The company can trace its history to the Minneapolis Milling Company, an organization founded in 1856 by Illinois Congressman Robert Smith which leased power rights to mills operating along Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River. Cadwallader C. Washburn acquired the company shortly after its founding and hired his brother, William D. Washburn to assist in the company's development. In 1866, the Washburns got into the business themselves, building the Washburn "B" Mill at the falls. At the time, the building was considered to be so large and output so vast that it could not possibly sustain itself. However, the company succeeded, and in 1874 he built the even bigger Washburn "A" Mill.
In 1877, the mill entered a partnership with John Crosby to form the Washburn-Crosby Company. A year later, the "A" mill exploded, killing 17 workers and also demolishing several nearby buildings. The mill was rebuilt and continued to operate for almost 90 years.
In the 1920s, the company stepped in to take over a failing Twin Cities radio station, renaming it WCCO (from Washburn-Crosby Company). General Mills itself was created in 1928 when Washburn-Crosby President James Ford Bell directed his company to merge with 26 other mills.
Beginning in 1929, General Mills products contained box top coupons, known as Betty Crocker coupons, with varying point values, which were redeemable for discounts on a variety of house wares products featured in the widely distributed Betty Crocker catalog. The coupons and the catalog were discontinued by the company in 2006, and a new website based retail concept is scheduled to open in 2007.
General Mills brought the popular radio show The Lone Ranger to broadcast in 1941. The show was then brought to television, and, after 20 years, their sponsorship came to an end in 1961.
When NASA astronaut Scott Carpenter launched into space on Mercury capsule Aurora 7 in 1962, he was carrying with him the first solid space food small food...
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