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Bake It Better With Quaker Oats

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F. Schumacher Milling Company - history

The Schumacher Milling Company was one of the early oatmeal mills that were merged together to form what is now known as the Quaker Oats Company.


Ferdinand Schumacher, a young German immigrant, came to the U.S. in 1850 at the age of twenty-two.  He married and settled in Akron, Ohio where he became the proprietor of a notions and grocery store on Howard Street.

Drawing upon his experience as a grocer's clerk in Germany, he began hand grinding small quantities of oats and selling the meal across the counter of his store to those in the local area.

His efforts in marketing oatmeal for human consumption were successful--he succeeded in creating a demand where there had been previously been none.  Although oats and porridge were standard fare in some European countries, Americans considered it to be livestock food.

In 1856, Schumacher turned his attention primarily to the business of grinding oats.  He acquired a former woolen factory, located at Market and Howard Streets, outfitted it with the proper machinery and began the production and sale of "German Mills American Oatmeal."


Schumacher continued to increase his flour and cereal milling capabilities.  In 1863, he built the Empire Barley Mill on Mill Street in Akron,  expanding his interests to include the milling of barley and wheat.

A large part of his early prosperity was due to the fact that he was able to provide barrels of oatmeal to the Union soldiers of the Civil War.  After the war was over, his oatmeal remained in demand by the war veterans.

Cascade MillIn 1868, Schumacher purchased the Cascade Mills on North Street in Akron.  This mill was rebuilt in 1876 and in 1881 the machinery was updated to include the roller process. 

1870's - 1880's

The original German Mill burned in 1872 and was replaced with another, which was called "German Mill A."  In 1883, another mill was built, "German Mill B," which became known as the "Jumbo Mill."  The Jumbo Mill was located at Broadway and Mill Streets and is now the site of what is now known as Quaker Square, a hotel and shopping complex built from the old silos and factory buildings.

The early 1880's saw Schumacher selling his oatmeal far beyond the local community.  His oatmeal was shipped to New England, New York, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago and a few points farther west.  He had become known as the "Oatmeal King of America" and was by far the most successful and powerful oatmeal miller of the times.

A massive fire in March of 1886 destroyed his Jumbo Mill plant. At that time, the Jumbo Mill was one of the largest in the world.   Schumacher was uninsured.  This event began the the reversal of his fortune and his power over the industry.

With no means to replace what was lost, he was forced to merge with a competitor.  The remains of the Jumbo Mill plant and the business he had developed were his contributions to the partnership that was formed with the Akron Milling Company.  This new concern, heavily trading on Schumacher's reputation, became known as the F. Schumacher Milling Company.

Although Ferdinand Schumacher was one of the first men to successfully distribute his product nationally, he was reluctant to accept and implement other new and modern ideas that the industry demanded of him.  Rivalry among the millers, large and small, soon forced consolidation between companies.

The Schumacher Milling Company was one of 20 other eastern millers that formed the Oatmeal Millers' Association in 1886 in a combined effort to stabilize and control the production and prices of oatmeal.

Due to the looseness of the organization, the objectives of the Association were not realized.  In 1887 the Schumacher Milling Company, along with eleven other members of the Oatmeal Millers' Association, joined in the initial charter of the Consolidated Oatmeal Company.   Ferdinand Schumacher served as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of this new company.  The new company's objective, like its predecessor, was also to control the oatmeal field.


The Consolidated Oatmeal Company was successful in its early years.  Eventually, however, the competition from the increasing number of rival mills and neglect by other members to respect the price agreements resulted in another reorganization and merger. 

In 1891, the F. Schumacher Milling Company joined six other millers to form the American Cereal Company.  Ferdinand Schumacher was named as President.

By 1897 there was an unyielding divide among the members of the Board of Directors with respect to how the company should be run.  Schumacher preferred the old methods, while others wanted to adapt more modern marketing and advertising methods.  In 1897, Schumacher was dropped from the Board of Directors and he sold his remaining interests in the company in 1899.


In 1901, the American Cereal Company reorganized and began doing business under the name Quaker Oats Company.

Ferdinand Schumacher, a pioneer of American breakfast cereal and founder of one of the companies that was to eventually become part of the Quaker Oats Company, died on April 16, 1908.

by Kathy Moore - 9/10/05

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf

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