Flour from Nebraska

The flour mill is an important part of our heritage. In the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth there were mills in almost every county of Nebraska, with even the smallest towns having a mill to grind wheat and other grains. The twentieth century brought change to flour milling in the state, including the elimination of the small mills and the enlargement of the remaining plants. The milling industry became centered in the larger towns.

The original Gooch Mill was established in Lincoln in 1908. Consolidated Mills, incorporated in 1919, took over operation of mills in Grand Island, Hastings, St. Edward, and Ravenna. Omaha was an important center not only for milling flour but for shipping it to the East.

“For the first time in history,” said the Omaha Trade Exhibit on January 15, 1927, “a solid forty-car train-load of flour, produced in Central West states, was shipped recently from Omaha to Boston and other New England points.

“The event was considered sufficiently important by the Burlington Railway, who handled the shipment from Omaha to Chicago, that they provided forty brand new cars of uniform size and arranged to speed this immense shipment eastward on special fast time schedule.

“The shipment consisted entirely of Omar Wonder Flour milled by the Omaha Flour Mills Co., Omaha. The train was handled from Omaha to Chicago via the Burlington, through Chicago by the Belt Railway Co., of Chicago, to Detroit by the Wabash and to Wells River, Vt. by the Canadian Pacific. From here it was re-shipped by way of the Boston roads to Boston and various New England points. It is believed the train established a record for so large a freight shipment, reaching destination considerably ahead of ordinary freight movement.

“It has been estimated that if the complete shipment of flour could be baked into one immense slice it would measure approximately 2,100 feet high by 1,900 feet wide. In other words, it would completely dwarf the famous Eiffel Tower with its 1,000 feet. The mammoth Leviathan, 907 feet from stem to stern, if placed on end would not reach half way up the slice. While the Woolworth Bldg., which towers up into the air a mere 792 feet, could almost be covered by a crumb. If baked into ordinary loaves, the shipment would provide one loaf each for more than two and a quarter million New England homes.

“Food products from the Mid-West are becoming decidedly popular on the discriminating New England market. And it is taken as a significant tribute to the fine quality of Mid-Western wheat that Omar Wonder Flour was chosen for this initial train-load shipment.”

The Trade Exhibit of February 1, 1927, noted that Omaha flour mills sold more than fourteen million dollars worth of flour annually and that a second trainload would soon be shipped to eastern markets.

Made in Nebraska
, a Nebraska State Historical Society online exhibit, includes bags and memorabilia from flour milled in Nebraska.

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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