Beginnings

Critics didn’t understand Cadwallader C. Washburn’s vision.

They said demand for flour from Midwestern spring wheat would never match what Washburn’s company could supply. He didn’t see it that way.

miller with wheelWashburn formed the Minneapolis Milling Company in 1856 to lease power rights to mill operators, and 10 years later he built his first flour mill near the falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

Despite continued criticism, he built a second, even larger facility in 1874.

Within five years, half of Minneapolis’ milling capacity was wiped out when Washburn’s mill and five neighboring plants were destroyed in a flour dust explosion so powerful that the news account in the St. Paul Globe newspaper began: "There is an 'earthquake’ was the expression and thought of hundreds ... at 7:20 Thursday evening."

Undetered, Washburn immediately began building a better mill containing evolutionary new machinery to enhance both the safety of the operation and the quality of the flour.

In 1880, Washburn and Crosby entered their finest flours in competition at the first International Millers’ Exhibition in Cincinnati, Ohio, winning the gold, silver and bronze medals, and establishing the Washburn Crosby Company’s flour as the best in the world.

Soon after, the company changed the name of its finest flour to Gold Medal flour, which is still the No. 1 flour brand in America today.

 

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