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Cracker Industry

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CRACKER INDUSTRY, The. There is, perhaps, no branch of American enterprise that has enjoyed more phenomenal development dur ing the past few years than the cracker, or bis cuit, industry, for certainly there is no other single avenue of commercial endeavor that is so far reaching in its source of supply, or which brings its perfected product into so many homes.

While we have derived the name "bis cuit,* from the French, it originally came from the Latin, having been a word that was used to signify that the bread eaten by the Roman soldiers was sent twice to the oven. Thus, its actual meaning, "twice baked.* Just how, or when it first came to be used in France, nobody can tell, but it reached the United States via England sometime about the middle of the 19th century. Prior to that time such a title had never been applied to the product of our bak eries, although in Europe almost every article of food in the form of a sweet, flavored cake had long been known as a biscuit.

It was in the latter part of the 18th century that some bakers in the United States began to produce crackers. They were crude arti des of food, made of plain and unsweetened dough, always unflavored, but crisp. The re ception which this product received, however, was so favorable that their use in this country not only continued to increase but there was an ever-widening demand from abroad, where the name "cracker,* was dropped, all such products promptly being absorbed into the generic title, "biscuit.* The name "cracker* was retained in America, however, until within the past few years, when the term "biscuit* has been adopted in some cases as a more sweeping classification.

So far as we have any authentic record, the first cracker bakery in the United States was that of Theodore Pearson, at Newbury port, Mass. Beginning business in 1792, his specialty was a large cracker which was known both as "pilot" and as "ship" bread. It was a large, round, clumsy, crisp affair, but it met the demands of the .merchant marine who were glad to purchase any article of food that could be depended upon to keep for a longer period than ordinary bread.

Pearson's first great business rival was Joshua Bent, who erected an oven for cracker baking at Milton, Mass., in 1801. It was a comparatively small affair, being operated only three days in each week by Bent himself, as sisted by other members of his family. During

the other three days the product of the oven was sold throughout the country from a wagon. Insignificant as this beginning was it was the foundation of the manufacture of the celebrated Bent's water-cracker, another product of the American baker that has attained an interna tional reputation. To-day the cracker is made as it always has been, of unleavened dough (flour, water and a little salt). Later ma chinery was substituted for the old hand process, by which the dough was not only mixed and kneaded by hand, but each cracker was even rolled out and shaped separately before being placed, one at a time, on the long-handled sheet iron shovel or peel, by which they *ere trans ferred to the floor of the oval-shaped tile oven which was then in use. So far as the use of raised or fermented dough in the making of crackers is concerned, it has been only within the past half century that its practicability has been developed to any considerable degree.

It was in 1805 that Artemas Kennedy es tablished his bakery at Menotomy, now Arling ton, Mass. A few years later he removed to Westford, and, afterward, to Milton. The elder Kennedy died in 1832, but, in 1834, one i of his sons, Jason Kennedy, inaugurated a similar enterprise at Charlestown, and, in 1840, a cousin who had been Jason's foreman, and who was also named Artemas Kennedy, went into business for himself at Cambridgeport, Mass. It was in this manner that the name of Kennedy became associated with the cracker industry of America.

The first cracker bakery in Boston was started by Richard Austin, in Ann street, about 1830. In 1843 he was succeeded by his brother, Thomas, and the business was continued with out interruptions, but under various titles, until 1885, when it again passed into the hands of the Austins, by being purchased by J. W. Austin, a descendant of the founder of the house. At later dates other firms of prominence were estab lished throughout New England, among them Thurston, Hall & Company, of Cambridgeport, Mass.; John S. Carr, of Springfield, Mass.; C. D. Boss, of New London, Conn.; Parks & Savage, of Hartford, Conn., and the New Haven Baking Company, of New Haven, Conn.

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