Thomas Foon Chew: the California Asparagus King!
Jul 08, 2020
Robin Chapman
Thomas Foon Chew: the California Asparagus King!


Robin  Chapman  is  a journalist  who  is  a native of Los Altos, California. She worked at KRON-TV in San  Francisco  and  several  other  stations  in  the  West  before  heading  to  Washington D.C.  where she covered the White  House and other big stories for  the  ABC-TV  station there. In 2009, she returned to her hometown to care for her parents, and in the years since has published California  Apricots:  The  Lost  Orchards  of  Silicon Valley, and Historic Bay Area Visionaries, both from the History Press. 


Thomas Foon Chew arrived in San Francisco from China in 1897, when Thomas was 8. His father had a small cannery that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, but he rebuilt the cannery in Alviso, and at that time brought Thomas into the business. They canned tomatoes, apricots, peaches, plums and more -- and added plants in Mayfield (now Palo Alto) and along the Delta. Local papers dubbed him “The Asparagus King” for perfecting the canning of green asparagus. By the 1920s, Bayside had become the third-largest canning business in the country.

Although his life was short, thomas Foon Chew left a legacy of values. All seven of his children graduated from college, despite the Great Depression. Forty years later, many of his workers said his kindness had changed their lives. Alviso salutes him today with a street named in his honor and with four historical plaques. One is on Hope Street – a fitting place to mark the memory of this optimistic and inventive Californian.


Speaker invited by Steven Weiner