Few industries are as closely associated with Minnesota as flour milling. From 1880 on, Minneapolis enjoyed a reputation as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.” Countless mills crowded both banks of the city’s Mississippi River waterfront, drawing power from St. Anthony Falls. General Mills still maintains its corporate headquarters near the city.
In 2007 the Minnesota Historical Society acquired a significant portion of the Richard Ferrell Flour Milling Industry History Collection. For 40 years Mr. Ferrell, who once managed Pillsbury’s historic ‘A’ Mill on Minneapolis’s east bank, collected flour milling objects, photos, advertisements, and memorabilia. Today his collection represents the premier record of the industry’s development from the mid-1800s to the present.
Items produced by Minnesota-based millers form the core of the collection, but it also includes material from companies in neighboring states, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada. Among the collection highlights are flour bags, barrels, advertising broadsides, company premiums, trade journals, photos, and postcards showing mills throughout the region. Given Mr. Ferrell’s association with Pillsbury, the collection also includes many items featuring that most celebrated advertising icon, the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Work to process the Ferrell Collection, which includes thousands of items, will continue into 2009. Ultimately, many of the objects will be on public display on a rotating basis at the Mill City Museum. Other photo and manuscript materials will be made available to researchers through the Society’s library. They will be of great value to anyone interested in industrial history, foodways, or 20th Century advertising.
Matt Anderson, Objects Curator