Jan 12, 2016 • By

PODCAST: Our founder, our general

Have you heard? We’re 150!

General Mills traces its history back to 1866, when the first flour mill of our predecessor (Washburn Mill Company) was built in Minneapolis.

The Washburn B Mill circa 1866.

The Washburn B Mill, 1866.

Since then, we’ve produced a lot more than flour, as this video shows.

But as much as General Mills has evolved in 150 years, and led the way in many different industries besides food, our history is really defined by a few formative decades in the 1800s next to the mighty Mississippi River in Minneapolis, where both General Mills and Pillsbury got their start.

And one man: Cadwallader Washburn.

A teacher, land surveyor, lawyer, banker, congressman, major general, governor … and business visionary.


Cadwallader Washburn, circa 1862.

If not for Washburn’s view of how the Falls of Saint Anthony could power his mills in Minneapolis, and others, there would not be a General Mills today.


His determination also deserves mention. After his second mill – the Washburn A Mill – exploded from flour dust in 1878, he didn’t back out of the flour milling industry. Instead, he provided for and supported the families of the victims and then rebuilt a new, larger, safer A Mill.


The ruins of Washburn’s new mill, the largest in the world when it opened in 1880 until Pillsbury built its A Mill a year later, still stand today. It’s been reimagined as the Mill City Museum (the mill was damaged by a fire in 1991).


Cadwallader Washburn’s business interests in Minneapolis flourished quickly, and for many years. He teamed with John Crosby in 1877, who would run the Washburn-Crosby Company. Washburn died in 1882 at the age of 63.


For our “A Taste of General Mills” podcast this month, you’ll learn about our roots along the banks of the Mississippi River.

Among other things, you’ll find out:

-How the Mill City Museum educates visitors about the era when flour powered Minneapolis

-How Cadwallader Washburn ended up in Minnesota and built his business

-What General Mills has planned to celebrate our 150th anniversary in 2016

It’s easy to listen to our show when you’re on the go. Just listen on any podcast app on your mobile device (search for A Taste of General Mills) or through iTunes – or right here on our blog, below.

Listen (35min)

SHOW NOTES – Episode 5: Jan. 12, 2016

Link: Mill City Museum

Link: “Beginnings” (

Link: Cadwallader Washburn (Wikipedia)

Link: “To the markets of the world: Advertising in the Mill City, 1880-1930”

Video: “150 years of General Mills” (1min)

We publish a new episode of our podcast every month. Search “podcast” in the box at the top of of this page for previous shows.

If you have an idea for a future episode of our podcast, we’d love to hear it. Please let us know in the comments below or via email at

Editor’s note: Discover more about our past on If you have a question about General Mills’ history, send our Archives team an email at  

Subscribe to “A Taste of General Mills” by email – here.