History of

McGlynn Bakeries

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James T McGlynn

JT Headshot

James T McGlynn

James Thomas McGlynn (or JT as most everybody called him) founded McGlynn Bakeries in 1919 when he bought a bakery and changed the name to McGlynn Bakeries.

Andrew McGlynn, JT's father, was born in Ireland in 1839. At the age of 21, he moved to America and settled in the New Jersey area, but ended up in Fall River, MA were he married his wife Matilda Corboy in 1871. Matilda was born in Ireland in 1852, arriving in America in 1870.


Matilda gave birth to five daughters during the early years of their marriage (unverifiable), but during one of the frequent health plagues, tragically all five of their children died. In 1881 they had a son and then moved to Minneapolis, MN by 1883. Andrew took a job at NS Woolen Mill were he eventually had a job as carpet weaver. They lived in Minneapolis at 1014 N. 3rd St. (now the site of the North Loop Ramp). They were blessed with five more sons in Minnesota, including JT, born December 19, 1887 (confirmed)


By 1889, the family moved a few blocks north to 411 15th Ave N. (where I-94 now runs) with their six sons (William, Andrew, Joseph, JT and Walter). JT only attended school through sixth grade. According to a school paper written years later by JT's son Burt, JT's father became very sick in about 1899 and JT had to work to help support the family. In 1901, JT was working at C.S. Brackett - a transport company, dealing in grocery, meats and liquor - at the age of 14.


Between 1902 and 1915, JT moved with and without his family several times and had several jobs. He mostly lived within a 10 block area just west of downtown in what is now the north loop area:


Addresses & Occupations

See some images from this period here.

JT's father, Andrew McGlynn, died March 26, 1906 at the age of 66 and all the sons had to work to help support the family.

By 1915, James became an accountant at Hallet & Carey Company, located in the Grain Exchange building in downtown Minneapolis. While he was traveling in Montana on a business trip, he met Mary Ann Burns, his future wife.


Mary Burns McGlynn

Mary Burns McGlynn

Mary's father, John Caleb Burns, was born in Ireland. 1855 and her mother, Theresa W Kelly was born in Pennsylvania in 1866. Mary was born on December 13, 1888, along with her twin (Maggie). Mary was born in Roscoe, South Dakota and later lived in Glen Ullin, North Dakota and worked as a teacher. Then she became a teacher in Wibaux, Montana. JT and Mary were married on February 9, 1916 in Minneapolis. The following year, Mary gave birth to a son, Richard (Dick) on July 22, 1917. JT and Mary welcomed their first daughter, Jean on July 14,1919 - which proved to be a busy year.


The first McGlynn Bakeries location

That's because, in 1919, at 32 years old, while making $20 per week as Chief Accountant for Page & Hill Company (a lumber company), JT decided to buy a small bakery in downtown Minneapolis located at 1129 South 5th Street. JT attended Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis to learn about baking. After the first month when he balanced the books, the bakery had lost money. He went to his wife, Mary, and said, "This isn't too good a deal; we lost money. We have to do something about it." Mary said, "Every time I  go to grocery stores; prices are going up.  Why don't you just raise the price of your bread?" He rose it from a nickel to six cents and started making money. One could guess that Mary's career as a school teacher had just saved her husband's business. And a legacy was born.

In 1920, the McGlynn's lived at 2009 James Ave in Minneapolis.
JT and Mary were blessed with two more children. Burton James (Burt) was born on November 16, 1923 and Margaret Louis (Peggy) was born on February 14, 1925.

JT's had a passion for making the best bread possible. It was a new kind of "home like" bread. It was awarded the only State Fair prize ever given anywhere to a baker's bread when exhibited in competition with home made loaves (65 housewives' loaves). Bakers over the country began selling such better bread at premium prices.

In 1921, from a University of Minnesota Experimental Laboratory, JT learned that calcium was then our most pronounced national dietary deficiency. He learned also it was chiefly because of the nation's switch to patented bleached white flour. Such flour is unwittingly deprived of that most important food mineral and other values inherent in the wheat berry. Dr. J. F. McClendon showed him test proofs. He, himself, also had certified feeding tests made which proved it. From then on, he used only not-bleached flour, but also added di-basic calcium phosphate to all his white yeast-made products (breads and rolls). McGlynn Bakeries was the first bakery in the nation to do so. Confirmation of its worth was given by the highest nutritional authority then at the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota. Now, all bakers over the country have adopted that same practice by adding non-fat milk solids, high in calcium to their bread - as he has been doing since 1923.


In order to "prove" that his bread was better, JT commissioned a laboratory to test his theory by feeding two groups of mice. One was a healthy group fed with McGlynn bread. The second was a sickly group fed with another brand of bread. The text informed the reader of the nutritional value of McGlynn's vitamin enriched bread. It was through this unusual advertisement that JT's concern for nutrition was relayed to the public.


Experiment using Mice

Mice Bread Test

JT began advertising as Minneapolis Health Bakers, as in this ad located in the Sisters of St. Joseph Diamond Jubilee Cook Book.

Cook Book Ad

Cook Book Ad

JT also began to talk about health, nutrition and his superior white bread to anyone that would listen. On January 9, 1924 JT spoke to the Republican Women's Club. The news of his discussion were posted in Minneapolis paper two days later.


JT Gives Address on Bread Ingredients

Minneapolis paper, January 11, 1924

In 1929 someone began the MN Bakers Golf Tournament. In 1931 JT was instrumental in moving the management of the tournament to the MN Bakers Association.The group was made up of bakers and bakery vendors alike. While usually competitors on the streets, it was important to enjoy time together and converse about the baking industry in a relaxed setting. The tournament was held annually on the first Monday of August and was never rained out in over 30 years. Below is a picture of JT winning a trophy with his foursome in 1957. It obviously was not about the size of the trophy.


JT the golf champion

JT the golf Champion (second from left)

In 1929, following the stock market crash, times were tough for most. JT had the bakery business at that time, so he earned a  living - most people were struggling much more than the McGlynn's were. He would bring fresh baked bread home in the afternoon from the bakery; Burt and his older brother would pull a wagon around the neighborhood to sell the fresh bread. The family was middle class, and always had plenty of food on the table. JT  would buy new cars and the children heard talk of poor times, but didn't feel it themselves.

According to the 1930 census, the McGlynn's had moved to 4024 Upton Ave S in Minneapolis - sort of between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriett. JT and Mary lived with their four children and live-in maid named Helen Stegal. And reportedly, JT had become a football enthusiast. Sometime in the 1940's, the family moved to 4910 Russell Ave So, just a block or so south of Lake Harriett.

JT's wife, Mary, was something of a hypochondriac - always aching about something. She cooked all the meals - and the family was all home for dinner virtually every night. Young Burt would sit in the front window and wait for his dad to get home. Mary would say, "Your dad's home from work". JT always called Burt Skipper. They were very close - Burt ended up working for his dad and eventually running the bakery business.

When the kids were young, JT invented a handheld little doughnut machine -  it had a little plunger and it would squeeze out a little doughnut. He would experiment with those doughnuts and fry them at home. He would put the donuts out in the porch and the kids in the neighborhood would visit and enjoy fresh donuts.

Mary McGlynn was a homemaker.  Even during the Great Depression, they could afford a maid. JT was a member of the Golden Valley Country Club, and later Interlachen Country Club in Edina, as he was an avid golfer. The family would go out to dinner on almost every Thursday night at the country club. St. Thomas Church was right next to the school -  it is still there. To fulfill the family's obligation, they faithfully  attended church every Sunday.

While he was running the bakery, JT was slightly overweight and was always trying to reduce his weight. He was keenly interested  in nutrition. So he started reading books about it; eventually visiting a professor at the University of Minnesota and became kind of an amateur nutrition expert. He ended up developing a supplement that he named Dietine. It could be mixed with water and it provided all the vitamins and nutrition a person needs. In 1934, he established the Dietary Foods Company. The owners were listed as Andrew McGlynn (JT's brother), Agnes McGlynn (Andrew's wife) and Mary McGlynn. JT rented a little store space and manufactured and sold it there. JT  applied to Good Housekeeping and received the seal of approval from them, and then from the American Medical Association. It was the first AMA approved weight reducing product. Local investors started investing money into the company as he worked to expand it. Soon thereafter, he sold the company to the shareholders. The shareholders went on to purchase Ovaltine. They developed another product called Miritine  - a supplement for people to gain weight and get their strength back. It's still sold worldwide. Dietine was the original product that evolved into Optifast and is now a part of Nestle Health Science Company.


Formation of Dietary Foods Co


From Minneapolis Star March 24, 1934

On September 23, 1935, JT's mother, Matilda passed away. Then on May 11, 1939, JT's daughter Jeanne married Stan Perry. And in the 1940 census, Jeanne and Stan were living with her parents and the family had a new maid, Opal Olson. It must have been a full house!


Mary Jeanne Peggy JT Burt Dick at Jeanne's Wedding

Mary Jeanne Peggy JT

Burt Dick

On Jeanne's Wedding Day

After World War II, JT's son Burt joined the business full time. Burt had wanted to go to college, but they were full with returning soldiers. Even when Burt was offered a place at University of St. Thomas, his father asked him to stay at the bakery. Shortly after World War II, JT's son Burt came home upon completion of military service in the U.S. Navy (he was assigned to the Philippines for a year) and thought he’d go back to college. He’d completed a year of studies before going overseas and wanted to continue toward a degree. He applied to St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN. But there was no room - there were so many returning soldiers.


In Burt's words, “Then I started working at the bakery for my dad and one day I get a call from St. Thomas, saying, ‘ We can get you in now. Classes start on Monday,’” Burt McGlynn recalled. “My dad said, ‘I really need you to help me in the bakery. He begged me to stay, and I did.” It was the kind of decision that changes a young man’s life forever. At the time, Burt McGlynn did not realize how the course of his career would change because of it, but the son never wavered, never looked back. His father needed him. That was all it took. It was the only thing that really mattered.

In 1945, JT and Mary moved to 4910 Russell Ave So with Dick, Burt and Peggy. It was a little further out of the city, but had a nice location just two blocks south of Lake Harriet.


4910 Russell Ave So - home in Jully 1944

4910 Russell Ave So - it is still there today

JT with his boys Drick and Burt

JT With His Boys - 1950's

JT 1952

JT - circa 1952

In 1954, JT had another brainstorm. He envisioned a way to bring bakery goods to the neighborhood. To make that method better serve the housewives, he again did something entirely new he conceived and built a bakery on wheels, named "Trav'l-Bake. Read more about it here.


Trav'l Bake

On March 29, 1954, JT's daughter Margaret (Peggy) was married to Donald Bowman. Peggy and Don began a family (2 girls and 2 boys). Don was tragically killed while serving in the military in Naples, Italy in 1955, just as their youngest daughter was born.

Supermarkets were starting to spill into the suburbs of Minneapolis by 1950, when the city was home to about 600,000 people and was larger than Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio or San Diego. When downtown sales began to drop with less people venturing downtown to shop on Saturdays, Burt was worried about the future of the company. With this shift happening in the marketplace, Burt McGlynn was starting to plan an expansion into the suburbs.


JT was still the leader of the company in 1956, when he agreed to sell the business to his son Burt for an undisclosed sum. This was Burt's chance to run the entire operation as he wanted to.


JT in the bakery making bread

JT helping Burt in one of the new Target bakeries - circa 1962

JT and Mary in Duluth
After selling the business to Burt, JT and Mary moved first to Glen Lake, MN (western suburb) and then moved in into Edina, MN and spent more time with family. JT eventually moved into a senior living facility and died November 1, 1966. Mary lived alone for a few years after JT passed. She too, then moved into a senior facility and passed away on August 5, 1974.
JT Obitiuary

You can view some addition pictures of JT, Mary and family here.

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