Opening Our Collections: Schmidt Family – Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company

We recently received additional items to the Schmidt Family – Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company Collection – 2016-46 that we had to blog about this week.

First, a brief history of the company. In 1875, Hugo Schmidt, Sr. along with Charles Reupke and Bernhard Schwarting opened the Davenport Steam Bakery which was later known as Reupke, Schmidt & Co. It was one of the first cracker and macaroni companies in the middle west.

After Hugo’s untimely death in July 1878, his oldest son Oswald (aged 16 years) joined the business as an accountant. Oswald soon bought out his father’s partners and joined with his cousin, Paulo Roddewig, in 1887 as the Roddewig-Schmidt Cracker Company. In the early 1890s, the cousins sold the cracker and cookies portion of the business and focused on candy. They became the Roddewig-Schmidt Candy Company located at 4th and Iowa Streets in Davenport.

In 1904, Oswald and Paulo purchased the Crescent Macaroni Company from the Loos Brothers of Chicago, IL along with their factory in Davenport. The macaroni and candy sections thrived in the early 1900s until a fire destroyed the Macaroni factory in 1915. A new fire-safe factory was built on the site of the old one at 427 Iowa Street. The Schmidt family sold the company in the late 1960s. The Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company closed in 1991 and the building was turned into loft apartments in the early 2000s.

We are endlessly amazed at the items in this collection. Here are a few of the items recently donated:

A program from the 1927 Sales Conference held in Davenport.

1927 Sales conference program – Front cover. The company had a motto and slogan.
1927 Sales conference program – Inside pages. We wonder if John Lumsden actually spoke for just one hour.
1927 Sales conference program – Back cover.

Advertisements and brochures of items produced by the company.

A flattened box of Crescent Mac’ro Nets pasta along with two recipe books dating from the early 1900s. What better way to advertise than to give out recipe books in the stores or by mail for housewives looking for new menu ideas.

Two recipe books that would be given away in a store or could be mailed upon request. The booklet on the right dates to about 1914.

Just in case you want to try some new recipes; we are including four recipes for your enjoyment.

In this donation were several identical metal boxes. The majority of the boxes contained paperwork relating to factory business. This one held an unusual surprise.

Written over the original ink writing (which stated canceled checks) was a new darker ink that stated Old Pkgs. That is what it contained. Two old Crescent Macaroni and Cracker boxes.

One contained elbow macaroni. Most likely dating to the early 1900s.

The Elbow Macaroni box printed for the P.H. Butler Company who distributed the product.
The colorful end of the box. At times, the company printed the name of the pasta as L-Bow macaroni.
Elbow macaroni length. c. late 1910s.

The second box is unusual in that it is labeled as Hard Bread. We knew hard bread was a newer name for hard tack that soldiers carried during the Civil War. While it still existed in the early 1900s, it was not listed as a product commonly sold by the Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company.

Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company box. The box was filled with Hard Tack. A sample appears in the picture. c. 1918.
A better view of the iconic Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company symbol along with showing the thickness of the Hard Bread. c. 1918.
Hard Bread, or Hard Tack, measurement. c. 1918.

The mystery of the Hard Bread may have been solved when we came across a letter in the donation dated October 4, 1918, to Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company salesmen. The letter is a patriotic stance on supporting the fight for the war effort even when it pinches at home. We learned the Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company had received a government contract to supply the U.S. troops with Hard Bread. Round-the-clock production of Hard Bread meant fewer regular items would be produced due to shortage of supplies and the need for factory equipment to be dedicated to the production of Hard Bread. In the end, for the salesmen, it meant fewer sales on fewer items.

October 4, 1918 letter from Crescent Macaroni and Cracker Company to its salesmen. Most likely to keep support of the war strong and explain why fewer products would be produced.

We hope you enjoyed a peek into this wonderful collection. We extend our deepest thanks to the Schmidt family’s descendants for their donation.

(Posted by Amy D.)

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