Thursday, June 24, 2021

Henry Perky invents Shredded Wheat 1892

Henry Drushel Perky was born in Holmes County, OH on December 7, 1843. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in Nebraska, and later served in the Nebraska State Senate in the 1870’s.

Because of declining health, Perky and his wife left Nebraska for Colorado about 1880, where he became an attorney for the Union Pacific Railroad.

Perky's grand plans for the manufacture of steel railway cars were never realized.

Sometime in the early 1890’s, at a Nebraska hotel, Perky— who suffered from heartburn— had encountered a man similarly afflicted, who was eating boiled wheat with cream. Inspired by his observation and in 1892 he had taken his idea of a product made of boiled wheat to Watertown, NY, where his friend William H. Ford, a machinist by trade, helped Perky build the device that he had conceived.

He and his friend then developed a method of processing wheat into strips that were formed into pillow-like biscuits. Perky’s original intention was to sell these shredding machines for home use, not the biscuits made by them.

In Denver, Perky founded the Cereal Machine Company and began distributing the shredded-wheat biscuits from a horse-drawn wagon in an attempt to popularize the idea.

Perky first sold his shredded wheat cereal to vegetarian restaurants in 1892, distributing it from a factory in Niagara Falls, New York. A health-oriented publication, The Chicago Vegetarian, recommended the use of shredded wheat biscuits as soup croutons.

Perky soon realized that the actual cereal biscuits were more popular than the machines and opened his first bakery in Boston and then in Worcester, MA in 1895, retaining the name of the Cereal Machine Company, and adding the name of the Shredded Wheat Company.

Perky was a pioneer of the “cookless breakfast food”, and it was he who first mass-produced and nationally distributed ready-to-eat cereal. By 1898, Shredded Wheat was being sold all over North and South America and Europe.

After Henry Perky died in 1908 and the patent on his Shredded Wheat biscuit expired in 1912, John Harvey Kellogg saw that as an opportunity for Kellogg’s to sell its own version of the product. Kellogg obtained a patent on the biscuit in 1915, and Kellogg’s Shredded Wheat was born.

In 1928, the Perky’s company was sold to The National Biscuit Company and the product name changed to Nabisco Shredded Wheat. The name of the plant was changed to Nabisco Foods in 1956 to reflect the variety of foods that were being produced at that time.

Interestingly, Perky’s son Scott Henry Perky invented a shredded wheat product called Muffets in 1920, which was marketed by his company Toasticks. Muffets were later merchandised by the Quaker Oats Company, billed as “the round shredded wheat”.
Henry Perky invents Shredded Wheat in 1892

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