Co-founder of the Cudahy Company, a major meatpacking business and leader in the development of cured meats.
1841-1910 | Artist: Othmar J. Hoffler (1893-1954)
Impact & Accomplishments
Michael Cudahy, the eldest of the Cudahy meatpacking brothers, was born in Count Kilkenny, Ireland, and immigrated to Milwaukee with his family in 1849, to escape the Great Irish Famine. The Cudahy brothers helped innovate and grow the meatpacking industry at a critical time, rising from poverty to become some of the wealthiest men in the nation.
At age fourteen, Michael began working for a Milwaukee meatpacker, working his way up to inspector, and then superintendent of the packing house of Plankinton and Armour. By 1875, he was made a partner in Armour & Company, serving as superintendent of the company’s Chicago plant at Union Stock Yards. With Philip D. Armour, he founded Armour Cudahy in Omaha, 1887. In 1890, he traded shares with Armour, establishing the independent Cudahy Packing Company in Omaha. The headquarters moved to Chicago after Michael’s death.
Brothers Patrick and John continued to develop the business in Milwaukee, and eventually Cudahy Packing also had major operations in Kansas City, Sioux City, Wichita, Memphis, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles.
The Cudahy brothers, and later, their children, helped revolutionize the meatpacking industry, first shifting from barreled pork to a cured meat business. They developed a process of summer curing meat in stationery refrigeration units, so it was available year-round. Cudahy responded to European tariffs and wartime food supply needs by shifting to serve the domestic market. In 1957, Cudahy Company was one of 500 companies listed in the first S&P 500.
Did You Know?
In an interesting side project, Cudahy Packing Company introduced Old Dutch Cleanser in 1905. In 1955, Purex acquired Old Dutch Cleanser from Cudahy. The Greyhound Corporation acquired the consumer products business of Purex (which included Old Dutch Cleanser) in 1985 and was combined with Greyhound's Armour-Dial division, forming The Dial Corporation. In December 2003, Dial was sold to Henkel for $2.9 billion.