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James L. Kraft


Life and career

J. L. Kraft[1] was born on December 11, 1874, near Stevensville, OntarioCanada, located just north of Fort Erie, to Mennonite[2] parents Minerva Alice née Tripp (1848–1933) and George Franklin Krafft (1842–1914), a farmer[3] of German descent. He was the second of eleven children. Kraft was educated in the Stevensville area (S.S. No. 9) and worked nearby at Ferguson's General store in Fort Erie, Ontario,[4] from 1901 to 1902.[5]

According to J.L.'s niece, Alice Anderson née Kraft, with a photograph from the late 1800s, or beginning of 1900, the Krafft Bros. were delivering dairy products in the Pleasant Point area of Fort Erie in their first horse-drawn wagon. The photograph shows the original family name of Krafft. This was the real beginning of the Krafft Bros. She explains the second "f" was dropped after they went to Chicago "probably because such a German name was not popular and one "f" was easier". This was then the beginning of Kraft as we know it today.

Kraft emigrated to BuffaloNew York, in 1902, taking a position as secretary and treasurer of the Shefford Cheese Company. He became a partner in the company the following year, but his partners abruptly dissolved the agreement while he was on a business trip to Chicago — either to inspect the local branch of the company[6] or to supervise it.[7] Stranded in the big city, Kraft used his remaining $65 in capital to rent a horse and wagon and established his own business of buying cheese wholesale and selling it to local grocers.[8] A year later, he would write to a friend: "I haven't got a comparatively large business now, but I know what I can do and in less than five years I am honest in saying I expect to have one of the best wholesale cheese businesses in this City."[4] His business faltering, company tradition has it that Kraft decided to "make God a partner" in his business in 1907; as business improved in the next few years, he brought his brothers Charles Herbert, Frederick, Norman and John Henry into the business.[4]

By 1914, J.L. Kraft & Bros. Company, which later became Kraft Foods Inc opened its first cheese manufacturing plant in Stockton, Illinois.[9] Kraft developed a process, patented in 1916, for pasteurizing cheese so that it would resist spoiling and could be shipped long distances. The company grew quickly, expanding into Canada in 1919.[4] Kraft saw a large increase in business during World War I when the United States government provided cheese in tins to their armed forces.

J. L. Kraft served as the company's president from 1909 until his death in 1953. Over the years, Kraft introduced many innovative products and used progressive marketing techniques to make his company one of North America's leading food producers. The company introduced Miracle Whip in 1933 at the Century of Progress world's fair.[ci

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