Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 106

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 106


This is the grave of Charles Pillsbury.

Born in New Hampshire in 1842, Pillsbury graduated from Dartmouth in 1863. Rather than fight in the Civil War, Pillsbury moved to Quebec, where he worked for the next 6 years as a clerk and then as a partner in a mercantile firm. A lot of Midwestern grain was processed in Quebec so he figured he would have some opportunities there and moved to Minneapolis in 1869. He worked for his uncle in flour milling for awhile and was thinking about how he could improve upon it. He did so by transforming the technology to become more efficient and producing a high quality flour. He started the Pillsbury Corporation in 1872 and soon became the nation’s largest flour producer. It also significantly changed the agricultural economy of the northern states by creating a strong market for its spring wheat, which was before this a secondary production to southern winter wheat. He traveled to Europe to see the largest flour mills there and reproduced them in Minneapolis. He produced ever larger and more efficient mills and began selling his wheat around the world. Now wealthy, he ran for the Minnesota state senator in 1878 and won, serving until 1897. It helped that his uncle was governor as he rose. He became chair of the Finance Committee and was a typical Gilded Age capitalist who used politics to promote his own business interests. He sold the controlling interest in his mills to a large British company in 1889 but remained in control of them.

Pillsbury died of a bad heart in 1899.

Pillsbury did produce specific Pillsbury products, but the modern ubiquity of Pillsbury as a brand of baked cake mixes and the like originated mostly in the 1950s. The Pillsbury Doughboy originated in 1965. The name is probably far more famous today than it was during Pillsbury’s life, although he certainly became wealthy enough at the time.

Charles Pillsbury is buried in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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  • keinsignal

    I think Tiny Tim’s buried in that same graveyard.

    • hickes01

      Also Hubert Humphrey and my mother.

      • Erik Loomis

        Already done Hubert in this series. Not sure about your mom

        • keta

          I think hickes01 just admitted Hubert did his mom.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Well, of course he did! He found her standing on a corner yelling, “HUMPHREY! HUMPHREY!”

            (Egads, I never that that stupid old joke would crawl out of my brainswamp again. Now where did I put my car keys?)

      • Paul Chillman

        Paul Wellstone too.

  • randomworker

    I had always thought I wanted to be buried in Lakewood. But now…just burn me up and put the ashes somewhere. It’s a nice cemetery in a great in-town location.

    Lot of Pillsbury stuff in Minneapolis. Pillsbury Ave. Mansion. Etc. The big mills are still there. The company is all broken up now. General Mills has most of it, I think.

    • majeff

      But now…just burn me up and put the ashes somewhere.

      I’ve moved in the direction of, “turn me into one of those tree things” or some such. Ash would be ok, but plant food seems appropriate.

      • Erik Loomis

        I feel like I have to have a grave now, just out of principle.

        • David Allan Poe

          Make sure to photograph it and write an accompanying essay to be published here on the day of your death.

        • firefall

          Erik: Green burial – pine box, no embalming fluid, shallow burial, no concrete box to put the pine box in. Shallow burial means everything gets recycled easily, not stuck in dead earth. No ugly chemicals to poison the ground.

        • randomworker

          Robot P49D4X visits an American Grave – Erik Loomis.

    • Paul Chillman

      I had the same thought, mainly because I grew up nearby and spent a lot of time in the adjacent bird sanctuary. Seems a little upscale to me now though.

  • ThresherK

    Okay, I can’t be the only one who wants to poke that tummy.

  • DN Nation

    Born in New Hampshire in 1842, Pillsbury sought out to have his tinned biscuit dough be the integral component to every recipe video on Facebook.


  • keta

    I woulda’ thought the grave site would be covered in flours. I mean, the guy made a lot of dough in his lifetime, and became a real roll model, exactly the sort America kneads more of.

    • Erik Loomis

      That is a sheaf of wheat on it

    • Captain_Subtext

      Is there an eye roll response in Disqus?

  • I wonder how his uncle ended up in MN too when he was born in NH.

    • Erik Loomis

      I don’t know, but it’s far from uncommon in the 19th century.

      • Eh, never mind. I missed (definitely didn’t forget) the beginning of the post when I got to the end. I think I’ll blame it on the font size.

    • ploeg

      Opportunities were pretty scarce for those who grew up on the rock farms in northern New England. You either went to the cities on the east coast, or you moved to the vast interior to find your fortune. The Washburns (General Mills) were the same way. Certainly the idea of having the power of the Mississippi River driving your mill was attractive to ambitious folk.

    • LeeEsq

      Horse and wagon or railroad most likely. Maybe some foot and river boat travel was involved.

  • Dennis Orphen
  • Thomas W

    The Chicago Daily Tribune’s obituary appears to have been written by a 7th grader:

    Pillsbury was a man of buoyant spirits. He had robust health until a year or two ago. The trip he took to Europe last winter was to recuperate his health. His large fortune was liberally used In the promotion of public interests and distributed In the channels of charity. He was long a trustee of Plymouth Congregational Church, a constant attendant at worship, and a liberal supporter of mission enterprises.

    Far more interesting is the article “Unionists Kill Negro Miners.”


  • Latverian Diplomat

    The mill city museum is pretty cool…and a lovely location on the Minneapolis riverfront:


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