Jul 29, 2011 • By

Shipping flour around the world

It’s one thing to ship our products within the U.S. – usually a fairly simple process today of getting something from one city to the other – but our glimpse into the General Mills Archives this week shows that shipping used to be very complicated.

Especially for flour shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in the late 1800s and early 20th century.

Washburn Crosby and Co. was one of the first American companies to export flour to Great Britain in 1878. Washburn Crosby was a flour milling partnership formed in 1877 in Minneapolis between Cadwallader C. Washburn (considered the founder of General Mills), his brother William, and John Crosby.

There was a demand for quality American flour in Europe. Initially, flour was shipped in barrels and arrived in good condition.

Here’s an insurance certificate, dated January 17, 1878, for Washburn Crosby flour shipped from New York to Liverpool, England.

Shipping flour in sacks proved to be difficult because there were delays in shipment and damage to the flour in transit. The sacks were loaded and unloaded many times, often with hooks. And the holds of ships were not necessarily clean and dry.

An 1878 letter from Percy Young (a commission merchant for Washburn Crosby in London) says “flour shipped in barrels received in better quality than a later delivery of flour in sacks.”

A European sales office was established in July 1920. By 1923, our flour markets included Central and South America, the West Indies, West Africa, Brazil, Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa.

(Photo: Gold Medal Flour being delivered in Constantinople, The Eventually News, Vol. III, No. 37, February 28, 1923.)

In 1929, Gold Medal flour was exported to 85 counties and territorial divisions in Europe, Asia and Africa. From Reykjavik, Iceland, to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, Gold Medal flour was found in nearly every important market.

Customers were valued, no matter where they were.

“Our foreign customers however, are not merely buyers, but correspondents and friends of long standing …” said R. F. Bausman – who was in charge of European, Mediterranean and North African markets – in The Eventually News in 1923.

Editor’s note: The photo at the top of this post shows a reindeer in Lapland assisting with the delivery of Gold Medal flour to a Lap bakery in the Arctic Circle in Northern Finland, from The Eventually News, Vol. III, No. 32, December 20, 1922.

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