Orange Meat: Introducing Mr. Wegner and Mr. Bordeau

Michael Peters Orange Meat

When we last left the Frontenac Cereal Company, it was 1902. 

The committee of local interests had added one American, Mr. H.E. Pryor in 1902 (discussed in a previous post here).

The next signs that the company had found the additional expertise it needed to retool the existing mill and elevator complex at the bottom of Gore Street into a modern cereal manufacturing plant began to surface at the end of 1902 and early 1903. 

The June 13 1903 edition of the Daily British Whig introduces us to the new President of the Frontenac Cereal Company: Mr. F.A. (Fred) Wegner.

Wegner, president of the new company occupies a similar position at the Standard Pure Food company, whose mill at Detroit is at present the model in America. All the machinery therein was designed by Mr. Wegner, who holds the patents. Improvements have since been made on this machinery, bringing it as near perfection as possible, and it is this improved machinery which it is intended to install here, so that foodstuffs may be manufactured here better than any that has yet been placed on the market.

A couple of weeks later, the June 24 1903 edition provides a lengthy and detailed update on the retooling of the plant:

This machinery is the invention of F.A. Wegner, president of the Frontenac Cereal company, limited, and is fully protected by late patents. Mr. Wegner comes here to personally supervise the erection of the machinery, accompanied by experts of international reputation in the manufacture of cereal foods, and intends on making this plant the model of all food manufacturing companies. 

We can confirm that Wegner held a range of patents at this time. Many of his earlier inventions have little to do with cereal manufacturing. 

However, around the time that Frontenac Cereal Company was forming, he did hold patents for cereal manufacturing equipment both in Canada and the United States- albeit always with another interesting character, one with more claim to being an "expert of international reputation in the manufacture of cereal fools"  than Wegner himself: J.D. (Jesse) Bordeau, from Battle Creek, Michigan. 

Wegner and Bordeau Cereal Production Apparatus Patents

So, it is somewhat unsurprising when an October 1903 update from The Canadian Grocer includes Mr. Bordeau as part of the new organization. 

The president of the company is F. A. Wegner, of The Standard Pure Food Co.. of Detroit. Mr. Wegner, has, however, taken up his residence in Kingston. Mr. M. Mooers is the secretary-treasurer and Mr. H. E. Pryor, 43 Scott Street, Toronto, is manager of the selling department. Associated with the company as mechanical manager of the factory is Mr. J. D. Bordeau, who is credited with being the originator of package foods at Battle Creek, Michigan.

There is a lot of information to unpack here. Let's start with the familiar names. 

"Mr. M Mooers" seems to be an error on the Grocer's part - they are referring to either Henry Mooers, who is referred to in the Whig as the vice-president of Frontenac or his son Edwin, who also maintained a role in the day-to-day management of the company. As the original owners of the mill and elevator, the Mooers family was heavily invested in the new venture.

As for Mr. H.E. Pryor - the Grocer confirms what we had noted previously - he maintains a Toronto office and is primarily responsible for the sales department. 

Which returns us to Mr.Wegner and Mr. Bordeau. 

The press had their basic facts correct. Mr. F.A. (Fred) Wegner was associated with The Standard Pure Food Co. of Detroit. Multiple sources confirm he was a significant stockholder. It was a well-known company dealing in prepared foods, including cereals, biscuits, and crackers. He may have taken up residence in Kingston in the early days of Frontenac, but we know that he eventually settled in a large home in Brockville, Ontario.

Mr. J.D.(Jesse) Bordeau was a former engineer in the Battle Creek Sanitarium under John Kellogg. I can't find anything that suggests he was the "originator of package foods". However, it seems like he was one of the first to leave the Sanitarium to pursue other opportunities, and was involved in numerous other cereal company "start-ups" (as we might describe them today.) 

Bordeau had been making his living for a number of years with the expertise he gained working in Dr. Kellogg's Sanitarium (which we discussed in a previous post).

Bordeau Flakes (1902)

He took Kellogg's process, made some minor refinements of his own (essentially, the addition of malt flavor), and then patented them for himself. His technology was behind one of the best-selling brands of the time, "Malta Vita". He had his own cereal brand in Battle Creek called "Bordeau Flakes" and other sorts of licensing schemes with other entrepreneurs, with varying degrees of success, and shades of ethical and legal legitimacy.

Mr. Bordeau was also heavily involved with Standard Pure Food Co. and later described himself in an affidavit as a "longtime business partner" of Mr. Wegner. 

So, the press gets it mainly correct - these were two significant American players to land in Kingston to join the fledgling Frontenac Cereal Company. Even on the surface - it is a big story.

But having the benefit of the internet, including complete newspaper archives and court documents from both sides of the border - we can have a much more complete picture of their lives than could have been widely known at the time.

Windsor Star (May 26, 1903)

For example, early in 1903, their names appear together in the formation of another Canadian company called the Cereal Machinery and Production Co. Canada Ltd., in Windsor Ontario.

Various reports confirm that Frontenac's machinery was actually being manufactured just across the border in Detroit. Given the timing, it is possible that the company was created specifically so Wegner and Bordeau could position themselves as middlemen, working as both buyers and sellers as the Kingston facilities were set up. Whatever the full explanation, they clearly had other designs in mind beyond the Frontenac Cereal Company.

Some of their other adventures would be revealed to residents during their time in Kingston, in the form of very public personal scandals, business failures, court battles, and arrests, which we will continue to explore in subsequent posts. 

For now, returning to the June 24, 1903, Whig article, it seems that Frontenac Cereal Company was now relying heavily on the expertise of Wegner and his associates. "Under Mr. Wegners's skillful management, ably seconded by the most capable and experienced men of his selection, the success of the business is beyond any doubt."

On that last count, the Whig definitely had it wrong. 

It is difficult to really know what role Wegner and Bordeau one may have played in the eventual collapse of Frontenac Cereal Company itself, even while Orange Meat Cereal remained a huge national sensation.

Stay tuned for more!

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