Departmental Honors Project Title
Date of Award
College of Liberal Arts
In the late nineteenth century, Minneapolis underwent a dramatic transformation and became known as the flour milling center of the world. Powered by the Falls of St. Anthony on the the Mississippi River, aided by technological advancements, and promoted by the expansion of railroads, dozens of flour mills were built, including those of the Washburn Crosby Company. This company, under the leadership of Governor Cadwallader Washburn of Wisconsin, exemplified many of the developments that had brought the Minneapolis industry to renown. Several historians such as William Edgar, Lucile Kane, Robert Frame, and Charles Kuhlmann have published works on the significance of flour milling in Minneapolis. These publications have established a number of factors behind the flour milling industry’s success in Minneapolis including the effects of hydropower, technological innovations, and progressive ideologies. However, the influence of the leading company in the city, the Washburn Crosby Company, has only marginally been discussed in these works. This then raises an important question: How did Cadwallader Washburn, as the head of the Washburn Crosby Company, impact the growth and success of the Minneapolis flour milling industry? To answer this question, I analyzed the papers of Governor Washburn and other leading figures in the flour industry in addition to the issues of two nineteenth century trade journals, the Northwestern Miller and the American Miller. I conclude that Washburn profoundly influenced the Minneapolis flour milling industry in three primary ways: the implementation of modern milling technology in his company, the organization of railroads in Minneapolis, and the expansion of flour export markets in Europe. This analysis of Washburn’s visionary influence on the industry is important in that both Washburn and his mills played a significant role in the rise and development of early Minneapolis as a city and as an international flour milling center.
Schmidt, Alex, "The Washburn-Crosby Company: Cadwallader Washburn’s Vision for Minneapolis Flour Milling" (2018). Departmental Honors Projects. 69.