Tasteful Inventions: Perky Shredded Wheat

Friday, August 1, 2008

Perky Shredded Wheat

The glances over cocktails
That seemed to be so sweet
Don't seem quite so amorous
Over the Shredded Wheat
On August 1, 1893, lawyer and inventor Henry Drushel Perky and William H. Ford received US patent #502,378 for a "Machine for the Preparation of Cereals for Food." The cereal biscuit they had in mind was to be called Shredded Wheat. Now, Perky's original intention was to sell the machines but he soon discovered the cereal biscuits were more popular than the machines. By the autumn of 1893, Henry Perky set up his Cereal Machine Company and was operating a small bakery in Denver, Colorado to make the cereal biscuits, a restaurant to serve them and a fleet of horse-drawn wagons from which to sell them door to door.

Denver lawyer Henry Perky was en route by train to Watertown, New York to enlist a friend, William Ford, in a new undertaking...Perky who had always preferred inventing to pleading cases in court, was, at the age of 47, in search of a method for processing corn so it would remian edible after being dehydrated. During his Watertown experiments he developed a machine that could press wheat into shredlike strips. When baked, these strips became delicious biscuits...Top Seller USA by Molly Wade McGrath pg. 71

The Cereal Aisle

Walking up and down the cereal aisle in a supermarket, is like entering a maze of question marks. You’ll see dozens of brands of cereal. How do you know which one taste the best? Is it the box with the brightest packaging? Which is the healthiest, low fat or low sugar? Do you shop for low fiber and forget about the salt, sugar and fat content? Americans have had a love affair with cereal for breakfast for decades. Sometimes, dinner. How many times have you skipped your evening meal only to raid the pantry for a big bowl and some cereal? Do healthy cereals really exist? A good breakfast cereal can be the perfect start to the day and although there are those that claim Shredded Wheat may be bland, it is high in dietary fiber. As strange as it may seem, my grand daughter, Tabitha, who will be 6 in November happens to like Shredded Wheat. She's been eating the little straw cakes now for years:) Most other kids’ cereals are notably lacking in fibre, often with a lot of sugar or sodium thrown in. Highly processed, low-fiber, sugary (or often salty) cereals are more like treats than a health food. With all the marketing hype around many cereals it can be difficult to tell just how healthy they really are.

Meet Shredded Wheat

Some of the pictures decorating this page are from an undated Shredded Wheat recipe leaflet. The recipe leaflet is beautifully lithographed. Others are from another Shredded Wheat recipe booklet titled For All Ages, Shredded Wheat published in 1926. My thinking is, the one with the vibrant young man is probably earlier.

Eat Shredded Wheat all the Food, all the Bran, in the Whole Wheat Health is the most priceless of all human possessions...Health comes from eating the right kind of food and from taking the right kind of exercise. What is the right kind of food? The food that has in it the necessary elements for furnishing energy and for building healthy tissue. The whole wheat grain is such a food.

The remainder of the booklet contains Shredded Wheat dishes. There's Shredded Wheat porridge, Shredded Wheat Bread, Shredded Wheat Gruel, and Shredded Wheat Cookies. If you would like any of these recipes, just ask.

Shredded Wheat at Home

In 1926, the "Home of Shredded Wheat" was in Niagra Falls, New York. The facility produced all varieties Shredded Wheat cereals and the Triscuit crackers too. "The Palace of Light" (center) was built in 1901 by industrialist Edward Andrew Deeds who had supervised the electrification of the National Cash Register Company (NCR) in 1899.

"In 1901, drawn by the idea of inexpensive electrical power for baking, and the natural draw of a popular tourist attraction, he hired Edward A. Deeds to build a new plant at Niagara Falls, New York. Deeds became a director of the National Food Company. Perky invited a large number of notables to a special luncheon. Canadian author Pierre Berton describes the bill of fare: "...a Shredded Wheat drink, Shredded Wheat biscuit toast, roast turkey stuffed with Shredded Wheat, and Shredded Wheat ice cream." The city fathers backed him anyway! The factory itself was called "The Palace of Light," and was white-tiled, air-conditioned, well-lit with floor to ceiling windows, and equipped with showers, lunchrooms (a free lunch for women – men had to pay 10¢), and auditoriums for the employees. It even had a roof garden with a view of the Falls. A representation of the factory appeared on the Shredded Wheat boxes for decades." (wiki)

"A temple of cleanliness to house the purest and cleanest of foods" The Palace of Light had its warehouse facility ovens installed around 1918. There, Perky's “little whole wheat mattresses,” were produced by the machines he had developed.

Five Beautiful, Sunlit Factories Shredded Wheat is made in five beautiful sunlit, sanitary factories-two in Niagra Falls, NY, one in California, one in Canada, and one in London, England. One of factories at Niagra Falls, which is known as "The Home of Shredded Wheat," is visited annually by more than 125,000 visitors from all parts of the habitable globe. Each of these beautiful factories is open to visitors..."Breakfast cereals come and go, but Shredded Wheat goes on forever"-with constantly increasing sales from year to year, always clean, always pure, always wholesome-the most real food for the least money.

Why Shredded Wheat

The Shredded Wheat Company (1904) claimed Shredded Wheat was good for all ages because it contained "every element the human body needed prepared in a palatable and digestible form." They also touted the whole wheat benefits which had nothing added or taken away.

The process for making shredded wheat was really quite simple at the factory. First, the wheat was passed through a cleaning machine which removed the dirt, chaff and foreign material as well as defective and broken grains of wheat. The grains were then cooked in steam and while soft they were drawn into shredded wheat strands. The filaments were then formed into biscuits or little loaves and baked in ovens until they were crisp and brown. The crispness of the baked shreds of whole wheat, was another benefit touted by the company.

Seventy five percent of all human ills are traced to self-poisoning through constipation. In order to prevent this condition food should contain some indigestible fiber, known as "roughage." Thousands are prodding their liver with pills when all they need is roughage in their foods. Bran, which is the outer coating of the wheat berry, is the best roughage for stimulating bowel movement. All the bran of the whole wheat is in Shredded Wheat. (For All Ages, Shredded Wheat (1926)

Shredded Wheat Recipes

Oddly enough, there aren't very many recipes for Shredded Wheat in either of these recipe booklet. There are colorful pictures of dish suggestions and a few shredded wheat serving tips but, not really very many recipes. One suggestion offered is for Shredded Wheat party shells.

To make a patty shell out of a Shredded Wheat Biscuit, crush in the top of the biscuit with the bowl of a spoon, making a hollow in the biscuit. Fill the hollow with fruits, creamed vegetables or creamed meats...To make a hot dish for a cold day pour hot milk over the biscuit, adding a little cream, salt or sweeten to taste.

The other recipes include, Shredded Wheat Bread, Shredded Wheat Porridge, Shredded Wheat Gruel, Shredded Wheat Cookies and Shredded Wheat Pancakes. One recipe I found, which I think is unusual, is a recipe for Shredded Wheat Baby Food. The recipe claims, Shredded Wheat Baby Food "has saved the lives of thousands of babies whose stomach could not digest mother's milk or cow's milk." The formula for preparing Shredded Wheat baby food is as follows.

1/2 pint, 1/2 pint milk, 1 Shredded Wheat Biscuit, 1/16 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. granulated sugar. Bring the water to a boil, then add the Shredded Wheat Biscuit and cook slowly for fifteen minutes. Remove from the fire and add the milk, salt, and sugar, then strain through a fine cheese cloth. When cool set away covered in a cold place until needed. When ready to use heat the required amount to 98 degrees F. and give by means of a feeding bottle.

Pictured are a few more colorful suggestions.

FYI: "Never Eat Shredded Wheat" is a common childhood way of remembering the Cardinal Points on a compass.


  • 1. Shredded Wheat History Chronology
  • 2. Shredded Wheat Bakery- Niagara Falls, NY (image)
  • 3. Kids Cereal: Popular = Unhealthy
  • 4. Shredded Wheat & Eggs
  • 5. The Marketable Flake


Debinhawaii said...

Hi Louise,
This is Deb from Kahakai Kitchen. Thanks for leaving a message on my site. Feel free to link to the cake--it was fun to make and better tasting than I thought it would be. I took a quick look at your sites--how fun! I just learned a whole lot about shredded wheat! I will be back to check out more later. Aloha!

~~Louise~~ said...

Hi Deb,

Thanks for dropping by and for the kind remarks. I'm glad you had an enjoyable visit. Isn't it amazing that shredded wheat has a history.

I tried to email you back but got no reply in the return email. I'll be back to your site too. It's wonderful!

Mansi Desai said...

wow, that's a lot of info in this post I knew nothing about! thanks for visiting my blog and letting me discover yours!:)

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Mansi,
I suppose I do get a bit carried away with the info but, I just find it all so fascinating and after all, I do have all these wonderful cookbooks.

Feel free to pop in anytime.

acey said...

hi, louise! i love your blogs! thanks for dropping by my blog. how did you know i love food? hehe. i'm learning new things here. i hope it's ok if i look around. :D

~~louise~~ said...

Oh acey, thank you so much for the kind words. Sit back, have one of those "famous" avocado drinks, and stay as long as you like.