Denver Flour Mills

Hungarian Flour

The following comment was in response to an inquiry for a source of Hungarian Flour:

I am going to give you a little history about Hungarian Flour. Years ago I worked for a company called Denver Flour Mills where High Altitude Hungarian Flour was milled. The gentleman who founded Denver Flour Mills was from Hungary.  He began milling a flour from wheat grown in the high altitudes, Colorado, Montana, and Utah. The reason he called his flour Hungarian is he milled the flour by the "stone ground method" just as he had in Hungary.

In the late 60's Denver Flour Mills was bought out by Great Western Sugar Company at which time I, among others, was laid off. I am not sure when GW Sugar Company sold the flour portion of the merged company, but now Hungarian Flour is now milled in Nebraska by a company called ConAgra Mills. The point being you could use any high grade flour, either unbleached, bleached, or whole wheat flour and you should do fine with your recipe. The only real speciality about Hungarian flour is that it is milled from hard wheat that is grown in the higher altitudes, also know as winter wheat. Winter wheat is planted in the late summer and is grown all winter and harvested in June through July. I hope this information helps and as I said, any good quality flour should do just fine.

By jacsisk on December 20, 2007.

Source: /topics/469654

A Flour Mill, circa 1870. Location unknown.

This is one of the few flour and grist mills that had a clerestory monitor. Note the sack host for raising sacks of grain from the wagon. A miller holding the sack on the second floor, while another miller holds a wooden grain shovel and broom on the third floor. Also note, the boy sitting on a grain dump projecting from the wall of the mill, just left of the front doorway where another miller is standing.

The grain dump or sink is the Oliver Evans method of introducing grain into the milling system from the exterior of the mill directly from the farmer on a wagon to the mills elevators. The chimney notes that the mill has a miller's office and the building is protected by lighting rods. The ground cable runs up the side of the building. The above grist or flour mill bears no resemblance to an English country mill. Photograph is from a tintype.


Denver Flour Mills & Hungarian Flour Mills

According to the "Rio Grande Freight Traffic Guide" of 1951 (Tramway Press, 1983) the Hungarian Flour Mills and the Denver Flour Mills were one of the same and in 1951 had an office and elevator at 1441 7th Street, Denver and was serviced by D&RGW & CRI&P. There were also branch elevators at 3750 Wynkoop Street (UP) and West 29th & Jason Streets (AT&SF & C&S).

William Reich's very helpful book "Colorado Industries" (Johnson Books, 2008) credits John K. Mullen, a young Irish immigrant from New York (where he had worked in a flour mill from the age of 14), as being the first person to bring the Hungarian roller process of gradual reduction of wheat to flour to Denver. In 1883 he built the Hungarian Milling and Elevator Company Mill.

Colorado Milling and Elevator Company (CM&E)

Mullen went on to create the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company (CM&E) which by 1889 owned four mills in Denver and mills at Golden, Longmont, Greeley, Fort Collins and Almosa.

According to the  "Rio Grande Freight Traffic Guide" the CM&E still owned five mills in Denver in 1951 being:

  1. Crescent Flour Mills, an Elevator at 29th and Jason Streets. Serviced by AT&SF and C&S.

  2. Denver Elevator Co., an Elevator and Warehouse at 22nd and Brigfhton Blvd. Serviced by UP.

  3. Denver Flour Mills with an Elevator at 1441 7th Street. Serviced by D&RGW and CRI&P.

  4. Eagle Flour Mills at 3750 Wynkoop Street. Serviced by UP.

  5. Omaha Flour Mills Co. Listed as a flour milling business at 64th and Brighton Blvd. Serviced by CB&Q and UP.

The CM&E office was located at the Equitable Building (730 17th Street) in Denver and was serviced by a D&RGW Team Track. There was also a Beans Wholesale business at that location.

Flour Milling in America, A General Overview

During the seventeenth century the colonist who came from Europe brought with them their grains to Virginia and Massachusetts. Along the eastern shore of the content they built their first wind, and tidal powered mills. There were few roads, mainly paths, and it was easier to get from place to place by boat. In 1626 the Dutch brought buckwheat to New Amsterdam. The Dutch settlers would develop the area into a milling and marketing center for flour. During the seventeenth century most mills were simply carbon copies of mills in Europe, built by the Dutch, German, and English. It was not until the second half of the seventeenth century did someone think of producing mill products from other than the local consumption. More land was being cleared and more grain was being grown as time went on.

In the English settlements, the colonial trades and crafts were manipulated with bounties, tariffs, and regulated markets that favored production of goods other than flour. Millwrights were limited to building and maintaining mills, millers were bound to operate mills, and millstone dressers dressed millstones for the various mills in a route they could safely travel. The food staple needs of the people living in the colonies along with the difficulties of transportation limited the export flour trade during the seventeenth century. It was not until the mid-eighteenth century did things begin to change for the flour milling trade. In the State of Maryland, it was not until 1740 they prohibited the export of flour and wheat feared by famine. It was not until after 1750, did the markets in the West Indies, particularly Barbados, Jamaica, and the Leeward Islands develop of the local sugar production excluded practically every other form of agriculture. The Dutch out of New Amsterdam first carried flour to the West Indies. Between 1763 and 1766, Philadelphia, exported 350,000 barrels of flour, mainly to the West Indies.

One of the big developments in milling in the early colonies was the movement away from the coast and tidal areas. This mean that mills that were once powered only by wind and tidal power could now be built along inland streams. Wind and tidal powered mills operate on an off-on basis. Wind does not always blow to turn the sails of the windmill, and tidal powered mills operate on a schedule of twice a day for about 5 to 6 hours each. Tidal power is more dependable because it is not effect by the seasons flow along a stream, and the water is saline so it does not freeze, like a stream powered mill may be locked tight with ice during the winter months. Stream powered mills meant that they could be built as the people moved away from the coast.

Colonial mills of America, whether wind, tidal or water powered, involved a great deal of human labor. Millstone dressing and millwrighting required a great deal of skill. The itinerant millstone dresser often had to lay out the furrows on a blank millstone according to the direction that the runner would turn. A millwright had to know what trees were used in the forest to make the various parts of a mill, when to cut the wood, and how long to season it. The job of the miller and his helpers required much less skill, and a great deal of carrying sacks of grain and flour in the constant heavy work involved with operating a mill. This method of milling was known as "back and bag," because they mainly carried the bags on their back up narrow ladders to the upper level of the mill. Traditional laws usually fixed a miller's toll by law, the cost of labor figured most important in the profit or loss of a mill's operation. Sometimes a millwright built a mill and the gears would not operate properly and had to be redone. A mill with a new water wheel could be shut down for a long time and a great deal of losses if a new water wheel shaft was found to be defective after a short period of operation. The mill owner and or mill might miss the harvest season of being able to grind. 

One of the most important things to fall out of favor during the seventeenth century was some people's idea of wanting to recreate the feudal system in America. This would have meant that the miller and the peasants would have been bound to the lord of the land with soke rights. So in this place developed the idea of the honest miller because people now had the freedom to go to which ever mill they chose to go within reasonable travel. So then during the eighteenth century the people's ideas about the mill began to change. Originally in the very beginning of the seventeenth century, intelligent people like millwrights and millstone dressers did not want to come to the colonies but in the eighteenth century that all changed. Miller's in Europe could escape the system that bound them to a mill and the lord of the land, and they could perhaps get away from the stereotypes about the dishonest miller.

Oliver Evans originated the idea of a mill where the grain and flour would be moved mechanically, and not by the backs of children. One of the things that Oliver Evans also did was change the craft system in the milling business. With his publication of "The Young Mill-Wright and Miller's Guide," published in Philadelphia, in 1795, it meant that there was not a technical manual for millwrights and millers. Before this everything was passed on though the apprenticeship program, from one person to another, with no possibility of improving or changing the technology of milling. In his work, Oliver Evans described a continuous system of elevators, conveyors, and other automatic devices all connected by a system of chutes, and bins. Oliver Evans system of automated flour milling could best describe the process of milling wheat as "from wagon to wagon again," with out the need for human intervention. Evans's milling machinery represented the beginning and first automation in an industrial process. The term industry did not come into existence until 1812.

After the American Revolution, and until about 1830, Baltimore was the leading flour milling trade center in America. Baltimore like may other cities along the coast of America lay on the Fall Line. This meant that there was abundant water power to operate mills, and boats could used the inland waterways to gain access to the wheat growing and milling centers. In the Chesapeake Coastal Pain and the Virginia Piedmont areas, the millers were quick to adopt Oliver Evans automated flour milling machinery. Also by this time many of the mills had changed form a custom or grist mill operation to a merchant milling trade, and Evans' system was more suited for that type of operation. Now the merchants could consider a trade exchange of flour and grain for European manufactured goods needed by colonies. The wars of Europe also greatly boosted the flour milling trade in America, the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars opened both the British and French ports to American goods. During the period of the American Revolution, American was closed off to the importation of English millstones, and the merchant millers switched to the French millstones which was more suited for making white flour. The merchant mills of the Brandywine and Baltimore sold flour in England, the West Indies, and to even Wellington's army fighting on the Iberian peninsula. The flour milling trade that had resulted in milling prosperity lasted until 1814, when the English Corn Laws virtually shut off any markets. Before the Napoleonic war, a barrel of flour sold for 4 dollars and fifty cents, but when the war started it rose to an all time height of 11 dollars a barrel. Then afterwards the milling trade went into a decline. 

This is where Isaac Pearce only makes sense in taring down the second mill built on the site, that of William Deakin's Oliver Evans equipped mill, was the the death of Oliver Evans in 1919. Mr. Pearce must have realized that he could not build a larger stone flour mill without out paying a second user fee to Oliver Evans and perhaps his estate. During this period of 1820 to 1860, merchant milling waited for the important technological developments in farming, transportation, and grain storage to catch up with the mill revolution that Evans' began in the 1780's.

The American Civil War meant rapid growth for mills in the North, but mills in the South often fell victim to passing armies, like in any war, they become targets to destroy the enemies bread basket. With the American adaptation of the Greek or Norse water wheel the French developed the water turbine in the 1840's, and well before the war water turbines were manufactured in America. From the 1820's to the 1860's the water wheel's design changed form being predominately wood to a metal based one. Inventions in Agricultural machinery allowed farmers to handle grain in greater amounts. McCormick's reaper (1831), Deer's plow (1837), Pitts brothers' thresher (1837), Gibbons' grain drill (1840), combines with the building of the canal system cut freight cost between distant wheat growing areas and the milling centers. Railroads after 1830, were quick to tap the new agricultural lands for freight cargo. The improved transportation created a surplus of agricultural goods that forced farmers to specialize in wheat, corn, dairy, vegetables, or livestock. In Buffalo, Joseph Dart installed Oliver Evans marine elevator leg and automatic machinery into his mills. He also applied steam power to operate grain storage elevators in 1837.

Besides the back and forth action of invention and innovation, new wheat were imported into America. This brought a higher gluten content wheat and one whose bran was more easily shattered than the soft wheat variety. The Mennonites brought hard wheat to the plans of the United States and Canada, by the 1860's. This meant that a new system of milling had to be developed, a better grinding and separation ground what was necessary. As the milling system went from Oliver Evans' automated flour milling, to "new process milling" the millers struggled with the millstones and bolters to keep up with the changes in wheats and milling. The largest water powered flour mill in Minneapolis had 42 pairs of millstones. Water driven turbines came on the market in the mid-nineteenth century but did not in themselves constitute a revolution in the milling business.

The key machine that caused the milling revolution to happen was the middlings purifier. The first practical middlings purifier was built by a French scientist, Joseph Perngault, after noticing the phenomenon of dust particles penetrating all the farthest corners of a pigeon hole desk and then setting down evenly as if attracted to the wooden shelving of the desk itself. The purifier was a large wooden box, where partially ground flour particles would settle on silk screens in the organized horizontal narrow compartments. General Cadwallader Colden Washburn bought one of the purifiers from Paris to Minneapolis where in 1871, it was vastly improved by Edmond W. La Croix, and George T. Smith, both experienced head millers. In 1873, Edmund La Croix and George T. Smith, both in Minneapolis, patented a middlings purifier for better separating the flour, middlings, bran and dust using air currents blown through screens which dated from Ignaz Paur's invention of the purifier in Austria, in 1807. What happened was the "famous purifier war" between La Croix and Smith, Smith added moving brushes to unclog the silk, and an endless discussion ensued as to who invented what, needless to say, they both went their separate ways. It was not until La Croix introduced the machine to America in 1870, did an inferior hard wheat could become a superior wheat flour.

The big milling companies of Minneapolis brought the Hungarian system of milling using iron rollers, corrugated rollers to America, which began to replace the traditional millstone for grinding was now only used half as much as it was used before. As early as the 1820's European inventors tried various methods of grinding wheat between iron, porcelain covered or stone rollers that do many things besides just grinding the wheat. The millers of Pesth, Hungary enjoyed some success with rollers producing Hungarian Flour, which was ghostly white flour that was never before sold to the public. A successful roller mill was built in Fiume Hungary (now Rigeka in Yugoslavia).
A "Hungarian" type roller mill was set up in Milwaukee in 1876, but was not successful because the true Hungarian method was not automatic and entailed considerable hand transfer of the batches of flour and chop, and constant sampling by tough on the part of the head miller.

Roller sawing or breaking was perfected in Hungary, that twisted the grain rather than shearing it. It allowed more precise spacing between the grinding surfaces and more even stock feeding than with the burr stones. However, the roller milling system was not automatic in Hungary, it was not until it came to American, did the mills of Minneapolis mesh the two system together. The first important American mill to use rollers was Cadwalder C. Washburn's Washburn Crosby Mill in 1878. The "experimental" roller mill was not an all roller mill because the last stage of grinding was done with millstones. John Stevens, an inventor from Neenah, Wisconsin, developed in 1874 chilled steel roller mills for grinding flour and received a patent for them in 1880. The main Pillsbury Mill in 1884, had a steam powered, automatic all roller gradual reduction system that produced 5,000 barrels of flour a day. The Minneapolis flour shipments rose from five to ten million barrels between 1884 to 1894.

Several other inventions and adaptations improved the milling operation. Germ scalpers, were machines that sifted off the wheat germ after flattening it out came into used after R. L. Downton's invention in 1875. Carl Haggenmacher, a Hungarian, patented a plansifter In 1888 that better separated the ground flour between grindings. In 1886, O. M. Morse invented the "cyclone" dust collector which reduced the hazard of dust explosion in flour mills. Electric power came into used in operating mills in 1887. The westward expansion brought new land under cultivation and new markets for farm products. The freight cost for either wheat (grain) and flour were the same, milling centers tended to coincide with the areas of most intense wheat cultivation. You need three things to create a milling center, the first one is wheat, the second one is transportation and the third one is being close the markets. Pittsburgh never became a grain milling center because it did not have the wheat growing centers around it. Rochester, Buffalo, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Minneapolis became the new milling centers of the United States. The old former milling centers along the Fall Line was New Amsterdam, the Brandywine, Wilmington, Baltimore, Georgetown and Alexandra, and Richmond. 

Before 1840, American millers ground soft wheat between millstones that were set close together. "Low," "flat," or American milling extracted as much flour as possible in one grinding. The close grinding pulverized the wheat kernel, flour particles, germ, bran and middlings all together. The wheat germ enzymes and the moisture from bran injured the flour's keeping quality. From the 1840's to the 1860's millers were experimenting with "half-high" grinding, that used smaller diameter middling stones and more bolters for sifting during the process of extracting and reducing the middlings. Finally in 1870's, millers (mainly in Minneapolis) were experimenting again with the European technique of "high" grinding and "gradual reduction." "New process" milling that involved several pairs of millstones (usually 3 to 5) grindings with the millstones set progressively closer together as the material became progressively smaller. The initial breaks stripped off the outer most bran covering and granulated the middlings (the part of the kernel; between the inner endosperm and the outer pericarp layers). Increased bolting and sifting between grindings helped separate the bran and middlings from the flour. high grinding and gradual reduction produced a finer flour and more flour per bushel of wheat. Minneapolis flour shipments rose from one to five milling barrels between 1876 and 1884. At one time Oliver Evans automatic flour milling system was the high-tech of the milling industry, and now Cadwalder C. Washburn, Charles A. Pillsbury, and George H. Christian took the lead by installing machinery into their flour mills in Minneapolis so all across America, the American housewife wanted Minneapolis style flour.

When Minneapolis style flour was first made, it was difficult to get the American housewife to used it because of the wheat cleaning, and milling operations they stripped all of the flavor and taste out of the flour. They tried putting additives into the flour and discovered that street sweepings off of the the streets of Minneapolis gave the flour its taste that it once had. In the process of the growth and development of Minneapolis as the world's largest flour milling center, mills back in east either went out of business because it became cheaper for the mills of Minneapolis to get wheat and ship flour to the easier markets, than the mills in the east to get wheat from their traditional markets. Some mills when out of business, and others installed smaller versions of the roller milling system into their millstone mills so they too, could make Minneapolis style white flour.

Hard spring wheat grown in the Minnesota and the Dakotas after 1865, required certain improvements in the gradual reduction milling system. There is its different growth habit that it grows best in an arid climate, hard spring wheat sold for twice as much as soft wheat did in the east. The automatic, all roller mill using gradual reduction system of milling was used in the large scale milling operations of Minneapolis. Even 20 years after the roller milling revolution basically began in America, by 1890 most of the flour made in America was still made with millstones. In 1873, a trade journal began being published in Ottawa, Illinois, "American Miller," whose pages heralded the endeavors of the Western flour millers who were building monster flour mills on "the platform" at the Falls of Saint Anthony and making flour out of previously despised inferior hard red wheat. Small country mills began to order rollers from jobbers and millwrights so they too could make Minneapolis style flour. Anyone who owned two millstones or a roller mill was a miller, and the same arcane profession as the people in Minneapolis.

In the passing years there was a decline for flour in foreign markets. Europeans developed their milling systems where they required more wheat and less flour from America. Between 1889 and 1899, wheat exports rose from 46 to 138 million bushels. Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas produced enormous quantities of hard wheat, while California and Washington grew large amounts of white wheat. The growth of the southwest and Pacific coast wheat regions reduced the milling industry that was replaced by truck farms and orchards in those areas. Kansas City, Dallas, Seattle and San Francisco developed as flour milling centers along with new grain markets. Buffalo, New York, on the Great Lakes took the lead in from Minneapolis as the largest flour milling center after 1920. Wheat production continued to rise until just after World War 1. Then the Great Depression, World War 2, both wheat production and flour consumption fell drastically. One of the ways that milling companies responded to the decline in the demand for flour was with advertising which became increasingly important after 1900. Washburn Crosby's "Gold Metal" flour and Pillsbury's "Best" became well know trade names, and even small mills around the country sold their brand of flour in addition to their own.

After the American Civil War millers increasingly sold bran and middlings for animal feed. New uses for wheat flour products was developed such as starch, waxes, paints, and making monosodium glutamate. Breakfast cereals came into existence, with Henry d. Perkey, John Harvey Kellogg, and Charles W. Post developed popular cereals, shredded wheat, wheat and corn flakes, and grape nuts. General Mills (formerly Washburn Crosby Company) introduced "Wheaties" in the 1920's. Speciality flours like all purpose flour, and mills manufactured cake and pastry flour, pancake flours that included leavening ingredients after 1900. General Mills introduced "Bisquick" in 1930, and then ready to use boxed flour mixes came out. In 1914, the National Research Council recommended that flour for military use be vitamin enriched. Then after the war, millers commonly added thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and iron to household flour. The impact of enriched flour may never be fully known because it has been combined with chemically bleached white flour. I suggest that everyone get a copy of William Dufty's book, "Sugar Blues Exposing Sugar, the killer in your diet - offering you a life-saving, sugar-free way to health." It is a classic work on the subject of sugar, process foods, white flour, mayonnaise tobacco, its refining and consumption, and its ultimate physiological and psychological effects on the human body and mind.

The modern system of flour milling takes out 12 natural nutrients out of wheat and adds back in three "artificial ingredients." They bleach flour with either chlorine or nitrogen oxide gases. Chlorine gas is a carcinogenic agent and causes cancer, and nitrogen oxide gas has caused fits in laboratory animals.

In Ellen and Vrest Orton's book, "Cooking with Whole Grains," states that stone ground flour ins not only more nutritious but it is infinitely more flavorful. "Must of our national illness is caused by crazes for food that is (1) white, (2) refined, (3) keepable. All these crazes are exemplified in white flour. The best food chemist are the earth and the sun, which produce the whole wheat that the steel rollers of the white flour millers spoil,. White flour makes white is stuff to be eaten fresh, not to be "kept" as if it were an heirloom......Wholemeal flour naturally does not "keep" because the germ in it is alive. Germless white flour "keeps" because it is dead, because it is as dead as Portland cement powder,, all its original goodness having been sifted out of it. Let them "keep" their flour who have no care to keep their health." This is after all a millstone grinding mill, and there is no need to make enriched bleached flour!

I should add this footnote to the program: Sometime during the late 1950's and 1960's they began to experiment with new method of reducing wheat into flour. First they tried running a stream of wheat over a piece of stainless steel and then subjecting it to high pressure bursts of air. Later they tried using laser to pulverize the wheat but they eventually discovered that the traditional methods of grinding wheat using millstones and roller mills works the best.

There are only a few mills that are still run by water power, many of these are of the museum type operations that are capable of grinding flour and meal for demonstrations, claiming to be authentic and educational. The some millstone mills have survived the roller mill revolution mainly grinding organically grown stone ground flours and meals. It causes one to ask, why did more small mills survive the post industrial era? The idea of quitting without a fight is not part of the American character. Possibly the answer is that the customers of these small mills were the ones who gave up.The history of the milling industry is full of stories where hardheaded businessmen tried to ignore the proverbial "bottom line." A great number of factors accumulate when business fall victim to things that are not logically linked to the profit motive. Even the huge milling companies of Minneapolis today are so diversified that many of the giants produce very little flour in that city today. Many small mills have slowed their disappearance by turning to the feed business, however, today that business has also died because of farmers no longer farming. Many people who admire mills and are concerned with heath still want their flour and meal from stone ground flour mills, but in todays world, there are less and less people who bake. The small country mills are sometimes put of business by health regulations, or the loss of being capable of running on water power. The small mill in may places are considered a nuisance to the building of community development in a modern world where the people are dependent upon strip and shopping malls instead of local industries. Mills are no longer considered assets to a local communiy. Even many mill museums have lost part of their original character and appeal because they are now surrounded by urban development.

Recently the Park Ranger and I drove to Ellicott City, Maryland, and we toured the Wilkins-Rogers' Washington Flour Mill in part the old Ellicott Mill complex. They used to be located in the old Pioneer Flour Mill in Georgetown before redevelopment forced them to move to another location, that of the Ellicott City Continental Milling. They are famous for their Indian Head Corn Meal which is produced on two run of millstones that were brought from their old plant between Potomac and 33rd Streets in Georgetown, Washington, D.C, where they were powered by the overflow water from the C & O Canal. They look more like a Minneapolis mill that the Ellicott Mill that occupied the spot in 1772. The mill is at least the fifth mill to stand on the site. The present mill was rebuilt in 1941 after a fire destroyed the previous mill. They are a large commercial flour mill that produces 125 thousand pounds of flour every 24 hours. The gentleman was me how much flour do I grind at Peirce Mill. I told him on a good day I might grind possibly 400 pounds of grain. This is also the amount that management decided that the mill could grind daily and maintain a minimum wear and tare on the mill's machinery. He told me, "You don't grind flour at Peirce Mill, you grind out words." I guess, he was right, we do grind out more words than grain in any given day here at the mill. Thank you. 

By Theodore R. Hazen.

Source molinologist/america.html