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Crescent Manufacturing Company

HistoryLink.org Essay 2006 : Printer-Friendly Format

Crescent Foods Inc. is a Seattle-based spice and seasoning firm which began in 1883 -- under the name Crescent Manufacturing Company -- as a small supplier of vanilla extract. After the discovery of gold on the Klondike River in Canada in 1897, the company expanded rapidly by selling a spice-and-preservation packet popular with the gold rushers. In 1905, Crescent struck gold itself when a company chemist and salesman concocted an imitation maple flavoring dubbed Mapleine. Mapleine won a worldwide market and dramatically expanded Crescent's scope.

A key figure in the company's history was D. K. "Don" Weaver, whose uncles (the Kahle brothers) bought the firm a few months before the beginning of the Klondike gold rush. Weaver began working part-time for his uncles while he was still a student at the University of Washington, eventually moving into a full-time position and gaining experience in all aspects of the business. He gradually worked his way up the company ladder until, in 1948, he was named president.

Mapleine was the company's signature product for much of the twentieth century. Cash-strapped housewives used it as a substitute for maple syrup during the Depression of the 1930s, and it remained popular with cooks and bakers for decades. It was also used as a flavoring agent in commercial cigarette manufacturing. Crescent promoted Mapleine and other products by publishing small cookbooks, with titles such as Mapleine Dainties: How to Make Them, A Guide to Spices: How to Buy Them, Store Them, Use Them, and Pickles and Relishes.

Pre-measured Nuts

During his first years as president, Weaver set about rebuilding and restructuring the company. He first consolidated the marketing and distribution functions of the Mapleine Division, which had been carried on from half-a-dozen branches across the country. He also eliminated direct door-to-door sales to grocery stores and restaurants in favor of a jobber distribution system.

His business decisions brought Crescent into the 1950s as a prosperous company ready to move ahead. In 1957, Crescent bought out Gold Shield Coffee and its line of nuts. Crescent increased nut sales by realizing that cooks used recipes that called for nuts in measuring-cup amounts. The company repackaged the nuts in various corresponding weights. This proved to be one of the most successful marketing experiments the company had ever undertaken.

Don Weaver retired as president in 1986. Three years later, the company was sold to McCormick & Company, Inc., based in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1990, Crescent Foods consolidated its three Seattle-area facilities (including a factory, laboratory, and warehouse) into one 105,000-square-foot space in a Kent office park. McCormick continues to distribute what is now called Crescent Mapleine, but on a limited basis.

Sources:
"A Century of Business," Puget Sound Business Journal, September 17, 1999; Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound Hall of Fame Series; Lonanne Denne, "Crescent Foods Will Add Spice to Kent with New Factory, Lab," Puget Sound Business Journal, August 27, 1990, p. 2; "McCormick History," McCormick & Company Website accessed on September 13, 2004 (http://www2.mccormick.com/mccormickhome.nsf/McCormick+History?OpenView).
Note: This essay was updated on September 13, 2004.


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Crescent Mfg. Co., 93 Yesler Way, Seattle, 1916
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives


Magazine Ad for Mapleine, 1909
Courtesy Coast Magazine


Employees at Crescent Mfg. Co, Seattle, 1920
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives


Mapleine Ad, 1950s



 
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