The story begins over a century ago, in 1904, when Michele Armato
arrived at the port of New Orleans in the hopes of making a start in an exciting, new country.
At first, his
dreams were modest.
wanted to earn enough to repay his
sponsor for his
transit, and then to save for the passage of his
young wife, who had remained behind in their hometown of Sambuca, Italy.
Another family that had emigrated from Sambuca a few years earlier did Michele
a great kindness by offering him a room until he
got on his
feet, and so he
set about making his
way in the new world.
To say that the lack of this simple product troubled Michele
would be to trivialize the importance of olive oil to Italian culture.
was not merely troubled, but absolutely appalled by the absence of this precious fluid that was as important to him as his
hosts and fellow workers how such a rich land could be without such a necessity.
While they all agreed that it was almost impossible for a Sicilian to live without olive oil, they lamented that he
, like everyone else, would just have to get used to it.
had no intention of getting used to it.
So, with a handful of other enterprising Sicilian immigrants, he
devised a plan to bring olive oil to the United States.
Within a few years, the chain was complete and they were prepared to put their plan into action.
It started with an old friend back in Sambuca who owned a small olive grove.
Next was a fellow who lived in the next town - both a barrel maker and a master at extracting the rich oil from ripe olives.
Others were involved in transporting the oil overseas, and lastly came Michele
, who was tasked with the final stage.
would assemble the necessary machinery to produce tin cans.
This way, the olive oil, which arrived in massive casks, could be packaged for sale to his
Without the money to launch a large factory, Michele
had to start small.
Another friend who had arrived a number of years before Michele
had met with some success and owned a building with a small workspace on Union Street.
agreed to let Michele set up shop in the unused space, on the condition that Michele pay him the back rent if his
new business venture was a success.
did not have to wait for very long.
Not only was Michele able to repay his
friend's kindness, but his
new business was such a success that it quickly outgrew the workshop on Union Street.
Having fallen in love with the craft of tin making, Michele
went in search of a location where he
could expand beyond olive oil cans and open a full-fledged decorative tin factory.
He chose Chicago as the home for his new operation, and in 1912 he left New Orleans and the Union Street workshop and founded Olive Can Company.
Color television was an enormous success, and soon every television in every home was equipped with a can made by the company that Michele Armato
had founded forty-five years earlier.