General Host


General Host Corp. (formerly known as General Baking Company) was a New York-based food and food-related company.[1] It was also the owner of Frank's Nursery & Crafts until the company's bankruptcy in 2004.

General Host Corp.
FormerlyGeneral Baking Company
  • Brunner Baking Company
  • Ontario Baking Company
  • Collins Baking Company
FoundedJune 1911; 111 years ago (1911-06) in New York City
FounderWilliam B. Ward
Key people
  • Harris J. Ashton (chairman, 1977)
  • Richard Pistell (president, 1969)
ProductsBond Bread
SubsidiariesFrank's Nursery & Crafts


Early years and Bond BreadEdit

Print advertisement for Bond Bread, unknown year

The history of General Host is traced to June 1911, when the General Baking Co. was incorporated in New York as an amalgamation of 21 baking companies from 12 different states,[2][3] through the merger of the Brunner, Collins and Ontario Baking Companies.[4][5] The footprint of the new company consisted of no more than two facilities in each city in which it is present.[6] From its inception, the company was publicly traded, beginning with a US$20 million stock on the New York Stock Exchange,[7] and US$5 million bond offering.[3] The newly formed company was led by William B. Ward, who had run the Ward Baking Company's factory in the Bronx. Upon formation, it controlled 20 percent of the American bread market. Immediately after formation, the company's first acquisition took place, that of Louisville-based Grocers' Baking Company and its subsidiary, Grocer's Biscuit Company.[8] In 1912, Frank R. Shepherd and William H. Collins, former manager of Collins Baking Company, were the company's vice-president and president, respectively, while Lewis J. Kolb was the chairman of the company's board.[5]

In 1917, the company had plants in 27 cities,[9] including a couple of plants around Boston, New York, operating under the names Fox Bakery and Ferguson Baking Company;[10] Deininger and Rochester Baking Companies in Rochester, New York; and Collins and Brunner Baking Companies in Buffalo, New York.[9]

The company operated 40 bakeries by 1922 and was the largest wholesale bakery in the New York metropolitan area;[11] including Dexter's Bakery of Springfield, Vermont, which was a strategic purchase to penetrate Central New England.[12] A three way, US$400 million merger in 1925 among General Host (then General Baking Company), Ward Baking Company and Continental Baking Company enlarged the company further, leading to a 10% stake in the United States national bread business and 157 plants (18 from Ward, 33 from General and 106 from Continental).[13] Coincident with the announcement of this merger, Paul H. Helms was named President of General, and the company was re-incorporated in Baltimore, Maryland.[13] By 1930 the company owned 50 plants serving cities in 18 states.[14] 1931 found the first addition of Vitamin D into the bread making process, which baking and packaging took place the night before delivery at the time, using a method developed by the Paediatric Research Foundation of Toronto and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.[15] Also in 1931, the company recapitalized, eliminating a holding company, General Baking Corporation, and converting all stock to holdings in the core company, General Baking Company, which would be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.[7]

The production of bread, sold under the trade name of "Bond Bread", accounted for over 90 percent of its sales and production averaged nearly 1.5 million loaves per day.[14] In 1923, Bond Bread was noted as the best-selling brand of bread in the United States.[12] The Bond Bread formula, established circa 1915, was based on the review of 43,040 contest participants who sent the company recipes and samples of their home made bread making.[15] The addition of Vitamin D to the recipe in 1931 was the first change to this formula introduced.[15] The company's brands also included "Mothers Bread", "Bond Rye Bread" and "Butter Krust Bread".[16] One of the company's biggest competitors was Continental Baking which sold its main product under the name Wonder Bread.[17]

1950s and 1960sEdit

The company became the owners of Van de Kamp's in 1956 after the death of that bakery's founder.[18] The purchase expanded General Baking to the west coast. By the 1960s, the company had increased competition due to other baking conglomerates and supermarkets that began installing on-site bakeries.[2]

Around 1966, General acquired two hotels located in Yellowstone Park, operated by the company's wholly owned subsidiary Yellowstone Park Company: Old Faithful Inn and Lake Hotel.[19]

By 1967, the company made a US$2 million profit off of US$155 million in sales.[20]

In 1969, General and several other baking companies were found guilty of and fined in U.S. District Court for price fixing bread in the Philadelphia area, a practice that took place between 1964 and 1968, the indictment having been served 13 March 1968.[21][nt 1]

The company continued acquiring properties in the 1970s, for instance acquiring a chain of pretzel stands, Hot Sam, which was started in Detroit by Russian immigrant Julius Young in 1966.[22]

With respect to governance, the company's president as of 1967 was Harris J. Ashton.[20] Two years later, Richard Pistell was president, and Ashton would go on to become chairman of the company.[20][23]

1970s Expansion to meatpacking and frozen foodsEdit

The company owned several food companies by the 1970s, and the company began venturing into meatpacking and frozen foods, restaurants and hospitality.[20][24] General also attempted a hostile takeover of the large meatpacking concern Armour and Company in 1969 and was able to acquire a controlling interest in the company.[20][25] The takeover which was met with lawsuits filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.[26] Despite holding 57% of Armour's stock,[27] General was unable to establish final control of the company and ended up selling its stake to Greyhound in 1970.[20][28] With the proceeds of the Armour stake sale, General went on to buy the pork processing concern, Cudahy Packing Company.[20][29]

By 1972, General had more than doubled its 1967 sales figure, to US$339 million.[20]

In 1972, General Host and two executives were fined $16,000 for unsanitary conditions at a bakery. The conditions were originally discovered when a mouse was discovered sliced in a loaf of Bond bread.[30] General sold off the majority of its Bond Bread baking division by 1972.[2][failed verification]

In 1979, General's contract to manage two hotels in Yellowstone Park was terminated due to "poor service" and inadequate maintenance of the properties, according to the National Park Service.[19]

Also in 1979, General sold its Van de Kamp's bakery division, the largest retail bakery in California, to a group of private investors, returning control back to the West Coast.[31][32] The group of investors included Jack W. Leeney, president of the division who became the new company's chief executive officer, and executive vice president Odell C. Nordberg, who became the new company's chief operating officer.[31] General retained ownership of Van de Kamp's frozen food divisions.[31]

With respect to governance, the company's chairman was Harris J. Ashton in 1977.[33]

1980s purchase of Frank's Nursery and bankruptcyEdit

General purchased Hickory Farms in 1980 from its founder, Richard Ransom.[34] In 1981, General divested part of its interest in meat processing subsidiary Cudahy Foods due to financial losses in the unit to a newly formed company, Bar-S, started by former executives from Cudahy. General retained the dry sausage and canned ham operations of Cudahy. As part of the divestment, General terminated 1,100 employees, shut four processing centers and thirteen distribution centers.[35]

General Host purchased Frank's Nursery & Crafts in 1982 based on research showing higher operating profits for lawn and garden over food products.[24]

In the mid-1980s, the company began selling off its food businesses,[24] including its interest in Hickory Farms in 1986.[36][37] General Host was the owner of the All American Gourmet Co. based in Orange County, California. In 1985 it sold 25% of the company through a public offering. The company sold its remaining 75% interest in the company to Kraft Foods in 1987.[38] The company also sold its Van de Kamp's frozen foods division, the last of its Van de Kamp's operations, to Pillsbury in 1984.[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Leavitt, Don (28 February 1977). "Non-IBM User Faring Well With Packaged Programs". Computerworld. Vol. 11. IDG Enterprise. p. S/6. ISSN 0010-4841. Retrieved 26 May 2018 – via Google Books. 
  2. ^ a b c "New Historic Landmarks and Districts" (PDF). DC Planning. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Bakers Will Stir Dough From One Big Bowl". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. 15 June 1911. p. 9, Col. 8. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  4. ^ "Larger Loaves Promised by Combine". Buffalo Evening News. 15 June 1911. p. 12, Col. 1. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  5. ^ a b "The Importance Of Advertising". The Buffalo Enquirer. 10 April 1912. p. 2, Col. 6. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  6. ^ "No Bread Trust In Brookly". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 15 June 1911. p. 1, Col. 2. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  7. ^ a b "General Baking Recapitalization". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 10 January 1931. p. 20, Col. 4. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  8. ^ "Giant Baking Combine Formed". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. 15 June 1911. p. 9, Col. 7–8. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  9. ^ a b "Bakers Ask To Help Regulate Price Of Bread". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. 11 November 1917. p. 32, Col. 7. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  10. ^ "Strike of Bakers Spreads to Boston". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. 5 December 1917. p. 14, Col. 3. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  11. ^ Santlofer, Joy (2016). Food City: Four Centuries of Food-Making in New York. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393241365 – via Google Books. 
  12. ^ a b "Housewivew and Bond Bread". The Landmark. White River Junction, Vermont. 22 November 1923. p. 2, Col. 4. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  13. ^ a b "First Steps in $400,000,000 Baking Merger". The Evening News, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 5 October 1925. p. 10, Col. 8. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  14. ^ a b O'Toole, Lawrence (2012). Fading Ads of Philadelphia. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781614237716. Retrieved 20 November 2017 – via Google Books. 
  15. ^ a b c Corby, Jane (28 October 1931). "Curiosity About Sunshine Vitamin Leads Guild Visitors To The Bond Bread Booth". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. p. 29, Col. 3–6. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  16. ^ "Boston Bakers On Strike Against General Baking Co". Buffalo Labor Journal. 6 December 1917. p. 4, Col. 4–5. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  17. ^ DeFerrari, John (2011). Lost Washington. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781614233206. Retrieved 4 December 2017 – via Google Books. 
  18. ^ Geary, George (2016). L.A.'s Legendary Restaurants: Celebrating the Famous Places Where Hollywood Ate, Drank, and Played. Santa Monica Press. ISBN 9781595808011. Retrieved 7 December 2017 – via Google Books. 
  19. ^ a b "GAO Report: Park facilities unsafe". The Daily Pantograph. Bloomington, Illinois. Associated Press. 2 September 1980. p. A-6, Col. 1–3. Retrieved 1 June 2018 – via 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h "General Host's Tactics Come Home To Roost". Business Panorama. The Kansas City Star. Chicago Sun/Times. 1 June 1972. p. 30, Col. 1. Retrieved 1 June 2018 – via 
  21. ^ "Bakeries Fined for Price Fixing". The Gazette and Daily. York, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. 10 December 1969. pp. 2, 48. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  22. ^ "Old art of pretzel making gives his life new twist". The Bakersfield Californian. Associated Press. 8 September 1976. p. 58, Col. 5–6. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  23. ^ Lambert, Eleanor (5 June 1969). "Bride Wore White Third Time Around". News Journal. Mansfield, Ohio. p. 6, Col. 4. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  24. ^ a b c Deeds, Melanie (28 June 1992). "The people who run Frank's Nursery and Crafts believe". UPI Archives. UPI. Retrieved 4 December 2017. 
  25. ^ "Government Loses First Court Ruling In Armour Battle". The Gazette and Daily. York, Pennsylvania. 23 January 1969. p. 2, Col. 4. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  26. ^ Belair, Felix Jr. (18 January 1973). "S.E.C. Sues General Host And 9 Over Armour Bid". Archives. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 May 2018. 
  27. ^ "Stocks Score Solid Advance, Thanks to a Technical Rally". Florence Morning News. Florence, South Carolina. Associated Press. 25 June 1969. p. 12, Col. 6–8. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  28. ^ "Approves Sale". The Gazette and Daily. York, Pennsylvania. New York Times News Service. 16 May 1970. p. 25, Col. 5. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  29. ^ "Horizon Names Darragh Ad Director". Business Front. Tucson Daily Citizen. 18 September 1971. p. 13, Col. 7. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via General Host Corp., which owns nearly 86 per cent of Cudahy Co. stock, plans to buy the balance of stock early next year. 
  30. ^ "Consumer Action Urged In Food, Drug Complaints". Austin American-Statesman. Austin, Texas. 27 July 1972. p. B15 – via 
  31. ^ a b c "Western Investors Buy Van de Kamp's". Business. The Sun. San Bernardino, California. 27 February 1979. p. A-18, Col. 1. Retrieved 1 June 2018 – via 
  32. ^ a b Rivera, Nancy (21 February 1985). "70-Year-Old Company Sold to Southland Investors : Pair Buy Van de Kamp's Bakery". Business. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 
  33. ^ "Business Bits..." Idaho State Journal. 24 April 1977. p. A.11, Col. 1. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via Carl Beavers, 49, a lifelong Boise resident, has been named president of Eddy Bakeries, according to Harris J. Ashton, General Host Corporation chairman. 
  34. ^ "Keeping the Spirit of Christmas". Business. The Indiana Gazette. Associated Press. 3 December 1983. p. 9, Col. 6. Retrieved 1 June 2018 – via 
  35. ^ "Meat processor sells off several divisions". The Paris News. Paris, Texas. Associated Press. p. 13, Col. 7–8. Retrieved 27 May 2018 – via 
  36. ^ Chavez, Jon (14 April 2016). "Hickory Farms founder's real passion was civic philanthropy". Deaths. Toledo Blade. Retrieved 6 November 2017. 
  37. ^ "Buyer For Hickory Farms". Business. Chicago Tribune. 16 December 1986. Retrieved 6 November 2017. 
  38. ^ Vieth, Warren (5 June 1987). "General Host to Sell Stake in All American Gourmet to Kraft". Business. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 November 2017. 


  1. ^ The citation refers to part 1 of the article; part 2 can be found at .