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)
Cause of deathHeart attack
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 Kraft, with a picture depicting around this time, the Krafft Bros. were delivering dairy products in the Pleasant Point area of Fort Erie in their first horse drawn wagon. The second 'F' was later dropped from the Kraft name after they went to Chicago, because such a German name was not popular, and one 'F' was easier.

After emigrating to Buffalo in 1902, he was forced out of cheese wholesaler Shefford Cheese Company by his partners.[4] Kraft began a new cheese business in Chicago in 1903 by selling cheese from a horse-drawn wagon.[5] Four of his brothers joined the company in 1909.[6] 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.[8] 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".

J. L. Kraft and his wife Pauline had one daughter, Edith (c1916-2012).

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.[9]

A few of Kraft's brothers, Charles Herbert, Frederick, Norman and John Henry, were executives in Kraft Foods.[10]

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


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