Sunday, November 3, 2013

Getting To Know Mr. Fleischmann

Do you know this man?

Chances are you've heard his surname, even if you didn't know his first name was Charles. Charles Louis Fleischmann to be exact. Perhaps you need another hint.

Yes, bread baker that I am not, I actually have two packages of Fleischmann's Yeast in my refrigerator. Even more surprising, I didn't buy them for today's post. I've been replenishing packages of yeast in my refrigerator for years in hopes that one day I would get past my uncanny case of yeastaphobia. I do believe I made that word up. But for me, it is indeed very real. Alas, today we are not talking about me, it's Mr. Fleischmann's day today and I do think it would be nice of us to get to know him a little better:)

Charles Fleischmann was born near Budapest, Hungary, on November 3, 1834, son of Alois and Babette Fleischmann. He was educated in Vienna and Prague and emigrated to American in 1866. He and brother Maximillian partnered with James W. Gaff and founded a business in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1868 to produce and sell compressed yeast and distilled spirits...Its first product was yeast. Then came vinegar, malt, syrup, gin and whiskey. The yeast production was the world's largest, and vinegar production second largest by World War I. Active dry yeast was widely used in World War II, for which Standard Brands Company (known as Fleischmanns, the company changed its name to Standard Brands in 1929) was awarded an Army and Navy Production Award in 1943, with an "E" for Excellence. The American Hungarian Federation

It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Mr. Fleischmann on the day of his birth. While researching this post to share with you today I discovered many fascinating facts about the man who brought standardized baker's yeast to the American shores.

Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Charles and his brothers and sisters were from a well-to-do, successful family of merchants. They landed in America with high hopes, skills, and some financial means. A man of immense energies and creative genius, Charles not only had time to patent dozens of inventions, found several businesses and a bank, he served as a state senator for Ohio and cultivated a passion for horse breeding and classical piano. Feeling socially constrained by the prejudices of New York City society, he encouraged his family to build summer homes around Griffin Corners in the Catskills, which quickly attracted other Jewish vacationers and hoteliers. For the next 80 years or so, the Catskills "Borscht Belt" became a major resort destination. The Fleischmann Yeast Family by Christiaan Klieger

The Science of Yeast is way out of this gal's league. I was a terrible science student. I'm sure my quest to conquer my scientific fears were inflated by Mrs. Bernard. She was my 7th grade science teacher. Without going into much detail, suffice to say our classroom was the battleground for Frankenstein's Laboratory. (picture body parts suspended in jars of formaldehyde)

Charles Fleischmann was a 32-year-old master distiller and yeast production superintendent on the estate of an Austrian nobleman when he first visited the United States in 1866. He went to New York City to attend the wedding of his sister Josephine. As the story goes, Fleischmann was aghast at the poor quality of the baked goods served at the wedding. Austrian yeast-risen breads and pastries were much better. French scientist Louis Pasteur had recently discovered the role of the one-celled yeast fungus in fermentation, and Charles had become an expert in the process in carrying out his duties producing spirits and yeast for his aristocratic employer.

The principles and science of bread baking are much more complicated than tearing open one of those packages above and coaxing tiny organisms into "blood" warm water. Each of those organisms have but one cell and reproduce by budding. One package contains billions of yeasts waiting to explode. Yeasts float unseen in the air around us. They can be found in the soil, on plants and in our food. Like all fungi, they require moisture and sugar or starch in order to grow but unlike other fungi, Saccharomyces cerevisiae changes the food it consumes. Although all very different, champagne, bread and beer are all linked by yeast.

After working in a local distillery for two years, in 1868 Fleischmann moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he, his brother, and distiller James W. Gaff opened their own distillery under the name Gaff, Fleischmann and Company. Over the next 20 years Fleischmann received five patents for processes related to the distillation or aging of beer and liquor. His most important patent, however, concerned baker's yeast. In 1870 he and his brother Henry patented a high-quality, solid yeast that was similar to their father's, made from the froth formed during the fermentation of beer. For the next six years, they tried to sell the yeast to local bakers but many feared that bread made with Fleischmann's yeast would taste like beer.

However, things changed for the Fleischmann brothers when they created a stunning exhibit at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The exhibit permitted visitors to watch as the yeast was made, the dough was set, and the bread was baked. It also gave guests a chance to sample Vienna bread from the model Vienna Bakery where they were also offered Viennese pastries, coffee, ices and chocolate. Millions of visitors went away craving more...

When the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was first mooted, Mr. Fleischmann got the idea that a Vienna Model Bakery, with specious gardens about it, where bread, cakes, coffee, and chocolate could be served in the Viennese fashion, would be a novelty and probably a success. He obtained the concession, one of the most important granted, and his bread and rolls won the highest awards at the fair. He made large profits, and after the close of the exposition he transferred the business to Tenth Street and Broadway, in New York City. The business grew until at this time the manufacturing part of it covers a large area at Eighty-fourth Street and East End Avenue. There are also branches in Philadelphia and in many other cities. All this time the cafe at Broadway and Tenth Street remained a popular resort. New York Times, October, 4, 1904

Before long, bakers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York were inquiring about the yeast. To help overcome their fears about the relative difficulty of using solid yeast, Fleischmann offered the services of trained bakers to help them get started. By 1879 the company was also selling yeast to grocers where homemakers could buy it, and it had expanded its product line to include malt, syrup, vinegar, and feed by-products. By 1897 the company had branch operations in every major city in the United States and was operating the world's largest yeast plant in Peekskill, New York. It became the world’s leading yeast producer and the second largest vinegar producer, a subsidiary named the Fleischmann Distilling Company was also formed and America had its first distilled gin as well.

By 1915, Peekskill New York was the yeast-making capital of the world." The company’s huge Charles Point facility had more than 125 buildings, consumed more than 5,000 bushels of grain, corn, rye and barley a day, was equipped with more than two miles of railroad and used 22.5 million gallons of water and 5,000 tons of coal a month. With buildings containing more than 1.5 million square feet of space, the Fleischmann facility took up close to 100 acres. More than 1,000 people worked at the Fleischmann Plant at its peak.Historic Peekskill Pier Named After Company That Built It;Office of the mayor press release, October 23, 2003

As I close today's rather long post, I would also like to mention another legacy attributed to Mr. Charles Louis Fleischmann which I found at Barry Popik's website.

Origin of the "Bread Line"
October 2, 1904, New York Times, pg. 33:

The idea of the "bread line" came to Mr. Fleischmann in a simple way. When the bakery was first started at Tenth Street and Broadway, a few hungry tramps, attracted by the smell of the hot loaves, hovered about the grating in the pavement. Finally one of the men plucked up courage enough to ask for something to eat. Mr. Fleischmann was there at the time, and he gave the man a loaf of bread and a loaf as well to the hungry men who stood near by. He bade them come again when they were hungry, and the next night they were there. The men told others, and it was taken for granted that the feeding would continue. It did, and has not failed one night since.

The "bread line" grew until at times as many as 500 loaves were distributed each night. Mr. Fleischmann employed a staff of men, headed by "Capt. Henry," to feed the hungry. In the early days Mr. Fleischmann went among the men himself and sought ways to help them with money and advice. Then he added his almost equally famous free labor bureau. He found out what the men could do and sent word to employers to fill their needs at his place. Finally "Capt. Henry" was enabled to hand out jobs as well as bread. Some time ago a large blackboard was placed in the bakery and on it were posted "wants" for employes. Many a good man, forced into the line from sheer necessity, found a good position through this means.

I have quite a few Fleischmann recipe books that I was unable to share with you today. However, I did want to include at least one recipe for you to enjoy. This Vienna Bread recipe was harvested from Dr. Chase's Third, Last, and Complete Receipt Book and Household Physician published in 1888.

Don't be surprised to see a couple of those books and their recipes shared on Wordless Wednesdays throughout the month. After all, November is often celebrated as National Bread Month! And today, dear readers, is National Sandwich Day! Here's a taste:)


You might also like:
Wordless Wednesday; Fleischmann Recipes