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Rising to the Occasion

It’s National Homemade Bread Day! Will you rise to the occasion and bake a loaf or two? 

In early Chicago, the most important food processing activity was grain milling. Prior to 1800, Kitihawa and Jean Baptiste Point DuSable had a pair of millstones and had constructed a bakehouse just north of the Chicago River. By the 1830s, Chicago was home to steam-powered flour mills and enjoyed a brief period of importance as a local milling center for spring wheat. But the great bulk of wheat handled by the city’s booming grain trade was never milled locally: it was shipped east to be processed in major US cities at the time such as Buffalo, or in Europe. After the Civil War, as wheat farming moved north and west, the national center of wheat flour manufacturing shifted to Minneapolis. 

This booklet (1878) in the CHM Research Center includes recipes for several kinds of bread, including potato bread, brown bread, graham bread, and cornbread. It was published by Steele & Price, a food ingredient manufacturer in Chicago. Marketing pieces such as this one were a common publicity tactic for ingredient manufacturers—by publishing numerous recipes, they tried to entice consumers to purchase as many of their products as possible. While Steele & Price was known primarily for their baking powder, which was made widely available a few decades before this 1878 publication, they also sold items for all kinds of homemade bread, such as “yeast gems,” “lemon sugar,” and “special flavoring extracts.”

Learn more about the history of food processing in Chicago in our Encyclopedia of Chicago entry.

All images above by CHM staff. 

Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts & Culture is an online platform that puts the treasures, stories, and knowledge of more than 2,000 cultural institutions from eighty countries at your fingertips. Our online exhibit, Touring Chicago’s Culinary History, takes you through the city’s food history through a selection of menus from our collection. From the first fine dining establishment to open in 1835 to the recent contributions to world cuisine, learn about the origins of Chicago’s status as one of the top food cities of the world.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories