A Hero of Bread

March 23, 2021

How a Black man revolutionized bread baking.

Ordinarily I dislike blog posts that consist of little more than “Look at this neat thing I just read.” But I just read something so neat that I feel I have no choice.

It’s an article in Forbes, a brief bio of a food industry hero I had never heard of: Joseph Lee, the inventor of automatic bread dough kneading. Lee was a successful restaurateur and caterer in the Boston area around the turn of the 20th century. He invented the kneading machine to keep his business supplied with bread. Lee’s machine allowed bakers to get 60 pounds more bread from a barrel of flour than they could with hand kneading. It was so successful that he literally had to invent another machine to make breadcrumbs out of the leftover loaves.

Unlike many Black inventors of that day, Lee was able to get his inventions patented so that he and his descendants could enjoy the rewards of his ingenuity. Forbes reporter Brianne Garrett does a masterful job of laying out Lee’s life and career. I urge you to read her article as soon as you get the chance.

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