Critics didn’t understand Cadwallader C. Washburn’s vision.

Successful in politics, law, business and the military, the Washburns harnessed waterfalls, built railroads, milled wheat and dug coal.

They said demand for flour from Midwestern spring wheat would never match what Washburn’s company could supply. 

He didn’t see it that way.

Cadwallader Washburn in civil war era military uniform, head and shoulders shot

Washburn formed the Minneapolis Milling Company in 1856 to lease power rights to mill operators, and 10 years later he built his first flour mill near the falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

'There is an earthquake'

Tragedy struck in 1878, when the huge flour-dust rich mill exploded, wiping out nearby buildings, leveling several city blocks and killing 18 men. 

Half of Minneapolis’ milling capacity was wiped out in the explosion so powerful that the news account in the St. Paul Globe newspaper began: "There is an 'earthquake . . ." 

Undetered, Washburn immediately began building a better mill containing evolutionary new machinery to enhance both the safety of the operation and the quality of the flour.

Concerned for his employees and their families, Washburn also funded an orphanage that opened as Washburn Memorial Orphan Asylum in 1883.

World's finest flour

By then, Washburn and Crosby was known for having the world's finest flour.

The company had entered the first International Millers’ Exhibition in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1880.

The result? Gold, silver and bronze medals that established the Washburn Crosby Company’s flour as the best in the world.

Soon after, the company changed the name of its finest flour to Gold Medal flour, which is still the No. 1 flour brand in America today.