Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 12:00 am
The 19th century witnessed America’s transformation from a rural, agrarian economy and culture into a restless, 20th century industrial giant and imperial power. Large 19th and early 20th century firms were publicly identified with the men who founded them or guided their early growth — Ford and his auto, Edison and his light bulb, Carnegie and Rockefeller in steel and oil. Every manufactured product, from hairpins to train rails, was ripe for mass production. Even grain, the staff of life, became the basis for immense milling and cereal fortunes like Pillsbury and Post. Salt, among the lowliest, but most important foods, used in cooking, preserving and flavoring, was the basis for one of these great 19th century fortunes, still associated with its founder’s name — Morton.