When Crackers were Biscuits in Cincinnati

 

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The Strietmann Biscuit Company in Mariemont.

In the warm weather months, when the wind patterns are right, I can sit on my front porch and smell a wonderful vanilla cookie smell from the old Keebler, now Kellogg factory in Mariemont at the foot of the Red Bank valley from my house.    It’s a delightful summer bennie, and contrasts the garlicy grilled smells I get from the back porch of my house wafting over from Bankock Bistro and M.

My father used to be the account manager for the Keebler  employee cafeteria at the Mariemont site, back when he sold commercial food programs, and sometimes he’d bring back some of their product samples from a customer visit.

What I have known as the Keebler bakery plant has actually been in Mariemont since 1943, and the company who built it, Strietmann Biscuit Company, has a history that goes back to just after the Civil War in Over-the-Rhine, when crackers were still known by their English name – biscuits.     It was probably some time after World War I when Americans stopped calling crackers biscuits.

The original 1899 built Strietmann factory on West 12th street adjacent to the Miami and Eire Canal (now Central Parkway) is now being renovated into luxury apartments.    The executive offices of that building were also used to pose as the New York Times offices in the new Cincinnati-filmed movie, Carol.     The company was founded in 1873 by German immigrant George H. Strietmann, who was a member of the Cincinnati Turner Society, a German sport and social club that became a national movement.

During their time at the Over-the-Rhine facility, Strietmann produced a variety of crackers – the graham cracker, sugar wafers, a variety of snap coookies, pretzels, and a truly American common brand, Zesta soda crackers, which was adopted by Kraft as their national saltine cracker brand and sold by Kellogg today.

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The 1899 Strietmann Factory in Over-the-Rhine and some of their original products.

One of the products that Strietmann also made was called Cheese Snax.    The Cheese Cracker or Cheez-it was invented in Ohio, but not by the Strietmann Company.   It was actually invented in Dayton, Ohio, in 1921 by the Green and Green Company (founded by Greenville, Ohio-born, Weston Green) on the corner of Cincinnati and Concord Streets. His company would later become Sunshine Crackers, which is now owned by Kellogg, who still sells the immensely popular Cheez-It Crackers.

Delivery+Truck

The Strietmann Company became in 1927 a regional bakery division as part of the United Biscuit Company, along with Godfrey Keebler’s Philadelphia based commercial bakery, and several others.   The Keebler Bakery was actually the first bakery in 1936 to bake Girl Scout Cookies.   Before that the girls and their mothers did the baking.

In 1966, United Biscuit decided to choose a united national brand across all of their divisions and Strietmann became Keebler.    In 2001, Keebler was acquired by the Kellogg Company, who owns the deliciously smelling Mariemont site today, and whom I have to thank for the summer vanilla cookie aromas.

 

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