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Henry Parsons Crowell | 1940

Farmer, rancher and businessman best known for founding Quaker Oats.

1885-1943 | Artist: Joseph Allworthy (1892-1991)

Impact & Accomplishments

Best known as the founder of Quaker Oats, Henry Parsons Crowell was an imaginative businessman, designing clever and practical packaging—the first cereal box—and breaking new ground in national advertising.

Crowell purchased the bankrupt Quaker Mill, already equipped with the first cereal trademark, in 1881, and he turned it into a thriving corporation with multiple divisions, including commercial animal feed.

Born to a wealthy Cleveland family, Crowell contracted tuberculosis as a teenager and spent several years immersed in outdoor activities, including ranching in Iowa. The investment in Quaker eventually made Crowell one of the wealthiest men in America, and he diversified with the Perfection Stove Company and a Percheron horse breeding farm.

In 1921, he purchased the 55,000-acre Wyoming Hereford Ranch. Crowell was known for donating seventy percent of his earnings for more than forty years to charity. A major supporter of the Moody Bible Institute, he established the Crowell Trust in 1927, to grant funds to organizations supporting the teaching and the expansion of Evangelical Christianity.

Did You Know?

During the depression of 1893, Crowell saw American Cereal’s Quaker Oats as affordable, nutritious alternative for housewives to feed their families over beef. While 15,000 other businesses went bankrupt and many others were cutting back, Henry made bold investments in advertising, putting billboards on train box cars promoting, “Quaker Oats, the World’s Breakfast,” and adding display ads to newspapers and magazines. He researched and wrote the ads himself. He pioneered the use of celebrity endorsements. He invented contests with prizes for mailing in the top of the box. Prior to this, businesses advertised and hired sales people in order to sell the grocers on why they should stock the item. Henry by-passed this and went straight to the consumer so that they would request the item to be stocked by the grocer. He turned housewives across America into his sales people.

Quaker Oats corporate film that looks at the use of Quaker Oats feed in the dairy industry. Shot in Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin. Original: 16mm., B&W (tinted), Silent, found in Chicago Film Archives William O'Farrell Collection

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