User Tools

Site Tools


Quaker Oats

The lawsuit

In 1998, the Quaker Oats Company and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology settled a $1.85 million lawsuit over an experiment conducted in the 1940s and 1950s. In this experiment, boys at the Fernald State School in Waltham, Massachusetts were fed oatmeal containing radioactive iron and calcium to study how the digestive system absorbs these substances. The plaintiffs in the court case claimed their civil rights were violated, as neither they nor their parents were informed that the oatmeal would be irradiated. M.I.T. officials claimed that the radiation caused no health problems and was not dangerous. 1)

The Oat King

For many Americans in the 1850s, oats were considered food for livestock - not fit for human consumption. Ferdinand Schumacher set out to change this perception in 1856, opening the American German Mills oatmeal factory in Akron, Ohio. Schumacher was successful both because of the inexpensive nature of grinding oats and the strong support from Irish and German immigrants who were already accustomed to eating oats. His success led to the memorable nickname “The Oat King” and he quickly began to attract local competitors. 2)

Henry Parsons Crowell

One of Schumacher's main competitors was Henry Parsons Crowell, who owned the Quaker Oat Mill in nearby Ravenna, Ohio. Crowell was the first retailer to trademark a cereal product and registered the brand name and symbol “Quaker” in 1877. Neither Crowell nor the brand had any connection to the Quaker religious sect, but the iconic traditional character was intended to represent “good quality and honest value.” 3)

Joined forces

After years of murderous rivalry, in 1888 Schumacher and Crowell joined forces with five other Midwestern cereal tycoons, including John Stuart and George Douglas, to form the American Cereal Company. Schumacher served as the company's first president and named Crowell vice president. Despite the alliance, the businessmen continued to fight for control of the organization into the 1890s, eventually winning over Crowell. The renamed Quaker Oats Company was announced in 1901 with initial sales of $16 million. 4)


Although often said to be William Penn, a prominent Quaker, and founder of the state of Pennsylvania, the company maintains that their genial mascot does not represent any particular historical figure. Recalling Crowell's previous statements about the brand association, Quaker now says that their logo represents “honesty, integrity, purity, and strength.” Within the company, however, he is fondly referred to as Larry. 5)

quaker_oats.txt · Last modified: 2021/08/18 07:16 by aga