The horticultural potential of the Santa Clara valley was recognized by the mission fathers who established small orchards and vineyards. Cuttings from these trees and vines provided the basis of the earliest orchards and vineyards in the American Period. By 1852, the first pioneer nurserymen were importing and experimenting with various types of fruit trees and by the 1860s orchards were being set out in East San Jose, Milpitas and the north valley. In the 1870s increasing residential and business growth led to the shifting of orchard areas to new communities such as the Willows, Berryessa, Los Gatos, and Saratoga. The 1880s saw orchards expanding into the Campbell, Evergreen, and Edenvale areas. Orchard products dominated agricultural production by the end of the century and fruit production peaked in the 1920s. The most popular of the orchard products was the prune with acreage expanding rapidly during the 1890s. By the 1930s, 83 percent of the valley orchards raised prunes with the Santa Clara Valley producing 25 percent of the world’s trade (Broek 1932).
The pioneer canning industry was begun in residential San Jose by Dr. James Dawson in 1871. The fruit canning and packing industry quickly grew to become the urban counterpart of the valley’s orchards. Other support industries such as box, basket, and can factories were also established. Orchard and food processing machinery and spraying equipment also became important local industries. W. C. Anderson started a canning machinery factory (Anderson Prunedipping Co.) in 1890. Anderson absorbed Barngrover, Hull, & Cunningham in 1902 becoming Anderson-Barngrover Manufacturing Co. This company merged with the Bean Spray Pump Company in 1928 to become Food Machinery Corporation (FMC). The fruit industry thus came to dominate the lives and livelihoods of most residents in both city and county by the advent of the twentieth century. Early industrial development located near shipping points and transportation lines.
Commercial growth in San Jose boomed during the 1880s and continued with steady growth toward the end of the century. During the 1870s, business overflowed onto Second Street. After the Chinatown on Market Plaza burned in 1887, the new city hall was erected in the middle of the plaza in 1889 and the post office was constructed in 1893 spurring further development in downtown. Large bank buildings were built on all four corners of First and Santa Clara Streets. In the 1880s through the early years of the twentieth century, the business district moved southward along First Street. The major force in downtown development during this period was T. S. Montgomery who constructed many large commercial buildings and business blocks.
Urban services continued to expand. Electrical service came to San Jose in 1881 being provided by several small independent gas and electric companies. In 1881, the electrical light tower was constructed at the intersection of Market and Santa Clara Streets bringing worldwide fame to San Jose. Electric arc lamps replaced gas street lights in the late 1880s. These in turn were replaced by incandescent lights and in 1912 112 ornate electroliers were ordered for the downtown streets from the Joshua Hendry Iron Works in Sunnyvale.
Changes in transportation during this period were a major influence on developmental patterns. Samuel Bishop built the first electrical streetcar line in America when he electrified the line between San Jose and Santa Clara in 1887/1888. The street cars were converted to overhead electrical trolley lines in 1891. The trolley lines within the city served Hedding Street, Julian Street, S. 10th Street, Monterey Road to Oak Hills Cemetery, and on Willow Street to Willow Glen. There were also lines to Alum Rock Park and Santa Clara. The Interurban Railroad had lines to Saratoga, Campbell, and Los Gatos by 1905. The Peninsular Railway had lines from San Jose to Palo Alto and Cupertino by 1915.
The first automobiles appeared in the valley in the late 1890s. Several pioneer automobile factories, the first in California, were established in San Jose after 1900. Clarence Letcher opened the first “garage” in the west in 1900 and in 1902 opened the first service station, which boasted “a gasoline station of 110 gallons which measures the amount of gasoline sold” (James and McMurry 1933:142). The first motor bus line in the State was started up Mt. Hamilton in 1910.
Along with the advances in the automotive industry, were the first experiments in aviation and communications. John Montgomery, a professor at the University of Santa Clara, flew the first heavier-than-air glider in 1893 and was making significant aeronautical discoveries when he was killed in a glider accident in 1911.
Dr. Charles Herrold pioneered California’s first radio transmission in 1894 and in 1909 he established the first American commercial radio station in San Jose. Herrold can also be credited with sowing the seeds of the electronics industry in San Jose when he opened a college of engineering that qualified more the 1200 students as radio engineers, technicians, and operators by 1922. Many of Herrold’s students were specially trained for government communications service during World War I. By 1922, Herrold was responsible for over 50 inventions and improvements involving the use of electricity (Arbuckle 1985).
Most of the undeveloped land within the city limits was subdivided and filled with homes during the 1880s and new suburban tracts were being subdivided. The Hensley grounds were subdivided in 1886, as was College Park east of the Alameda. Naglee Park was opened in 1902 and Hanchett Park in 1907. Lots were auctioned off in the Lendrum tract in East San Jose, an area that incorporated in 1906. The City’s first annexations were the Gardiner District and East San Jose, both annexed in 1911. The following year a strip 100 feet wide down N. First Street to the port of Alviso was annexed.