History of Ralston Purina Co. and the Work of William H. Danforth and Donald E. Danforth, Protein Technologies International, and Solae with Soy (1894-2020)

William Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-26-7

Publication Date: 2020 Sept. 13

Number of References in Bibliography: 1091

Earliest Reference: 1894

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Ralston Purina Co.

1870 Sept. 10 – William Henry Danforth is born in Charleston, Mississippi County, Missouri, the 2nd child and eldest son (who survived childhood) of Albert Hampton Danforth (1842-1900) and Rebecca Hannah Lynn (1842-1913). He is one of 6 brothers and sisters.

1894 Jan. 8 – The Robinson-Danforth Commission Co. is incorporated in St. Louis, Missouri. The founders, William H. Danforth (lived 1870-1955), George Robinson, and William Andrews belong to the same church. The original capitalization is $12,000. The company begins by making horse and mule feed; their product is mixed with shovels on the floor of a back room.

1894 Oct. 25 – William Danforth is married to Miss Adda De Villers Bush in St. Louis, Missouri (St. Louis Globe-Democrat. 1894. Oct, 25, p. 7).

In the succeeding two years two children are born – Dorothy H. and Donald E. Danforth (Wayne Dawson. 2020. Family group record).

1896 March – Danforth becomes president of the company and on May 26 of that year he becomes the majority stockholder. The next day the mill is completely destroyed by the worst tornado in St. Louis' history.

“Will Danforth went to the bank and negotiated a loan solely on the strength of his determination to make good. From these beginnings grew the Ralston Purina Company, and the man William H. Danforth” (Ralston Purina Co. 1978. Oct. “William H. Danforth.” News release).

1897 – A certain Dr. Ralston has founded the Ralston Health Club and is promoting whole grain (especially whole-wheat) health foods and breakfast cereals. William Danforth asks if his company could make the cereal; Dr. Ralston said “Yes.” By June 1897 the Ralston Health Club Breakfast Food was being made by Purina Mills, St. Louis, Missouri (Slosson, E.E. 1897. Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 33. June. p. 76-77, 80).

1899 Dec. – Purina Mills advertises its Ralston Breakfast Food in Scribner’s Magazine in a full-page ad (p. 65).

1900 April – “In five minutes its cooked” reads the slogan for Ralston Breakfast Food in McClure’s Magazine, together with (for first time) the slogan “Where Purity is Paramount.” Soon many other companies, including those outside the food industry, would start to use this slogan.

1902 – Will Danforth contacts Dr. Ralston again to seek his endorsement for the Purina whole wheat cereal. Dr. Ralston agrees on the condition that his name be added to the company name. So in 1902 Danforth changes his company's name to Ralston Purina Co. (Gray. 1994, p. 22; Mix. 1995, p. 119-21).

1903 April – Ralston Purina Foods first uses the word “Checkerboard” in a full-page ad (in Smart Set).

“He remembered the children of a family in his boyhood who were always clothed from the same bolt of checkered gingham. The checkerboard shirt or dress quickly identified each member of the family, and Mr. Danforth thought it would work with the products he manufactured. The Purina Checkerboard has become one of the most famous and effective trademarks in American business (Ralston Purina Co. 1978. Oct. “William H. Danforth.” News release).

1904 – The St. Louis World's Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition is held at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 to commemorate the centennial of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory (in 1804). Ever the alert businessman, Will Danforth takes advantage of this by selling his cereal – “the most perfect whole wheat food ever made” – in an outside carrying bag covered with a checkerboard pattern, with the word “Ralston” written across the top of both sides. He even distributes posters titled “You Will Never Forget the World’s Fair and Your Ralston Box: Begin to Live – now!”

In volume 1 of a two-volume book on the fair, in the section titled "The Concessions," a full-page table (page 587) states the Ralston Purina Co. sold $17,263.10 of “Purina Foods” – breakfast cereals.

1909 – William H. Danforth and a group of friends in St. Louis revive the old custom of meeting to sing Christmas carols. They do this for the sheer pleasure of singing and of bringing Christmas songs to others. There is no particular plan or organization. The group of carolers grows each year, and they find themselves the recipients of many gifts, wholly unsolicited. Such gifts are turned over to the Children's Aid Society. Then in 1924, the Christmas Carols Association is formed and the Danforth genius for organizing is applied. Up to the time of his death he had been the Association's only president (Ralston Purina Co. 1978. Oct. “William H. Danforth.” News release).

1917-1918 – “During the First World War, Mr. Danforth served with the Third Division, American Expeditionary Forces. His keen sense of sales promotion, which characterized his entire business life, followed him to the battlefields of France as he observed the enthusiastic connotation that the word 'chow' brought to soldiers in the field. Rations labeled 'chows' seemed to out-taste and out-satisfy just plain food, so when he returned to his business after the war, he applied the name 'Chow' to all livestock and poultry feeds which his company manufactured. Thus came into being the famous 'Purina Chows.' (Ralston Purina Co. 1978. Oct. “William H. Danforth.” News release).

1926 – Ralston Purina Co. establishes a 712-acre research farm at Gray Summit (43 miles southwest of St. Louis), Missouri to test, under real-life conditions, the effectiveness of its various scientifically-formulated livestock, pet, and poultry feeds.

Those who attend the American Soybean Association's 26th Annual Convention, held in St, Louis, visit the farm on 31 Aug. 1946. This farm is “conducted like any modern American farm. The farm and laboratories are staffed by almost 200 scientifically trained and practical research workers... Over 3,000 head of livestock and 45,000 poultry are handled annually” (Soybean Digest. 1946. July, p. 8-10).

Purina research work with soybean oil [meal] dates back to when this meal had to be imported from Manchuria. When the value of soybean oil meal was proven, the company began to establish soybean processing plants in different sections of the United States (Chemurgic Digest. 1946. Oct, 31, p. 347-49).

1929 Oct. 29 – U.S. stock market crash heralds the Great Depression, which lasts until about 1942.

1930 Oct. – Ralston Purina first starts crushing soybeans and using them in its livestock and poultry Chows at 804 North Fourth St., Lafayette, Indiana. In Sept., it begins advertising locally for soybeans (Journal and Courier {Lafayette, Indiana}. Sept. 22. p. 15; Sept. 26, p. 15). By July 1933, it enlarges and modernizes this plant (Journal and Courier, July 13, p. 1, 13; Oct. 29, p. 19), which is in operation by 17 Jan. 1934.

1931 – William H. Danforth writes I Dare You, which he has printed privately for personal friends and daring youth. His plan of four-fold personal development, which became the famous checkerboard logo, was think tall, smile tall, live tall, and stand tall.

1932 – William H. Danforth names his son, Donald, president – in charge of running the company from day to day – and himself chairman of the board. By 1948 Donald has increased company sales tenfold since taking office (Fortune. 1948).

1933 Oct. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in St. Louis, Missouri – “in the heart of America’s greatest soybean growing area.” It will keep the meal and sell the oil (St. Louis Globe-Democrat. 1933. June 28, p. 17; Republican Tribune {Union, Missouri}. Nov. 24, p. 7).

1935 Jan. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Circleville, Ohio. “Two expellers to begin operation Jan. 15 have capacity of 1,200 bushels daily.” Ralston Purina expects to crush 300,000 bushels of soybeans in 1935 (Circleville, Herald. 1934. Dec. p. 1).

1936 Sept – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in St. Osceola, Arkansas. (Courier News. June 3. p. 1).

1938 Sept. – In a full-page ad, Purina Mills claims to be “the largest user of soy bean oilmeal” in the USA. "Our twenty-two plants require the meal from over 3,000,000 bushels of soybeans annually to make Purina Chows”(Proceedings of the American Soybean Association. Rear cover).

1942 Dec. 1 – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Iowa Falls, Iowa (Soybean Digest. 1943. Jan.).

1945 June. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Kansas City, Missouri (Soybean Digest. 1945. June 14).

1947 – Ralston Purina is now operating six crushing plants. All are using expellers rather than solvent extraction.

1949 July – Ralston first begins using solvent extraction when crushing soybeans. It does this at its plants in Iowa Falls, Iowa (Soybean Digest. p. 44).

1949 Aug. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Bloomington, Illinois (Pantagraph {Bloomington. Illinois}. 1948. June 15; Soybean Digest. 1948. July, p. 32).

1952 March – Ralston announces that it will add two soybean solvent extraction plants, one at Kansas City and one at Decatur, Illinois. The latter is in conjunction with the new Shellabarger mill which Ralston has just purchased (Soybean Digest. p. 26)

1953 Sept. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Decatur, Illinois (Decatur Daily Review).

1955 Dec. 24 – William H. Danforth, founder and a noted philanthropist, dies at his home in St. Louis, at age 85 of a heart attack. His son, Donald, succeeds him as chairman of the board (St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Dec. 25, p. 1, 4; 1956. Jan. 4. p. 15; Soybean Digest. 1960. Dec. p. 12).

“The Ralston Purina Company, which Mr. Danforth founded, has over 60 manufacturing plants in the United States, Canada, Central and South America and Europe. The company is the world's largest manufacturer of balanced rations for livestock and poultry. It is a major manufacturer of breakfast cereals, and one of the hundred largest corporations of America. Mr. Danforth was also a director of several large corporations. But his work with and for American youth was the source of his greatest satisfaction” (Ralston Purina Co. 1978. Oct. “William H. Danforth.” News release).

1956 – “Ralston introduced Purina Dog Chow which becomes the market leader in just over a year. Purina Cat Chow followed in 1962 and was also successful” (Gray 1994, p. 101).

1958 Dec.– Ralston Purina becomes involved with isolated soy proteins through the acquisition of four soybean processing plants from Procter & Gamble (Buckeye Division) (Susan W. Vorih. 1993. Personal communication).

1958 Dec. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Louisville, Kentucky (State Times {Jackson, Mississippi} 1958. Nov. 4).

1958 Dec. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Memphis (Binghampton) Tennessee (State Times {Jackson, Mississippi} 1958. Nov. 4).

1958 Dec. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in New Madrid, Missouri (State Times {Jackson, Mississippi} 1958. Nov. 4).

1958 Dec. – Ralston starts crushing soybeans in Raleigh, North Carolina (State Times {Jackson, Mississippi} 1958. Nov. 4).

1959 June – Ralston starts to make ProCote, industrial soy protein for coating paper, at its plant in Louisville, Kentucky (Susan W. Vorih. 1993. Personal communication).

1959 late – Ralston Purina began research on food-grade isolates starting in late 1959 under the direction of Mr. Bill Brew in St. Louis. Many consultants were paid for information. Pilot plant work was also performed in St. Louis prior to first contacts with Mr. Bob Boyer. Mr. Boyer was a spun protein specialist… Ralston Purina began more active involvement with food-grade isolated soy proteins in 1960 when the company started food-grade isolated soy protein research and pilot plant work at its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. A semi-works plant to produce edible soy proteins was erected in 1961 at Louisville, and both spray-dried and spun fiber proteins began to be produced and sold in October 1962. The spray-dried edible isolates, brand-named Edi-Pro A and Edi-Pro N, were sold to food processors (Susan W. Vorih. 1993. Personal communication).

1960 March – By this date Ralston Purina is using solvent extraction at its plants in Bloomington and Decatur, Illinois; Iowa Falls, Iowa; and Kansas City, Missouri (Soybean Blue Book. 1960. p. 56-74).

1961 – Ralston Purina makes its first edible soy protein product, a soy protein isolate (Dave Stone. 1982. Jan 13. Personal communication). However others give the date as 1960 and “after 1962” (F. Calvert. 1984. Feb. 19. Personal communication).

1961 – Protein Technologies International dates its origin from this year. “Since its start in 1961, the business has evolved from a small, food-grade soy isolate facility in Louisville, Kentucky, to an international supplier of protein, polymer, and fiber products with offices worldwide” (Oil Mill Gazetteer. 1987. Oct.)

1962 – Robert Boyer joins the research staff of Ralston Purina as a Protein Scientist; he continues to work there until his retirement in 1971 (Cereal Foods World. 1976. July. p. 297-98).

1962 Oct. – Ralston Purina Co., Special Soy Products Dept. starts to make Textured Edi-Pro (Spun Soy Protein Fibers) at its plant in Louisville, Kentucky (Dave Stone. 1982. Jan 13. Personal communication).

1963 Sept. - Mr. Frank Calvert was hired to head up Ralston Purina's R&D work on food-grade isolated soy protein in St. Louis. Calvert received a BS degree in chemistry from the Edison Institute of Technology while working at the Ford Motor Co. [with Robert Boyer] in Dearborn, Michigan. In 1965 Calvert was named director of soybean research, and in 1967 director of research of the Protein Division. In 1969 Calvert was promoted to director of research, New Venture Management, and finally in 1971 vice president and research director, New Venture Management. During these years, Calvert developed new soy protein isolation processes, 70 percent soy protein concentrate products, and modified soy protein coating compositions for industrial use. Calvert is considered a visionary in soy protein research and the accomplishments of his career were honored when the Protein Technologies International plant at Memphis was dedicated to him in 1973 in recognition of his years of service and dedication to protein technology (Susan W. Vorih. 1993. Personal communication).

1963 – Donald Danforth retires; Raymond E. Rowland is named Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer (The Ralston Chronicle. 1894. Inside front cover).

1966 Oct. Ralston Purina first starts to sell Supro 610 – the first of its many Supro soy protein products (Susan W. Vorih. 1993. Personal communication).

1966 – Ralston Purina achieves its first $1 billion sales year (The Ralston Chronicle. 1894. ifc).

1966 – Ralston Purina Co., Special Soy Products Dept. starts to make Pur-A-Lec Lecithins (Standard Plastic and Fluid Grades; Bleached and Unbleached) (Soybean Blue Book. 1966. p. 106).

1968 – R. Hal Dean is named Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer; he retired in 1981 (The Ralston Chronicle. 1994. Inside front cover).

1970 – Ralston opens Purina Protein Europe, in Brussels. This was a sales and marketing office that imported Ralston Purina products from the U.S. It is still going great (Dave Stone. 1982. Jan 13. Personal communication).

1970 – The 'Protein Project' became part of the New Ventures Group of Ralston Purina; the Project was headed by Paul H. Hatfield. Included in this early business development team were Dr. D.H. Waggle, R&D; Mr. Henry T. James, Director of Engineering, now retired; and B.P. Schwartz, Manufacturing. This team, working as a multi-functional and multi-disciplined team, emphasized process reliability, superior quality and performance products, combined with a worldwide perspective of market development (Susan W. Vorih. 1993. Personal communication).

1973 July 14 – Donald Danforth, retired chairman of the Ralston-Purina board, dies at age 74. Under Donald’s leadership and vision, the company had thrived financially, even during the Great Depression (St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 1973. July 15. p. 3A).

1974 July – Fuji Purina Protein Ltd., a joint venture of Fuji Oil Co and Ralston Purina Co. is established in Osaka, Japan to make edible soy protein isolates in Japan. The firm, to be equally owned by both companies, will have a plant with a capacity of 200 metric tons per month (Lincoln Star Journal, 1974. July 31, p. 28).

As of 1982, this joint venture is still in operation (Dave Stone. 1982. Jan 13. Personal communication).

1976 Dec. – Ralston Purina’s Protein Division opens the world’s largest soy protein isolate plant in Pryor, Oklahoma at a cost of $15 million. The production capacity is highly confidential, however it can be said that the new plant doubles the combined capacity of Ralston's two existing isolate plants in Memphis, Tennessee (opened in June 1973), and Louisville, Kentucky. Japan. Nine different soy protein isolates, each with different functional properties, will be produced in the new plant: Edi-Pro A, Edi-Pro N, Supro HD-90, Supro 350, Supro 610, Supro 620, Supro 630, Supro 640, and Supro 710. A description of the properties of each is given. Some will be exported to Fuji Purina Ltd. in Japan (Food Engineering. 1977. Jan, p. 68-69).

1978 May 22-25 –Ralston Purina expresses its deepening interest in soy protein nutrition by hosting the Keystone Conference on Soy Protein and Human Nutrition at the famous Keystone ski resort in Keystone, Colorado. The event brought together the top researchers in the field (Wilcke et al. 1979).

1979 Jan. – Ralston Purina’s new isolated soy protein begins operations in Ypres / Ieper, Belgium. Said to be of its kind in Europe, it was built at a cost of 10 million British pounds (£10 million) pounds by Ralston Purina Europe, a company started by Ralston Purina in 1972 to help them enter the European market. The isolate is available in 9 different forms (Food Manufacture {London}. p. 61-62).

1979Soy Protein and Human Nutrition, edited by Harold L. Wilcke, Daniel T. Hopkins, and Doyle H. Waggle is published by Academic Press (New York, NY; xiv + 406 p.) It contains the Proceedings of the Keystone Conference held in Keystone, Colorado, May 22-25, 1978. The conclusions presented in this book are:

“(1) isolated soy protein, when measured by human nutritional studies, is comparable in protein quality to other high-quality protein sources such as meat, milk and eggs;

"(2) due to its quality, latest information shows that properly processed isolated soy protein is a protein source that can be used in a wide variety of food applications such as infant foods, processed foods, and other modern food products; and

"(3) conventional methods of measuring protein quality for human nutrition are not adequate, and the protein quality of isolated soy protein is underestimated by the conventional and official methods for measuring protein quality."

1980 – Ralston Purina is the fifth largest soybean crusher in the USA and the world’s largest manufacturer of isolated soy proteins.

1980 – Soy protein products are approved for use as a beef extender by the U.S. Armed Forces.

1981 Feb. 13 – In Louisville, Kentucky, a series of early morning explosions in the city's sewers sent manhole covers flying and left huge craters in streets. A hexane leak in Ralston Purina’s Louisville plant is found to be the culprit. Purina decides to sell six of its soybean processing plants to Cargill; a 7th at Memphis, Tennessee was closed. This removes the company from soybean commodity processing. With this transaction Cargill passes ADM to become America’s largest soybean crusher (Journal-Courier {Louisville, Kentucky}. 1981. Feb. 14. p. 1-2; C.L. Kingsbaker. 1985. June 17).

This event leads the company to gradually think about getting out of low-margin commodity businesses and into higher-margin consumer products.

1981 – R. Hal Dean retires (The Ralston Chronicle. 1994. Inside front cover).

1981 July – William P. Stiritz is named CEO (The Ralston Chronicle. 1994. Inside front cover).

1982 Jan. – William P. Stiritz is named Chairman of the Board (The Ralston Chronicle. 1994. Inside front cover).

1983 – Use of isolated soy protein in foods in the National School Lunch Program is approved by the USDA. Practically this means extending ground meat (as in hamburgers) to lower the cost and fat, and to increase the protein – with no change in flavor.

1985 – In his letter to shareholders, CEO Stiritz writes: The "sale of our soybean processing [crushing] operations in January removed the Company from a commodities business and freed cash for other investment…”

Page 12: “Protein Technologies completed construction and start-up of a self-contained market development unit in Memphis, Tennessee, to permit rapid scale-up and marketing of new and improved isolated soy protein products.” Sales of soy protein products were: $144.3 million in 1983, $154.3 million in 1984, and $126.4 million in 1985 (Annual Report to Shareholders 1985. Pages 12, 20).

1986 – Ralston Purina starts to make and sell Fibrim (Soy Fiber from Processing Isolated Soy Proteins) (Oil Mill Gazetteer. 1987. Oct.).

1986 July – The Protein Division of the Ralston Purina Co. starts to publish Nutrition Overview, a glossy scientific newsletter mostly about soy protein nutrition.

1986 Oct. – Ralston sells the Purina Mills animal feed business – its earliest, basic business – resulting in an after-tax gain of $209.3 million (Annual Report to Shareholders. 1987).

1987 July 1 – Ralston Purina Co. spins off Protein Technologies International (PTI) as a wholly-owned subsidiary to focus on sales of soy protein for food uses. Paul H. Hatfield is president. The company's sales of soy protein products were $139.8 million in 1986; $157.1 million in 1987; and $182.0 million in 1988. By April 1988 PTI offered 20 different isolated soy protein products (Annual Report to Shareholders. 1987. p. 8, 15).

1994 Feb. 3 – Ralston Purina celebrates its 100th anniversary at the Annual Shareholders Meeting in St. Louis (The Ralston Chronicle. 1994. Inside front cover).

1997 Dec. 3 – Protein Technologies International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ralston Purina Co., is acquired by DuPont for $1.554 billion comprised of DuPont common stock and the assumption of certain liabilities (Annual Report to Shareholders. 1997 (p. 1-2).

1998 May 4 – Protein Technologies International (PTI) of St. Louis, Missouri, submits a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a heart-health claim for soy protein (Federal Register. 1998. Nov. 10).

1999 Oct. 26 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a heart health claim for soy protein. This health claim, to be used on food labels and in food labeling, states that consumption of 25 grams of soy protein per day may reduce one’s reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

This sets the stage for the introduction of new, great-tasting soy protein products (SuproVision. 1999. Dec.).

2001 Aug. 9 – The word “Solae” is first used as a brand name for DuPont’s new isolated soy proteins (Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 35).

2001 Dec. 12 – “Nestle acquires Ralston Purina, creating Nestle Purina PetCare and helping to expand the availability of Purina products to pets and pet owners all over the world” (www.purina.com/about-purina).

Ralston Purina Co. ceases to exist.

2003 March – DuPont and Bunge form an agriculture, nutrition joint venture named Solae, LLC (Oils & Fats International. 2003. 19(2):2).

2003 June 25 – DuPont announces that it will move its Agriculture and Nutrition Group headquarters to Des Moines, Iowa, from Wilmington, Delaware. This group includes DuPont Nutrition & Health, which includes The Solae Co. (Des Moines Register, June 26, p. 35).

2005 Feb. 12 – The Solae Company unveils a new corporate tagline – “Better Ingredients for Better Living”™. (Business Wire).

2007 – Solae announces a collaboration with Monsanto Co. to develop products containing omega-3 fatty acids.

2011 May 16 – DuPont acquires Danisco, a food and ingredients company from Denmark (News Journal {Wilmington, Delaware}. May 17. p. 6)

2012 May 1 – The Solae Co. announces that DuPont has acquired Bunge’s 28% share, thus taking full ownership of the company. DuPont then began the process of integrating Solae into Danisco (Wikipedia entry for Solae; (News Journal {Wilmington, Delaware}. May 2. p. A10, A12).

2015 – DuPont changes the name of Solae to DuPont Nutrition & Health. The current president is Matthias Heinzel (Food Business News. 2014. Dec. 5).

2017 Aug. 31 – Dow and DuPont merge to form DowDuPont (Web article).

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Ralston Purina Co. and the Work of William H. Danforth and Donald E. Danforth, Protein Technologies International, and Solae with Soy (1894-2020)