James L. Kraft

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James L. Kraft
James Lewis Kraft.jpg
James Lewis Kraft

(1874-12-11)December 11, 1874
DiedFebruary 16, 1953(1953-02-16) (aged 78)
Resting placeMemorial Park Cemetery, Skokie, Illinois
Known forKraft Foods Inc

James Lewis (J.L.) Kraft (December 11, 1874 – February 16, 1953) was a Canadian-American entrepreneur and inventor. Kraft was the first to patent processed cheese.

Life and career[edit]

Kraft was born near Stevensville, Ontario, Canada, located just north of Fort Erie, to parents Minerva Alice née Tripp (1848–1933) and George Franklin Kraft (1842–1914), a farmer[1] of German origin. Kraft was educated in the Stevensville area (S.S. No. 9) and worked nearby at Ferguson's General store in Fort Erie, Ontario[2] from 1901 to 1902.[3]

According to J.L.'s niece, Alice Anderson nee Kraft, with a photograph from the late 1800's, 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 Buffalo, NY 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[4] or to supervise it.[5] 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. Kraft began a new cheese business in 1903 by selling cheese from a horse-drawn wagon.[6] 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.”[2] 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 .[2]

By 1914 J.L. Kraft & Bros. Company, which later became Kraft Foods Inc opened its first cheese manufacturing plant in Stockton, Illinois.[7] 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.[2] 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.

Kraft was an amateur jewelry maker; he also supported the Baptist Church and was a strong proponent of religious education for young people.

In the mid-1920s, Kraft began a venture to create a fashionable golf and tennis resort community in Lake Wales, Florida, along with Carl and Bertha Hinshaw. The Florida land bust and the stock market crash in October 1929 spelled an end of the Kraft connection. The Chalet Suzanne opened in the worst year of the Great Depression, 1931,[citation needed] and has been run by successive generations of the Hinshaw family ever since. Even though Kraft bowed out of the development, a 1920s era Spanish Revival house on the property continues to be called "The Kraft House".

Kraftwood[8][9], Elcho Wisconsin - In 1926, Kraft Foods opened a manufacturing plant in Antigo, Wisconsin. Back then, there was a train route running from the north woods to Chicago which facilitated both industrial shipping, but also personal transport to the area. The area reminded Kraft so much of his childhood home – the trees, the lakes, the wildlife – that he decided to purchase some land. This decision would lead to building a sprawling estate, and spending his summers there with his wife Pauline, his family and friends. Kraftwood was built along the edge of the Lake Mashkinosiew, just 20 miles north of downtown Antigo.

Kraft was a close friend of the president and founder of the Orange Crush company, C J Howel[10]. Mr. Howel, his wife and daughter Annie Jo spent every Summer at Kraftwood from 1927 to at least 1934. In a letter dated July 2, 1927 from Annie Jo to a close friend she writes, "It is the most beautiful place – father’s dearest friend Mr. Kraft – (who owns Kraft cheese you know of it) has about four hundred acres and this beautiful lake which is just in the most primitive natural state. He has several log cabins and he invited about thirty-five of his friends up for a house party (I came with the family)."

J. L. Kraft and his wife Pauline had one daughter, Edith (c. 1916-2012).

The Krafts' home, built in 1930 by architect Abraham Epstein, stands at 17 Canterbury Court in Wilmette, Illinois. He is interred in Memorial Park Cemetery, Skokie, Illinois. Kraft has living family members in Illinois and in Fort Erie, Ontario.[3]

A few of Kraft's brothers, Charles Herbert, Frederick, Norman and John Henry, were executives in Kraft Foods.[6]

The Kraft family farm (located at Bowen Road at Winger Road) in Stevensville, Ontario still exists as the area has remained agricultural.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c d "J.L. KRAFT 1874-1953 — Featured Plaque of the Month, December 2003" (PDF). Ontario Heritage Trust. December 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 30, 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b Ferguson, Sarah (March 30, 2015). "Famous cheese maker has Stevensville roots". Fort Erie Times/Niagara This Week. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  4. ^ McLeod, Susanna (July 2, 2013). "Kraft, King of Cheese". The Kingston Whig-Standard. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. ^ Kraft, James Lewis. "JESUS IS MY ROLE MODEL!". Full Gospel Businessmen's Training. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b "James L. Kraft (1874-1953):". Kraft Foods Group. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  7. ^ Kraft Foods website
  8. ^ "Kraftwood | Historical Information & Photos". Kraftwood. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  9. ^ "Search the Wisconsin Historical Society's collections". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  10. ^ "Orange Crush--a Soda Pop Developed in Los Angeles". www.metnews.com. Retrieved 2019-09-07.

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