The History of the Mccormick Company

By Henry Gabelmann

Reprinted from Antique Bottle World August 1975

 The McCormick Spice and Flavoring Company is not as old as some of the companies that we collect bottles from, but it is of interest because of the large amount of bottles we find and because it is still in business today. It is the largest spice and flavoring company in the world today.

On September 2, 1889, Willoughby McCormick and his staff of two girls and a boy began operating as McCormick and Company. The plant was a one room, cellar and backyard operation in Baltimore, Maryland. Their motto was "Make the Best - someone will buy it." The first products were flavoring extracts, fruit syrups and juices. They were sold under the Bee Brand and Silver Medal trade marks. Other products made at this time were Iron Glue (Sticks Everything But The Buyer), and Uncle Sam's Nerve and Bone Liniment (For Man or Beast).

By 1890, the company had grown tremendously and occupied a four story building. They had added food colors, household drugs and lubricating oils to their products. In 1895, the Clover Brand was used for the flavoring extracts, fruit syrups and juices. In 1896, the F. G. Emmett Spice Company of Philadelphia was bought by McCormick. All the machinery was shipped to Baltimore. Within one year, McCormick entered fully into spice manufacturing. In this year, the first McCormick cookbook was published, and the first premium was offered. The premium was the "Little Puck Lamp," a perfume bottle, night lamp and toy combined. Yours for three labels from McCormick Wild Cherry Tonic.

In 1900, the first export office was opened in New York City. McCormick products were then shipped to South and Central America, South Africa,

East and West Indies and Europe. The first year of the export office saw more than six tons of sewing machine oil exported. By 1902, the Banquet Brand was established for its spices and mustard. In 1903, McCormick and Company was incorporated in the state of Maine. By now the firm enjoyed a wide reputation as Manufacturing Chemists, Drug and Spice Millers, Importers and Exporters. There were hundreds of products from teas to vanilla beans to epsom salts, and elixirs were supplied to manufacturers and retailers.

In 1904, as the Great Baltimore Fire raged over the business district, all the company's assets and records went up in smoke. Willoughby wrote, "I had built up my business until it was the largest of its kind in the United States and now it is the smallest of the small." McCormick resumed operations quickly in temporary quarters, the first large factory among the burned-out businesses to do so. In ten months, a new five story building was erected on the old site, the first to go up after the fire.

In 1905, the brand name Clover Blossom was established for the spices and mustard. By 1909, the Green Seal salad dressings and table relishes were added to its line.

In 1912, Charles P. McCormick joined the shipping department as a part-time clerk for the summer. In this same year a branch office was opened in Philadelphia. In 1913, another branch office was opened in New York. In this year the second cooking manual was published, "The Blue Book of Culinary Art" - nearly 200 pages of recipes and household hints liberally sprinkled with homely maxims. Another branch office was opened in Pittsburgh in 1915. Charles P. McCormick joined the sales force full time in 1919, as a retail salesman in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1921, a new home was built for the House of McCormick. It was situated on the Baltimore Harbor, the nine story building was said to be the largest steel and concrete building south of New York. Twelve and a half acres of daylight floor space and a private railroad siding. By 1928, the company's sales hit the $5,000,000 mark. In 1930, John M. Curlett joined the company. His first assignment was to contact a man for a radio cooking school sponsored by McCormick and Company.

In 1932, the firm faced a serious crisis as sales plummeted during the great Depression. On November 4, Willoughby McCormick died while on a business trip. Elected to Presidency and Chairman of the Board was 36 year old C. P. McCormick. He quickly turned the tide by implementing his philosophy of Multiple Management. Working hours were cut, wages raised and Junior and Factory Boards were established.

In 1934, Edwin Tunis, a Baltimore architect, was commissioned to design and construct an early English Tea House on the seventh floor of the McCormick building in Baltimore. This was followed by his plans for Friendship Court, a replica of a

Sixteenth Century English village. The purpose of this renovation was to provide a pleasant reception area for all who visited the House of McCormick.

From this time on the company kept expanding and improving its packing and processing methods. In 1941, the big Mc became the trademark for all but a few products. In 1947, McCormick merged with a giant of the West, A. Shilling and Co., of San Francisco, a coffee, spice and extract house established in 1881. By 1948, the company's sales reached over $25,000,000 and it kept merging with smaller houses and expanding to Mexico, Sweden, Canada, Colombia, Venezuela, Switzerland, London, and Panama. By 1961, sales by wholly owned McCormick enterprises exceeded $50,000,000. With more mergers and new countries entered, sales surpassed $100,000,000 by 1969. That isn't bad for a company that started with one boss and three employees in a cellar 84 years ago.*