Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I thought something on Max Poehlmann, who not only hatched chickens, but also turkeys at his Petaluma Boulevard North facility, was in order.
Max W. Poehlmann carving a turkey circa 1947. SCL Photo 33780
Max W. Poehlmann was born on June 16, 1890, in San Francisco. His parents were Frank and Bertha Poehlmann. When he was 10, Max moved to Petaluma where his father established the Poehlmann Tannery on Wilson near Jefferson Street.
The family lived at 744 B Street and as a teen, Max was employed at his father's tannery, but by the time he registered for the draft in 1917 he was residing in Seward, Alaska working as a fisherman.
According to Ernest Finley’s History of Sonoma County, Max also did a bit of mining and prospecting as well as railroad work while in Alaska.
When Max returned to Petaluma after serving in France during World War I, he joined his parents in their newly established hatchery business at 620 Main Street (now 620 Petaluma Boulevard North).
In 1921 Max married Nell Jones, a native of Texas. A year later his father passed away leaving the hatchery to be run by Max and his mother. The business prospered and in 1927 the Poehlmanns hired Oscar Johnson, a local contractor, to build a new hatchery.
Poehlmann Hatchery, 620 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA. SCL Photo 2140
By 1937, the hatchery had a capacity for 250,000 eggs at one time and was producing up to one million chicks per year. This same year, Max and his partners: brother-in-law, Nathan C. Thompson, and William H. Warner, a poultry specialist associated with Utah State agricultural college, purchased the Yolupa Ranch located on Carriger Road in El Verano where they raised broad-breasted turkeys.
Poehlmann was apparently successful enough in the turkey hatching industry to be hailed as a pioneer by Petaluma Argus Courier in their 1941 85th Anniversary Edition.
In 1948 the El Verano ranch consisted of 650 acres dotted with dozens of 20×20-foot pens, each housing 400 baby turkeys, and heated by 20 Jamesway butane gas brooders.
In addition to the El Verano ranch and the Petaluma hatchery, Poehlmann Hatchery, Inc. (incorporation occurred in 1953) had a plant in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Several sources state that the Poehlmann Hatchery closed in 1970 when Max Poehlmann retired. Not clear is whether this included the El Verano ranch and the Salt Lake City plant as well or if those two properties ceased operation prior to 1970.
I may just have to drop Keith Poehlmann, surviving son of Max and Nell, a note. According to a directory, Keith was vice president of Poehlmann Hatchery in 1965 and by performing a simple Google search it appears that he currently lives in the City of Napa.
Nathan C. Thompson handling turkey chicks at the Poehlmann Hatchery, Petaluma, CA. SCL Photo 33785
Biddle, George, ed. Western Poultry History. First Edition. Privately printed: Pacific Egg & Poultry Association, 1989.
Finley, Ernest Latimer. History of Sonoma County. Santa Rosa: Press Democrat, 1937.
Lowry, Thea, ed. Petaluma Poultry Pioneers Recall the Heyday of Chicken Ranching. Ross: Manifold Press, 1993.
Lowry, Thea. Empty Shells: The Story of Petaluma, America’s Chicken City. Novato: Manifold Press, 2000.
Petaluma Argus Courier. May 5, 1980, page 3A – “Max Poehlmann, Early Name in Poultry, Dies.”
Petaluma Argus Courier. May 9, 1941, Section B, page 5 – “Poehlmann Pioneered Turkey Hatching Here.”
Petaluma Argus Courier. February 17, 1939, page 8 – “Mrs. Bertha Poehlmann, Loved Petaluma Pioneer, Called to Rest Following Illness.”
Petaluma Daily Courier. June 23, 1927, page 4 – “Mechanic Dies as Trusses in New Building Collapse.”
Polk, R. L. and Company. Petaluma Directory. Montgomery Park: R. L. Polk & Co., 1965.
Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Counties Telephone Directory. 1955