Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Nabisco, c.1950
12000 East Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia PA
(at Byberry Road)

Irving Kosmin, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

Nabisco Brands, Inc. was created in 1981 with the merger of the National Biscuit Company (from 1898) and Standard Brands, Inc. (from 1929). This merger produced a five and one-half billion dollar a year company with 61,000 employees and production in 34 countries outside the United States. The National Biscuit Company came into existence from the efforts of a group of 40 midwestern bakers at the turn of the twentieth century, who were concerned about the bad publicity caused by outbreaks of disease attributed to the small, independent bakeries. The bakers approached Chicago attorney Adolphus W. Green, who amalgamated their businesses into the American Biscuit & Manufacturing Company. About the same time, another Chicago attorney, William H. Moore, put together a group of eight eastern bakeries into the New York Biscuit Company; in 1898, the two merged along with the smaller U.S. Baking Company, to form the National Biscuit Company.

National Biscuit's first product, "Uneeda Biscuits," championed the new packaging of interfolded layers of wax paper and cardboard, to form a sanitary "in-er-seal." On the box, the design of a clear-eyed child in a yellow rain slicker, with hat, boots, and a box of biscuits, to denote the moisture-resistance of the package, was placed. Along with it came the company trademark, an oval surmounted by a double-barrel cross. A tremendous variety of products followed over the next several decades: Zu-Zu Ginger Snaps, Nabisco Sugar Wafers, Barnum's Animal Crackers, Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Babe Ruth Candy Bars, Shredded Wheat, Ritz Crackers, and Milk-Bone Dog Biscuits.

Standard Brands, Inc. came into being in 1929 with the merger of the Fleischman Company (makers of baking yeast), the Royal Baking Powder Company, and the Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company.

Competition between the National Biscuit Company and Standard Brands was intense and their growth across the globe over the next several decades was dramatic. In 1976, Nabisco, as it had been officially called since 1971, reached two billion dollars in sales; in 1977 Standard Brands reached the same plateau. Four years later, the companies merged into Nabisco Brands, Inc.

The plant on Roosevelt Boulevard was constructed for National Biscuit Company in 1950. It replaced the older plant at Broad and Glenwood Streets. It continues to produce Nabisco products for the Philadelphia area.

Update May 2007 (by Harry Kyriakodis):
The 620,000-square-foot facility on 28 acres continues to operate. Construction began in 1955 and the factory started production the following year. The plant's 700 employees work three shifts on eight ovens, sometimes seven days a week, which means that cookies and crackers can be made nonstop for weeks. The factory's 9-story tower is a Northeast Philadelphia landmark. The well-remembered red "NABISCO" lettering on the tower's east side was removed and replaced with much a smaller "KRAFT FOODS" sign and symbol sometime after 2000, when tobacco giant Philip Morris purchased Nabisco Holdings Corporation for almost $15 billion. Its Kraft Foods subsidiary now operates the many former Nabisco factories across the nation.