WLR Foods records
Scope and Content
The WLR Foods records, 1948-2002, consists of over 5,000 scanned digital images. The bulk of the collection is comprised of documents pertaining to WLR Foods Incorporated. The remaining documents relate to Wampler Feed and Seed Company and Wampler Foods and are pre-1984 in date. The 645 PDF documents that make up the collection have been arranged by similar topic into nine series.
- Creation: 1948 - 2002
- WLR Foods, Inc. (Organization)
Collection is open for research. Researchers must request access to the digital files in this collection in advance and via a computer station in the Special Collections reading room.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (email@example.com).
WLR Foods is a hybrid of three Shenandoah Valley operations. The W and L in the name are for the Wampler and Longacre families; the R is for Rockingham County Poultry Cooperative. WLR Foods first incorporated in 1986 and created a holistic and self-sufficient poultry company that was capable of controlling all aspects of poultry production, from the egg to the local market. WLR Foods combined hatcheries and farms, feed storage and mills, processing and dressing plants, and distribution under one corporate umbrella. This proved to be a winning combination for the Virginia based company; at the height of its success in 1996, WLR Foods sales reached almost one billion dollars and employed over eight thousand workers. The success achieved by WLR Foods was predicated on three distinct companies that merged in 1986: Wampler Foods, Longacre Farms, and Rockingham Poultry Cooperative.
Wampler Foods began in 1927 with the founding of Wampler Feed and Seed Company. Wampler Feed was the first turkey feed company to contract directly with farms to grow poultry. Under the direction of founder, Charles W. Wampler Sr., Wampler Feed and Seed flourished during the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Wampler Feed revolutionized the poultry industry by pioneering the use of incubators to hatch turkeys and early adoption of cooped turkey growing. Upon the retirement of Charles Wampler Sr., his son, Charles Wampler Jr., took over as manager of Wampler Feed and Seed. In 1969, Wampler Jr. working with Herman Mason joined Wampler Feed with Virginia Valley Processing to create Wampler Foods. The merger brought poultry operations in hatcheries, feeding, growers, and limited processing together into one corporation. Further expansion of processing and increased distribution capabilities fueled the search for subsequent merger opportunities.
During World War II, the American labor force began to diminish. This shortage had a great effect on the agricultural community as farmers and farm workers left to join the war. By 1943, the labor shortage forced Congress to allow draft deferments for farmers and hired men. Horace W. Longacre, a passive Mennonite, sought to serve but not to fight. He considered farm draft deferment a peaceable alternative. In order to qualify for the deferment, Longacre bought 84 acres of farmland in Quakertown, Pennsylvania in 1944 and began selling eggs and vegetables. He soon moved exclusively into poultry operations, processing, and dressing chickens. By 1948, Longacre expanded his business into Virginia and was working with Herman Mason as a feed supplier. Eventually, he moved away from poultry feed and focused entirely on processing. At the peak of his success, Longacre employed over 700 people and continued to further capabilities in dressing and distribution. It was under these circumstances that Longacre’s business became an attractive merger option for Wampler who was seeking to expand in processing. By 1984, the merger was complete and Wampler-Longacre was formed.
The Wampler-Longacre merger set the stage for a new acquisition; in 1986, Wampler-Longacre acquired Rockingham Poultry Cooperative which expanded Wampler-Longacre into chicken production and also set the stage for the formation of WLR Foods Incorporated.
In 1988, WLR Foods hired fortuitously James Keeler as CEO and retained Charles Wampler Jr. as Chairman of the Board. During a hostile takeover attempt by Tyson Foods in 1994, Keeler proved to be a valuable leader in stopping Tyson. The company also went public that year with stock selling on NASDAQ. By the early 1990’s, WLR was packaging poultry into 250 different product lines from hotdogs to burgers. Throughout the 1990’s, WLR Foods continued to expand. In 1990, Golden Acre Foods was acquired along with Cassco Corporation, an ice and cold storage operation. In 1992, Round Hill Foods and the Southern Ice Company were purchased. In 1993, WLR acquired Commonwealth Ice Company and the Beverley Company.
In 1994, Fortune Magazine had listed the company prestigiously in the top 500 companies in the nation. That same year, WLR Foods recorded sales over 700 million and attracted the attention of Tyson Foods Incorporated which attempted a hostile takeover by offering shareholders $30.00 per share which was well above the fair market value at the time. James Keeler, a former lawyer, aggressively fought Tyson Foods by rallying shareholders and using loopholes in Virginia law to prevent a payout from Tyson.
Following the takeover attempt, WLR Foods continued to be a successful leader in the poultry industry and acquired Cuddy Farms Incorporated which strengthened its turkey production and processing operations. However, by 2000 WLR Foods was on the decline with stock shares dropping to $4.59. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation bought and absorbed WLR Foods thus ending the corporation’s fourteen-year dominance of the industry.
4.8 Gigabytes (645 digital files)
0.06 cubic feet (7 CDs)
Language of Materials
This digital collection contains over 5,000 scanned images representing 645 documents that pertain to the business endeavors, acquisitions, and publications of WLR Foods Incorporated.
The records are arranged into the following series:
- Stock Activities, 1976-2000
- Meetings and Minutes, 1970-2001
- Financial Reports, 1955-2000
- Publications, 1979-2002
- Acquisitions, Mergers, and Takeovers, 1984-2000
- Announcements, Memos, and News, 1987-2000
- Audit and Examination Reports, 1948-1978
- Various Documents, 1987-1996
- Correspondence, 1988-1991
While full description of this collection is in process, researchers may access a previous descriptive inventory of files within the legacy finding aid for this collection.
The digital collection was originally divided into seven compact discs titled:
Wampler Foods Historical Records (Scans created between May through November 2005)
Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 1 (Scans created between October 25 through November 06 2007)
Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 2 (Scans created between June 07 through November 13 2007)
Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 3 (Scans created between June 15 through July 17 2007)
Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 4 (Scans created between June 16 through September 14 2007)
Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 5 (Scans created between September 14 through October 19 2007)
Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 6 (Scans created between October 19 through October 24 2007)
The creator or commissioner of the scans is unknown. In December 2007 the discs were reviewed and appraised by Jeffrey Evans, then President of the Green Valley Auctions, Inc. In February 2008 William Wampler donated the collection of compact discs to Special Collections. After initial review it was discovered the “Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 1” was blank. That same month Mr. Wampler was notified of the error and the “Wampler-Longacre Scans, Disc 1” was replaced with a working disc.
Compact discs comprising digital scnas were donated by William D. Wampler to Special Collections in February 2008.
Existence and Location of Originals
The current state of ownership of the original/physical material used to create the digital scans is unknown.
- Chintala, David Michael. Correlation between export sales and stock price. Harrisonburg: James Madison University, 1997.
- Fife, Tom. Activity-based costing systems and their applications in the poultry industry. Harrisonburg: James Madison University, 1993.
- Whiteley, Laura E., "WLR Foods, Inc." In International Directory of Company Histories Vol. 21, 1998, edited by Tina Grant, and Jay P. Pederson, 534-536. Detroit: St. James Press, 1998.
The files on Disc 1 through 6 were created using a HP PSC 5100 at 200 dpi. The files on disc “Wampler Foods Historical Records” were scanned at 150 dpi.
- A Guide to the WLR Foods records, 1948-2002
- In Progress
- Trevor Alvord
- May 2011
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description