison needed

By: David Holsted, published in the Harrison Daily Times, April 25, 2020

The debate over which came first – the chicken or the egg – will probably rage on forever. What we do know is that an egg drying plant came afterward to Harrison.

On March 25, 1942, the Harrison Daily Times reported that “a force of carpenters” was busy converting the large east room of the Dr. J. G. Gladden building on East Rush Avenue into an egg drying plant.

The plant was part of a government defense plan to establish egg buying and drying plants throughout the country to provide egg products for domestic as well as military use. According to an article written at Kansas State University, during World War II, scrambled eggs made from dried whole-egg powder was a common item on the menu for the armed forces.

“Dried eggs are the complete hen’s eggs, both the white and the yolk, dried to a powder. Nothing is added. Nothing but the moisture and the shell taken away, leaving the eggs themselves as wholesome, as digestible and as full of nourishment and health-promoting value as if you had just taken the eggs new laid from the nest. So put the eggs back into your breakfast menus. And what about a big, creamy omelette for supper? You can have it savoury, or sweet, now that you get extra jam.”

Mike White, in his book “What They Didn’t Teach You About World War II” said that the Henningsen Company of Denison, Texas, opened an egg drying plant in 1934. Beginning in 1941, with the Lend-Lease Program, Great Britain became Henningsen’s biggest customer. By 1942, Denison had proclaimed itself the “Egg Breaking Capital of the World,” its workers breaking on average 1.5 million eggs a day.

According to another source, at least 250 million pounds of dried eggs were manufactured in the United States in 1942. By 1943, 120 plants around the country were turning out 400 million pounds of eggs.

The work at the Harrison plant, supervised by C. O. Knight, included partitioning off a large room and hermetically sealing it with tin. The room would become the drying chamber.

W. J. Coleman, who was said to be an expert in egg drying plants, was on hand to install the equipment and to put the plant in operation. According to the paper’s account, Coleman had moved his family into a home at 314 North Maple Street.

Knight was quoted as saying the plant will have the capacity of handling 1,500 cases of eggs daily. The drying chamber would have rollers, blowers and other equipment. At full capacity, Knight went on to say, about 480 pounds of liquid eggs could be handled in a minute.

Upon up and running at full capacity, the plant would need 300 workers, working eight-hour shifts around the clock.

Many of the workers were women and girls, performing such duties as cracking the eggs and putting the dry powdered product into containers of various sizes.

The Daily Times enthusiastically endorsed the new plant.

“Not only will this plant, the finest war industry to be brought here, furnish employment for a large number of workers, but it will make this a great egg buying center. It is expected that warehouses must be built or leased to take care of storing the finished product for shipment.”

This is article is part of a series about Boone County history and provided by the Boone County Heritage Museum. The museum is located at 124 South Cherry in Harrison. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Closed on Sunday and Wednesday. For more information on the museum, call 741-3312 or email bchm@windstream.net.