Albert M. Todd

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Albert May Todd (June 3, 1850 – October 6, 1931) was a businessman and politician from the U.S. state of Michigan. He became known as the "Peppermint King" for founding a flourishing business in peppermint.

Todd was born near Nottawa, Michigan in St. Joseph County, the tenth and last child of Alfred and Mary Ann Hovey Todd, who had come to Michigan from upstate New York. He graduated from Sturgis High School and then studied chemistry at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

After graduating, he traveled in Europe, where he studied mint production and brought back several varieties from European gardens. Mint was already widely cultivated in southwestern Michigan, and in 1869, after returning from Europe, he founded the A.M. Todd Company to extract flavorings and essential oils from mint and other botanicals.

He developed scientific methods for testing various qualities of mint distillates which allowed a means of grading the oils. In 1875 he marketed the "Crystal White" brand of peppermint oil, with his own name featured prominently on the label as an assurance of quality. In 1891, he moved the company to Kalamazoo, where it still has offices over a century later. It is estimated that by the early 20th century, 90 percent of the world's supply of peppermint was grown within 75 miles of Kalamazoo and most of it was refined by the A.M. Todd Company.

Todd's travels in Europe also spurred a lifelong interest in collecting rare books and artwork. At the time of his death, he owned over 11,000 volumes, including illuminated manuscripts and clay tablets dating to the 23rd century B.C. His art collection included 228 paintings, sculptures, pottery and porcelain works from all over the world. His donations helped to establish the Kalamazoo Public Museum (now the Kalamazoo Valley Museum) in 1927. He also established the A.M. Todd Rare Book Room at the Kalamazoo College Upjohn Library. Later bequests to the library by Todd's daughter, Ethel Todd Woodhams, and from Elizabeth Dewing Todd, the widow of Todd's son, Paul, brought together much of Todd's original collection. Other artwork and manuscripts were placed in collections at Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

Todd was an unsuccessful Prohibition candidate for Governor in 1894. He was elected as a Democrat from Michigan's 3rd congressional district to the United States House of Representatives for the Fifty-fifth Congress, serving from March 4, 1897 to March 3, 1899. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1898.

Albert Todd died at his home in Kalamazoo, leaving his wife, Augusta Allman Todd, and five children. His descendants continue to run the A.M. Todd Company. He is interred at Mountain Home Cemetery in Kalamazoo.

Two of his sons, Albert J. Todd and Paul H. Todd, served as mayors and city commissioners of Kalamazoo, and his grandson Paul H. Todd, Jr. later filled his seat in Congress from 1965 to 1967.

References[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Alfred Milnes
United States Representative for the 3rd Congressional District of Michigan
1897 – 1899
Succeeded by
Washington Gardner