Gissel Packing Co.


Today, the Gissel Packing Co.'s Roman Brand lard buckets are eagerly sought by can collectors.


HUNTINGTON — Born in Russia in 1886, Roman E. Gissel was the son of a
 university professor. His father died when he was 9 years old. When he
 turned 18 he was drafted into the Russian army. He served for three
months, and then ran away when he learned that many in the
army were plotting a revolution to oust the Czarist
 government. He fled to Germany, where he
 learned the meat packing trade.

Gissel came to this country in 1910, where he worked at a Philadelphia packing
 company. His wife, Paula, had also learned the packing trade in her native
 Germany. In 1918, the Gissels came to Huntington, where he went
 to work for the Fesenmeier Packing Co. (When the state of
West Virginia enacted Prohibition in 1914, the Fesenmeier
 family was forced to close their brewery and
 so turned to meat packing instead.)

In 1920, the husband and wife opened their own tiny business, the
 Gissel Packing Co. at 720 W. 15th St., with room to slaughter
just one steer and one hog. Over the years, the business
 steadily grew. By the late 1940s, the plant covered
seven city lots, had 60 employees and was
a half-million dollar enterprise.

The Gissel plant was badly damaged in the 1937
 flood and was all but destroyed in a 1947
fire. Both times it was rebuilt
 bigger and better.

The company produced and marketed a wide variety of beef
and pork products under the name of Roman Brand for
sliced bacon, bologna and similar items. The
company’s refrigerated trucks delivered
 its products to retailers and wholesalers
 throughout southern West Virginia.

When Roman Gissel died in 1950, Paula Gissel carried on
 running the business, one of the few women in America
 to run such a large meat producing firm. According
to records in the West Virginia Secretary of
 State’s office, the Gissel Packing Co.
 went out of business in 1972.

Today, the company’s Roman Brand lard buckets,
 decorated with a fanciful drawing of dancing
 pigs, are eagerly sought by can collectors.


Note:  This Article and picture appeared in the Herald-Dispatch Newspaper on Aug. 17, 2021.


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