Tag: Hubert Fassbender

The Largest Cheese in the World!

Yesterday was National Grilled Cheese Day – who thinks of these things? So I am bit behind with a cheese story, it’s a big one! And the Fassbender family was involved.

Quoted from A Snapshot: Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender [1] “…in 1911, plans were well under way for Nicholas Simon of Appleton to attempt to beat his own record for creating a giant cheese. In 1910 he had built a 4,000 pound cheese for the National Dairy Show in Chicago. For the 1911 National Dairy Show, to be held October 26-November 4, he was awarded the contract by the National Dairy Show Association to build a 12,000 lb. Wisconsin white cheese [cheddar]. The cheese was not to be made as a money-making proposition, but for educational purposes. On July 26, 1911, preliminary work began on the construction of the hoop and platform to hold the cheese. The giant hoop of galvanized iron was eight feet in diameter, and five feet high. ‘Twelve heavy steel bands, 24 feet long, were placed around the hoop to make it withstand the enormous pressure obtained by the immense jack-screws placed on the ends, or “followers,” and pressing agains the frame. Four heavy oak timbers below the hoop and as many above, bound together by twenty heavy steel bolts five feet long, formed the frame that was built upon the lines of the old style upright screw press. The “followers” or ends, were four thicknesses of two-inch oak boards, or eight inches thick. The hoop alone weighed 3,000 pounds.” [2]

Both Hubert [Fassbender] and Henry [Fassbender] played a role in creating this cheese, which occurred on Tuesday, August 15, 1911. Henry was one of the 18 expert cheesemakers, who with the assistance of 22 experienced helpers manufactured the cheese, and Hubert is credited with being one of the dairies supplying the milk. ‘…All the milk from over 8,000 cows for one day, and furnished by over 1,300 farmers of Outagamie county, went into the giant cheese. The curd was furnished by thirty-two of the most up-to-date and sanitary cheese factories…it took over 1,600 meant to do the milking, and 144,100 pounds of milk, over seventy-two tons or over 18,000 gallons of the richest and purest milk obtainable from the finest registered Holstein, Guernsey and other breed cows in the country, was put into the cheese or was required to produce the curd.’ ‘In addition…it took over 480 pounds of Wyandotte salt and thirty-one pounds of Marschall rennet extract to produce the curd, but not an ounce of coloring was placed in the cheese.’ [3]  The 8,000 cows all ‘had to be milked at the same hour. The milk had to be cooled at the same temperature, and the…factories which manufactured the curd had to follow the same process to make the curd uniform.’ [4]

On October 30, 1911, President William Howard Taft attended the National Dairy Show where he gave a ‘pleasant speech’ and toured the exhibits. Upon reaching the ‘immense cheese which [was] a feature of the show he was given a huge knife and invited to have a slice. He accepted laughingly, cut off a sample of the cheese and at it with relish.’ [5]  After tasting the cheese he said ‘I would like to meet the man who made it.’ Upon being introduced to Nicholas Simon, he complimented him by saying he had never tasted better cream cheese. The giant cheese which cost an estimated $5,0000-$6,000 to produce, was sold to the Fair Store in Chicago, where it was sold at retail, Nicholas Simon receiving thirty cents per pound, or $3,7089.10. [6Ten pounds of the cheese was shipped to President Taft, arriving in time for Thanksgiving dinner, a gift from Nicholas Simon.” [7]

Big-Cheese_1911-08-15_Big-Cheese-Photo
The Largest Cheese in the World! It is Eight Feet in Diameter and Weighs Over Five Tons. Henry Fassbender is the second man from the left. Location is unknown, possibly 741 Pacific Street.

The November 1911 issue of Popular Mechanics, p. 650-651, had this to say about the cheese:

“No building in Appleton was large enough for the manufacture and care of the cheese and it was made in the open air. The hoop was placed on a platform in front of six big vats, 15 feet long, 4 1/2 feet wide and 22 1/2 feet deep, in which the curd was washed and mixed.

Under the supervision of the State Dairy and Food Commissioner, 2 3/4 pounds of salt were used to each 100 pounds of curd, and when the salt was thoroughly mixed with the curd it was carried in pails to the form or hoop, where it was packed with heavy iron tampers, which were wrapped with [40 yards of] cheesecloth.

It took five hours to manufacture the cheese after the curd was delivered, and so solidly had it been packed that it pressed down but a few inches under the enormous pressure. Two days later the cheese was trimmed, the bandage of heavy cotton cheese cloth, which fitted the form like a glove was carried over the top and the gigantic cheese was moved into a warehouse by a house mover…it was impossible to find a cold-storage plant…in which it could be stored to ‘cure,’ and it was necessary to build a special refrigerator, 12 by 15 feet, about [the cheese.] A specially equipped flat car was provided to ship it to Chicago.”

This was not the last giant cheese that Nicholas Simon produced, but it is his most famous.

Sources:

  1. Susan C. Fassbender, A Snapshot: Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender (Appleton, WI: self published, 2007): 26-28.
  2. Popular Mechanics, “Giant Cheese Weighs Over Five Tons,” November 1911, 650-651.
  3. The Kaukauna Times, Kaukauna, Wisconsin, “A Mammoth Cheese. Seventy Tons of Milk Used in Making a 12,000 Pounder.” 18 August 1911.
  4. The Kaukauna Times, ” caption: “The Worlds Largest Cheese,” 20 October 1911, front page.
  5. The Evening Telegram, Elyria, Ohio, “President Visits Dairy Show, Makes a Speech, Cuts Big Cheese, and Afterward Lays Cornerstone of Hamilton Club.” 30 October 1911, 2.
  6. Appleton Evening Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, “Extra: ‘This Cheese is Great,’ says Taft.” 30 October 1911.
  7. The Kaukauna Times, “Cheese for Dinner.” 1 December 1911.

Hubert and Henry. The Fassbenders, the Cheese, and Wisconsin

Hubert and Henry, ca 1930
Hubert and Henry, ca 1930

Hubert and Henry are the youngest sons of Peter and Elizabeth (Nettekoven) Fassbender, and it would be their youngest sons who would embrace the cheese industry, making it their life work. The boys were just 12 and seven in 1887, the year that Peter began making cheese, and so you could say that they “grew up in the business.”

As I have mulled over the “how” of telling their story, I have decided that I will try to run their experiences in a parallel manner, year to year. The reason is that because their stories intertwine, even in the early years before they were successful business men operating factories just 7 miles apart. Hubert owning and operating the South Kaukauna Dairy Co., and Henry, owning and operating White Clover Dairy. The problem? Their preference for using their initials instead of their full names. Granted, most often Henry would include his middle initial “J” going by H. J. Fassbender, while Hubert would use H. Fassbender, there was still confusion.

Early in my research I was lucky enough to have gotten to know Hubert and Henry’s nephew, Arthur Ellenbecker. Arthur passed away shortly after his 100th birthday in 2003, having shared many stories with me, but leaving me wanting to know more. Arthur is the son of Elizabeth (Fassbender) Ellenbecker Tatro. Elizabeth was the middle sister of Hubert and Henry having been born in 1877, and the three were close as siblings and friends. Arthur admired his uncles “Hoobert” and “Henery,” and he also worked for Hubert in the 1930s. His life story is a part of this story that I will attempt to tell.

This will not be a definitive work, as I have not yet gone to Madison and gone through the incorporation documents, and other items that may be filed with the company records. It is on my list of To Dos, but I do not think that the story will be any less for not knowing these details. As for details, the life of Henry will appear to be more rich with information, but that is because the Hollandtown community section, or what I like to call the “gossip” column, which frequently reported on his comings and goings. Whereas Hubert lived a much more quiet life in the larger community of Appleton. But I have plenty of information for my tale.

The Fassbenders, the Cheese, and Wisconsin

1926ca - Milk Cans

I first started researching this topic in 1998 at the request of my father-in-law who wished to know more about his grandparents. It still saddens me that he did not live to enjoy my findings, but even more so, that I was unable to discuss the stories, and to ask what he remembered about the events that I was uncovering. The prompt to blog this history is the fact that these stories are disappearing. That the successful cheese factories that were built by the Fassbender men and later sold to large corporations, have had the story of their origin either altered or deleted from the company’s history. I can’t let that happen.

Peter Joseph Hubert Fassbender had been residing in Ellington Township, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin for approximately 23 years when he decided to enter the cheese and butter manufacturing business. He chose a site across the road from the family home to build his first factory. The factory began operation in 1887 and had a capacity of 11,000 pounds of milk per day, which Peter obtained by purchasing milk from his farming neighbors, and from 24 of his own cows. Peter’s eldest son, John, returned home to work along side his father. As a 20 year old, he was an experienced cheesemaker, having worked in various cheese factories since the age of 16. [1]  Peter also enlisted the help of 19 year old Joseph, and two years later in 1889, 14 year old Hubert joined the family business. [2]  Showing remarkable skill and interest in the making of cheese, Hubert would be in “full charge of the factory” by the time he turned 16 in 1891. [3]  It was at this time that John left his father’s factory and “embarked on the business himself, conducting a factory for five years.” [4]  The youngest son, Henry, just seven years old when his father began making cheese and butter, literally grew up in the factory and would follow in his elder brothers footsteps, and in time become a cheesemaker in his own right.

SOURCES:

  1. Thomas H. Ryan, History of Outagamie County Wisconsin (Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911), 764.
  2. Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 958.
  3. The Appleton Post-Crescent, “Rotary Club Hears Talk On Creamery Business.” 18 April 1929.
  4. Ryan, History of Outagamie County, 765.