Continental Baking

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Not much can be read on this faded sign, other than AKING COMPANY INC, but this building on Park Avenue, the Bronx, was the home of a baking plant of the Continental Baking Company from 1928 to 1984, and as its subsidiary Wonder Bread Bakery from 1970 through 1989.

The wikipedia article on Continental Baking reads, "It was founded in New York City by Robert Boyd Ward in 1849 as the Ward Baking Company. In 1921 William Ward, the grandson of Robert took over the company. He renamed it the Continental Baking Company in 1925. Continental Baking acquired the Wagner Baking Company in Detroit, Michigan, and in 1925 bought Taggart Baking Company, the maker of Wonder bread, to become the largest commercial bakery in the United States. Twinkies were invented in 1930 in Schiller Park, Illinois by James Alexander Dewar. In 1964 expanded operations acquiring bread manufacturer Tip Top in Mexico city. Continental was based in New York from 1923 to 1984. It also had its executive offices in Hoboken, New Jersey. It was purchased by ITT in 1968, and Ralston Purina in 1984. It was purchased by Interstate Bakeries in 1995; the combined company was rebranded Hostess Brands in 2009. On November 16, 2012, Hostess Brands announced that it would be closing down."

The website supplies the following, "Continental Baking Company was founded as the Ward Baking Company in New York City in 1849. In 1921 William Ward, grandson of the company's founder, formed United Bakeries, which was renamed Continental Baking in 1925. In 1924 Continental Baking acquired the Wagner Baking Company of Detroit, and in 1925 Continental Baking bought Taggart Baking, the maker of Wonder bread, and was at that time the largest bakery in the United States. The company was in the business of baking and selling bread, cake, and other related bakery products wholesale. The company owned Hall Baking Company and the Paniplus Company, both wholly owned subsidiaries. The company's products were sold under two widely advertised tradenames: "Wonder" for its bread products and "Hostess" for its cake products. The bread and cake business was highly competitive. Depending on the locality, the company and its baking subsidiary faced competition from other large baking companies, from the neighborhood bakeries and from chain stores, many of which operated their own bakeries. Price competition was also severe from chain stores operating their own bakeries. Additionally, the competition in all localities from products baked in the home was also present. Around 1933, Continental Baking introduced Hostess Twinkies. Over the ten-year period from 1945 to 1954, the increase in dollar volume of bread and cake sales was due to a substantial increase in the general price level of bakery products together with some increases in the consumption of the company's line of bread. Substantial increases in bread prices occurred in the latter part of 1946 upon the release of price control that had been in effect during World War II, and again in the spring of 1952 when controls in effect during the Korean hostilities were modified to permit an increase. The cost increases resulted in reduced profit margins despite the various price increases in the products."

Both of these accounts, however, seem somewhat misleading in some of their specifics. Better might this account which appeared in an ad for Tip-Top Bread in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 November 1911, "The baking industry of the Ward family really began in New York City about 60 years ago when Hugh Ward came to New York from Belfast, Ireland. Hugh Ward was a baker. He opened a modest bakery in Broome Street and for a few years conducted a successful business in what was then a quiet residential centre of old New York. Attracted, however, by the opportunities of the west, Hugh Ward moved a few years before the outbreak of the Civil War to Allegheny City, where he opened his second American Bakery. It was here that Mr. R. B. Ward the organizer and founder of the Ward Bread Company began to work in the bakery as a mere boy. He grew up in the business and by alert industry forced it to grow faster than himself. In 1878 Mr. R. B. Ward went into business on his own account, starting a bakery in the city of Pittsburgh, just across the river from Allegheny; in 1890 he associated with himself his younger brother, George S. Ward, under the firm name of R. B. Ward & Company. In 1898 the expansion of the business compelled the introduction of more capital, and the Ward-Mackey concern was incorporated. This company built what was at that time the largest exclusive bread bakery in America. ... Having won for themselves a place in the very front rank of the baking industry, the Wards conceived the idea of coming back to New York, where their name was first introduced in the business. Two magnificent plants have recently been completed in New York City. These great Snow-white Temples of Industrial Cleanliness mark the triumphant return to New York of an American family which has 'made good.'"

The first appearance of Hugh Ward in New York city directories came in Trow's 1852-53 directory where he was recorded as "Ward Hugh, baker, 548 Broome, h. 548 Broome." The following year Rode's 1853-54 directory located him at 344 Houston St. He appeared in Trow 1854-55 living at 106 Avenue D, and in the two years 1856 and 1857 as located at 418 Cherry St. After 1857 there were no further entries for Hugh Ward in New York. Hugh Ward (1827-1885), a baker, age 42, born Ireland, was recorded in the 1870 U. S. Census, living in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. His son, Robert Ward, was 17 and also a baker. In 1874 Hugh Ward applied for a passport. In this application he said that he was born in Kilileagh, Ireland, 22 March 1827, and that he became a naturalized citizen in New York City in 1854.

In summary it would seem, then, that Hugh Ward, an immigrant from Ireland, had a small bakery in New York approximately 1849 to 1857. He then moved to Allegheny, Pennsylvania, where he had another bakery. Then his son, Robert B. Ward, in 1878 began his own bakery in Pittsburgh. This company expanded into many markets over the years and established itself, around 1910, in New York with bakeries in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The Tip-Top Bread ad from 1911 shows renderings of these two Snow-white Temples of Cleanliness.

Robert B. Ward's obituary in the journal Bakers Review, November, 1915, includes, "Upon reaching the age of 21, Robert B. and his younger brother, George S. Ward, started in the bakery business for themselves in Pittsburgh, under the firm name of R. B. Ward & Co. They continued together until its vast growth made it necessary to provide a greater capital, and then the firm was merged into a company known as the Ward-Mackey Company. Following the success of this company, these men organized the Ward-Corby Company and built bakeries in Cambridge, Providence and Chicago. Later, they secured control of the Ohio Baking Company, of Cleveland, and finally the success of these companies encouraged their entrance into New York where, under the name of the Ward Bread Company, a separate organization was formed for the manufacture and delivery of bread in Greater New York."

This story, New York Times, 1 April 1909, pg. 1, indicates clearly that the Ward Baking Company (also known as the Ward Bread Company) originated in Pittsburgh and had no presence in New York City until 1909, "Pittsburg, Penn., March 31. - It was reported here to-day that the Ward Bread Company, with a capitalization of $3,000,000, had been incorporated under the laws of New Jersey. The idea is that of undertaking the furnishing of bread to New York. The new concern enters the field with something like $25,000,000 behind it, yet its incorporation shows a trifle more than one-tenth of this amount. The articles of incorporation have been filed in the name of R. B. Ward, George S. Ward, William B. Ward, and William C. Evans, all of Pittsburg, the men who have for years ruled the bread industry in Pittsburg. R. B. Ward, who will head the bread concern in the New York district, has already gone to New York to complete arrangements, and it is understood that the Pittsburg men have bought out several of the smaller concerns in New York and New Jersey. 'I will only say that we intend to operate in the vicinity of New York City. My brother, R. B. Ward, now in the East must do all the talking,' said George Ward to-night." (Note: Pittsburgh is consistently spelled without the ending 'h' in this article.)

The first listing of Ward Bread Company in Trow's New York City Directory came in 1912 with "Ward Bread Co S Boulevard c St Marys." The building on the corner of Southern Boulevard and St. Marys St., the Bronx, is described in the AIA Guide to New York City, 5th edition, 2010, as "Former Ward Bread Company (bakery), 367 Southern Blvd., bet. E. 142nd St. and St. Mary's St. to Wales Ave. W side, ca. 1900. This six-story white, glazed terra-cotta former bakery abuts the old Port Morris Branch of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The name once blazed in brick down the monumental stack was recently sheared off. Only the final 'D' from 'Bread' remains." On my view of the building in 2015 even the 'D' is gone. This ad from 1912 for Ward's Tip-Top Bread talks about Ward's "Snow-White, Modern Bakeries in New York City." They began operation "one year ago" (The Evening World, 18 Oct. 1912, pg. 6).

The founder of Ward Baking was Robert Boyd Ward (1852-1915). His obituary in the New York Times, 19 Oct. 1915, pg. 11, read, "Robert Boyd Ward, Vice President of the Federal League and President of the Brooklyn Federal League team, who was widely known as President of the Ward Baking Company before he went into baseball two years ago, died last night of heart disease at Homewood, his estate on Quaker Ridge Road, New Rochelle, N. Y., in his sixty-fourth year. He was born in this city, and was a son of the late Hugh Ward, who came here from Ireland in 1850, after having learned the baking business there. His grandfather, James Ward, was at that time a grocer here, with an establishment at Eighth Street and Avenue D. Several years later the entire Ward family emigrated to Pittsburgh, where Hugh Ward started in the baking business. At the age of eight years, Robert B. Ward, owing to the scarcity of labor caused by the civil war, went into his father's shop and until he was twenty-one did the actual work of preparing bread for market. A few years later, he went into the business on his own account, and still later became associated with his brother, George S. Ward, in the firm of R. B. Ward & Co. This firm later became the Ward-Mackey Company, and finally the Ward Bread Company was organized for the manufacture and delivery of bread in this city. At the time of his death Mr. Ward was said to be worth more than $5,000,000, and was interested in a number of other corporations, including the Ohio Bread Company of Cleveland, Ohio; the Ward-Mackey Company of Pittsburgh, and the Ward-Corby Company of Chicago, Providence and Boston. He was also a Vice President of the Liberty National Bank, and a Director of the Franklin Savings and Trust Company of Pittsburgh. ... Mr. Ward is survived by his widow, who was Miss Mary C. Breining of Pittsburgh, and by five daughters and four sons. One of the former, who was Miss Martha Ward, was married two weeks ago to James Hindman, an attorney of Wilkinsburg, Penn. Two of his sons, W. B. and Howard B. Ward, are connected with the Ward Bread Company."

Robert B. Ward's brother and co-founder of Ward Baking was George Summerville Ward (1867-1940). His obituary in the New York Times, 4 Sep. 1940, pg. 32, read in part, "Havana, Sept. 3 - George S. Ward, well-known American business man of Havana and New York, died here this morning after a brief illness. He was born seventy-three years ago in Pittsburgh. For many years he was head of a large baking corporation in the United States and came to Cuba in 1924 to establish the first modern American bakery and dairy. ... Mr. Ward, with his elder brother, was co-founder of the Ward Baking Company. A pioneer in the expansion of the baking industry earlier in the century, he was the descendant of a New York baker of almost a century ago. He aided in the development of research which increased the vitamin content of bread. His father, Hugh Ward, opened a bakery shop on Broome Street in lower Manhattan in 1849. Later he went to Pittsburgh, where his son George was born on Jan. 1, 1867. He combined his early efforts in the baking business with his schooling, admitting later in his career that he had assisted in the baking of bread and in peddling the product from door to door before going to school. After gaining experience in his father's business he joined his elder brother, Robert B. Ward, in a separate enterprise which developed in 1897 into a consolidation known as the Ward-Mackey Company of Pittsburgh. One of the first large sanitary baking plants was erected there by this corporation in 1903. The development of similar plants in other larger cities both in the West and in New England led the brothers to return to New York, where in 1911 they organized the Ward Baking Company. Under their auspices large plants were built in the Bronx and Brooklyn, whose compined [sic] output was estimated at approximately 500,000 loaves of bread a day. ... "

The two sons of Robert B. Ward who were connected with Ward Bread were William Breining Ward (1884-1929) and Howard Boyd Ward (1880-1935).

It seems to have been the regular practice of the Ward bakeries to buy out local bakeries and to merge these with their own businesses, and a number of these are mentioned in Robert B. Ward's obituary. In 1921 this practice led to the formation of United Bakeries Corporation. United Bakeries was owned by the Ward family and established in New York in 1922.

An important figure at United Bakeries was George Garfield Barber (1883-1943). George G. Barber's early career was summarized in his obituary, New York Times, 11 July 1943, pg. 34: "Born in Pittsburgh, a son of Scottish parents, Mr. Barber after attending a Pittsburgh high school became a clerk, in 1901, in the Carnegie Steel Company mills, and three years later began his association with the baking business as an accountant for the Ward-Mackay Company. He served as assistant secretary-treasurer of the Ward-Corby Company from 1907 to 1910; assistant secretary-treasurer of the Ward Bread Company from 1910 to 1915; secretary-treasurer of the Ward Motor Vehicle Company from 1915 to 1917; secretary-treasurer and a director of Ward Bros. Company, Inc., from 1917 to 1920, and secretary-treasurer and a director of the United Bakeries Corporation and affiliated companies from 1920 to 1924."

When the Wards expanded United Bakeries into the even more colossal Continental Baking Corporation in 1924, it was George G. Barber who was the first president and chairman of the board. This article discusses the formation of Continental Baking in 1924, "Negotiations with several baking company interests are yet incomplete it was said yesterday by some of those identified with the new $500,000,000 merger known as the Continental Baking Corporation, the incorporation of which in Maryland was announced on Friday by George G. Barber, Secretary-Treasurer of the United Bakeries Corporation. ... According to information available yesterday the United Bakeries Corporation would be the nucleus around which the new combination would be built. This company operated thirty-nine bakeries of modern construction in thirty-two cities and has recently completed two new plants. ... The announcement that George G. Barber is to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Continental Corporation has made him an interesting personality in financial and industrial circles, inasmuch as the company which he will direct becomes at one bound one of the most conspicuous industrial concerns in the country. Mr. Barber is now Secretary-Treasurer of the United Bakeries Corporation, 512 Fifth Avenue, one of the newest companies in the field. ... Mr. Barber also is a Director of the subsidiaries of this company, which include Ward & Ward, Inc.; Ward Brothers Company, Inc.; the Campbell Baking Company, the Memphis Baking Company, the Bakeries Service Corporation, the Crescent Baking Company, the Shults Bread Company and Atlas Bakeries, Inc. Mr. Barber is 41 years old, and his past business identifications have been principally in Pittsburgh and Buffalo. He came to the United Bakeries Corporation in 1923. He is now a resident of New Rochelle" (New York Times, 9 Nov. 1924, pg. 6).

The size of Continental Baking and its acquisition of competing bakeries made it necessary in 1925 for George G. Barber to issue a "sweeping denial" of the Federal Trade Commission's charges of the company's violation of anti-trust laws. In February 1926 Barber's appearance before an investigating body was reported as follows, "The opening session of the hearing on the Government's complaint against the Continental Baking Corporation for alleged violation of the Sherman and Clayton anti-trust laws took place yesterday in the office of the Federal Trade Commission, 45 Broadway. ... The only witness yesterday was George G. Barber, Chairman of the Board of the Continental Baking Corporation. He testified concerning the organization of the company and the connection with it of William B. Ward, outstanding figure in the Government's suit against the alleged bread trust, launched yesterday in Washington. ... Mr. Barber testified at the morning session concerning the history of the organization of the Continental Baking Corporation, and its acquisition of the stock of bakeries in many cities. It was in 1921, he said, that William B. Ward and his associates began the assimilation with the incorporation of the United Bakeries Corporation, which they had created as a holding company to control nine subsidiary concerns. These were Ward & Ward, Inc., of New York; the Ward Brothers Company, New York; the Stroehmann Baking Company of Wheeling, W. Va.; the Crescent Baking Company of Utica, N. Y.; the Memphis Baking Company, Memphis, Tenn.; the Campbell Baking Company, which controlled bakeries in ten Western cities; the Shultz Bread Company, New York; the Atlas Bakeries, Inc., Milwaukee, and the Crescent Baking Company of Tennessee. The Continental Baking Corporation, he said, was organized in Delaware on Nov. 6, 1924, with a capitalization of 6,000,000 shares. ... Asked what part of the stock was owned by W. B. Ward, he replied that Ward owned 143 shares of preferred stock, seven shares of Class A and 88,947 shares of Class B common. Mr. Barber testified that he himself owned 6,620 shares of preferred, 3,420 of Class A and 27,027 of Class B common. It was further revealed that Howard B. Ward, a brother of W. B. Ward, was Vice President of the company, while Robert B. Ward, another brother, had been connected with the United Bakeries Corporation until 1922, when he went to the Pacific Coast to organize bakeries in various cities there. After the Continental had acquired control of these corporations, R. B. Ward, the witness said, retired from active business" (New York Times, 9 Feb. 1926, pg. 2).

A short time after, the government dropped its charges against Continental Baking following a decree that dissolved the Ward Food Products Corporation. "The Ward Food Products Corporation, generally known as the '$2,000,000,000 bread trust,' was ordered dissolved within thirty days and its charter surrendered to the State of Maryland by the terms of a consent decree issued here today by Judge Morris A. Soper in the Federal District Court. ... Under this decree the suit brought by the Government on Feb. 8 against the corporation and alleged allied concerns for violation of the Clayton and Sherman anti-trust acts was dropped without prejudice to any of the parties concerned. The decree also dismissed a charge against the Continental Baking Corporation under the Clayton act as being already before the Federal Trade Commission, but reserved the Government's right to reopen the issue" (New York Times, 4 April 1926, pg. 1). The decree enjoined individuals such as Howard B. Ward, William B. Ward and George G. Barber from holding voting stock in more than one of the seven principal bakery companies of the time. These were the Ward Food Products Corporation, the Ward Baking Corporation, the General Baking Corporation, the Continental Baking Corporation, the Ward Baking Company, the General Baking Company, and the United Bakeries.

The Ward Baking Company website features a photo of a Ward delivery truck (unfortunately not dated) as well as some other photos relating to Ward's history.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Grutchfield