|Founder||Newman E. Drake|
Drake's Cakes is a brand of American baked goods. The company was founded by Newman E. Drake in 1896 in Harlem as The N.E. Drake Baking Company. Currently, the brand is owned by McKee Foods. The company makes snack cake products such as Devil Dogs, Funny Bones, Coffee Cakes, Ring Dings and Yodels. Drake's is marketed primarily in the Northeastern U.S. but in 2016 expanded to the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern U.S. regions. The products are produced under the Orthodox Union Kosher Certification guidelines.
Drake’s brand began as The N.E. Drake Baking Company. The company was incorporated on November 14, 1896 in New York City. The first bakery was in Harlem at 36 – 38 West 135th Street.
By March 1898, retailer ads featured Drake’s pound cakes by brand name in various flavors. The ads stated that the products were baked fresh daily and sold for 17 cents per pound. In 1900, retailer ads feature Drake’s layer cakes with chocolate or vanilla icing at 18 cents. One Drake’s ad touted that the price is half of what it would cost to make at home. By 1901, retailer ads referred to Drake’s “celebrated” pound cakes and included Drake’s macaroons.
The business was founded by Newman E. Drake. His youngest brother, Judson was working with him at the founding. His other brother, Charles may have been with him from the start, but can be confirmed to be with him in the later business in Brooklyn. Judson left the business in 1898 for the National Biscuit Company where he had a long and well regarded career in bakery management. Charles was a vice president for the Brooklyn business, but sold his interest and retired in 1907. At some point, all four of Newman’s sons worked in the business.
Newman Drake came into this entrepreneurial venture with experience in large scale commercial baking. In 1888, Newman joined Vanderveer & Holmes Biscuit Company, and by 1894 had become a salesman traveling internationally for this cracker business. In 1893-1894, while traveling in England on business, Newman observed commercially baked fine cakes sold in grocery stores and was inspired to bring the idea to America.
National Biscuit Company
In the 1890’s, the cracker industry consolidated in a multitiered fashion. In 1898, the three major players consolidated into one large enterprise, the National Biscuit Company, later known as Nabisco. As early as 1899, but definitively by November 1900, the National Biscuit Company had purchased the Drake bakery and referred to the bakery as the N.E. Drake Baking Co. Branch. Retailer ads show that the N.E. Drake’s Famous Loaf Cakes continued to sell under that brand name at least to December 30, 1902. The Drake Baking Company was dissolved in 1903, however National Biscuit Company continued to produce cakes and macaroons at the same Harlem bakery at least into 1908, but the products were under brand names other than Drake, for example Regina, Golden Glory, and Imperial. It is not known how Newman Drake was able to hold onto the Drake brand for later Drake baking enterprises, but National Biscuit Company moved onto other brand names.
Drake Brothers Company
On December 4, 1902, Drake reestablished his business as Drake Brothers Company with his brother Charles and his brother-in-law Frank S. Vreeland and by at least May 10, 1903, Drake was operating a bakery at 1006 Wallabout Market in Brooklyn, New York. Newman is president, his brother Charles is vice president, and sons John Harold and Walter are bakers. By 1904, Newman’s third son, Arthur, is working in the business as a salesman.
An article covering a Brooklyn food show in April 1904 indicated that Drake continued to produce pound cakes, macaroons, and other cakes at the Brooklyn bakery. The firm was noted as having been the first to have produced cakes in large quantities for grocery stores, which must reference the origins of the Harlem bakery. The new bakery was servicing over 1,000 stores in Brooklyn and extended “over a large portion of surrounding country.”
In 1904, Drake Brothers began sales recognition dinners that became grand affairs with speakers, guests, and monetary awards recognizing sales performance. A photograph of the fourteenth annual dinner in 1917, captures the grandeur of the event held at Silsbe and Son Oyster Bar and Chop House in Manhattan (established 1863), with attendees in suits, custom menus on the tables, tuxedoed wait staff, and lavish décor.
In 1905, Drake opened a bakery in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood at 83-85 Savin Street with J. Harold Drake, Newman’s son, as manager.
The Wallabout Market bakery expanded in 1909 with the addition into 1704-1705 Wallabout Market and the addition of a 16 foot oven. Also in 1909, Drake’s commissioned Drake’s Cake Walk, sheet music for a “rag” or “ragtime” music for piano.
In 1910, Newman Vanderveer Drake, Newman E. Drake’s youngest son, joined the firm in Wallabout Market.
In May 1913, Drake Brothers announced that they would build a new five story bakery built of brick and concrete on Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn on a lot 80 by 125 feet. The ovens were on the top floor to allow the heat to escape, mixing was on the fourth floor, packing was on the third floor, offices on the second floor, and shipping and receiving on the ground level as seen in photographs of the facility. The facility had a laundry to clean the white uniforms. There was a roof top garden that served as a break area.
Early Branding and Advertising
Drake Brothers was recognized in a leading advertising magazine of the day for branding and advertising efforts. With much of the product sold by the pound, the products were vulnerable to substitution by retailers. Drake implemented pan liners that were perforated with the Drake’s brand name so that the product could be identified by the end consumer. Drake’s advertised this feature. Drake also made wide use of the trademark on trucks, advertising, and “everything that leaves our bakery”.
Drake Bakeries, Inc.
On July 29, 1924 a new corporation was formed as Drake Bakeries, Incorporated. Ralph Ward became president of the company. Ralph Ward was the grandson of the founder of Ward Baking Company, a major bakery enterprise founded in 1849 that went on to be Continental Baking and introduce the Hostess brand, develop competitive products like Twinkies, and eventually after transitioning to Interstate Bakeries Corporation, own the Drake’s brand in 1998, 74 years later, after having made an unsuccessful attempt to gain the Drake’s brand in 1986.
The preferred shares of Drake Bakeries, Incorporated were owned by Bessemer Investment Company, the investment arm of the Bessemer Trust which was founded in 1907 by Henry Phipps from proceeds from the sale of Carnegie Steel, which Phipps founded with Andrew Carnegie. Newman E. Drake and other Drake family members, Ralph Ward and other Ward family investments, B. B. Vanderveer, and others were among the closely held group of common stockholders of Drake Bakeries.
In 1925, Drake Bakeries advertised with full page ads a new freshness policy where they would remove products from store shelves after 48 hours. The ad also featured recipes for three Drake’s products, highlighting to readers the wholesome ingredients used and how much easier it would be to buy the same product you would make at home from Drake. The ad also introduced the products in cartons, termed the “Fresh Cake” package.
In 1925, Drake’s began a series of collectable cards including two featuring Babe Ruth. These cards had brand information on the back. Drake’s baseball cards continued for decades.
One of the top sellers for Drake’s still today, Devil Dogs, was filed for trademark protection in 1926 and shown as first sold in commerce on June 15, 1926. The owner of the trademark was S. Gumpert Co., Inc. of Brooklyn.
Yankee Doodles, a chocolate cupcake with creme filling and no icing was first sold in interstate commerce in 1928 by the Yankee Cake Company of Providence, Rhode Island. The firm built a bakery around that time at 24 Althea Street in Providence. In 1936, Drake’s is running ads for Yankee Doodles under the Drake’s brand. Around 1937, Drake Bakeries was sharing the building with Yankee Cake Company and later became sole occupant. The “Old Formula Book” of Drake Bakeries from the late 1930’s to early 1940’s references the Providence bakery. The Yankee Cake Company was stated as a wholly owned subsidiary of Drake Bakeries in a 1941 article.
On August 28, 1928, Drake Bakeries was purchased by acquisition of common stock by Central Distributors, Inc. Central Distributors was formed March 9, 1928 by Ralph Ward, his cousin, William Ward, and Benjamin Titman as a holding company for food companies. Drake common shareholders received shares in Central Distributors, Inc. Newman E. Drake and Ralph Ward were signatories of documents related to the purchase.
Less than a year later, on August 8, 1929, The Borden Company purchased Central Distributors, Inc. for Borden stock, gaining control of Drake Bakeries, Inc. as it was a company held within Central Distributors, Inc. Ralph Ward became a Vice President within The Borden Company in October 1931 while continuing to serve as President of Drake Bakeries, Inc. without interruption.
1930's and 40's
Newman E. Drake, the founder of the business, died March 18, 1930 at 69 years old.
In December 1930, Drake’s Coffee Cakes, still one of the top selling products, came on the scene in newspaper advertisements that mentioned a radio broadcast that offered to share the recipe. The advertisement is another example of Drake’s forward stance promoting product quality. The ad is assumed to be the introduction of coffee cakes because the product is not listed in previous advertisements, even as late as 1929, that provide a listing of cake products.
On August 28, 1933, Drake Bakeries Incorporated is established at 2224 N. Marshall Street in Philadelphia. In 1941, in addition to the aforementioned Brooklyn, Boston, Irvington, NJ, and Providence, bakeries, the Philadelphia branch is noted as well as two distribution points in the Bronx and Jamaica (Queens) in an article. Photographs of delivery vehicles for the Philadelphia branch exist, but very little other information has been found regarding this bakery. By the Mid-1950’s, an order ticket showing the various Drake’s bakeries, does not include a Philadelphia bakery.
Drake’s participated in the 1939 New York World’s Fair (in Queens) with Drake’s Cake Stand providing cake to attendees.
During World War II, Drake’s production was limited due to rationing of sugar and shortening. Ralph Ward, president of the Drake Bakeries, Incorporated, was the president of the American Bakers Association (American Institute of Baking) in the 1942 – 1944 term and chairman of the War Advisory Committee of the American Bakers Association.
1950's and 60's
1980's and 90's
On July 1, 1986, Borden announced the sale of Drake Bakeries to Ralston Purina Co. to be part of their Continental Baking Co. subsidiary. Ralston Purina paid $115 million for Drake. Tasty Baking Co. filed a federal antitrust suit against Ralston in August 1986 and was successful with efforts to block Ralston’s Continental Baking subsidiary from holding the Drake’s brand along with its existing Hostess brand.
On July 13, 1987, Ralston Purina Co. announced its agreement to sell Drake Bakeries to a private group led by Drake management and funded by support from Rock Capital Partners L.P. Purina completed the sale of the Drake Bakery unit which was sold for $176 million on August 22, 1987. Rock Capital Partners was formed by the heirs of John D. Rockefeller with funds from mortgaging Rockefeller Center.
By September 1987, Drake management informed the route salespeople that they would need to buy their routes or lose their jobs as a cost savings effort and an opportunity to increase earnings for the salespeople. Union officials representing the route salespeople condemned the effort.
In April 1988, Drake Bakeries held a 100th anniversary celebration with the cutting of a 500 pound Ring Ding. Evidence points to 1896, not 1888, as being the founding of the company, so this celebration appears to be about eight years early.
On December 31, 1990, Rock Capital Partners sold Drake Bakeries to Culinar Inc. for $35 million. Culinar was a CA$500 million sales Canadian food company based in Montreal that held the popular Canadian cake brand Vachon.
On August 16, 1998 Interstate Bakeries Corporation completed the purchase of Drake Bakeries from Culinar Inc. Interstate Bakeries added Drake’s to their line including the Hostess brand of competitive products. In the fiscal year, Hostess had one major acquisition (Drake) and one minor acquisition (My Bread Baking Co.) with the total paid of $106 million. If the purchase price was proportional to sales, Interstate may have paid in the neighborhood of $80 million for Drake Baking. Gilles Boudreau, Vice President and Controller for Drake during the Culinar era and later Vice President of Finance with Interstate Bakeries stated that Hostess paid around $100 million for Drake Bakeries.
On April 9, 2013, McKee Foods Corporation completed the purchase of the Drake’s brand for $27.5 million out of liquidation from Hostess Brands. McKee Foods reintroduced the Drake’s top selling items on September 22, 2013.
- Certificate of Incorporation, The N.E. Drake Baking Company, Record Room, County Clerk, New York County. Filed and recorded, November 23, 1896.
- Trow’s Business Directory of the Boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, 1898.
- New York City Directory, 1898.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 18, 1898, page 9.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 8, 1900.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 2, 1901.
- Judson C. Drake, The N.B.C. (Internal National Biscuit Company Publication), September 1921, page 20. Sourced from Mondelez Archivist.
- Brooklyn City Directory, 1904.
- C.E. Drake Obituary, The Kingston Daily Freeman, March 1, 1950.
- News of the Markets Personal and Social, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 10, 1910.
- Know Your County, Newman Drake Broadcast – Transcript, July 1, 1973. WNNJ and WIXL-FM, by Howard Case of the Sussex County (NJ) Historical Society, page 29.
- New York Passenger Arrival Lists, Ellis Island, January 5, 1894.
- New York City Directory, 1894.
- Encyclopedia of American Biography, New Series, Winfield Scott Downs, The American Historical Society, Inc. New York, 1934, pages 347-348.
- Cracker Industry, The Americana: Universal Reference Library, 1903
- Fifteenth Annual Report of the Factory Inspector of the State of New York, November 20, 1900, page 854.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 30, 1902.
- Obsolete American Securities and Corporation, Second Volume, 1911.
- Price List, Harlem Bakery, 36 – 38 West 135th Street, National Biscuit Company, March 18, 1908. Sourced from Mondelez Archivist.
- Certificate of Incorporation of Drake Brothers Co., Originally misfiled in the County of New York, but refiled in the County of Kings May 3, 1911, pages 178 – 180. (Kings County Clerk – Record Room. Search by date May 3, 1911).
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 10, 1903.
- Upington’s General Directory of Brooklyn, 1903. Note that John Harold’s name is listed as John Howard, but the home address is the same as Newman and Walter.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 12, 1904.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 22, 1905 (Note: Second annual dinner)
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 7, 1906 (Note: Third annual dinner)
- Silsbe & Son menu, January 10, 1900. In the collection of the New York Public Library.
- Photograph by J.G. Waters, Fourteenth Annual Dinner, Salesmen and Department Heads, Drake Brothers, January 13, 1917, in the collection of the Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Boro Baking Company Foresees Sales Gains, Brooklyn Eagle, March 31, 1941.
- Report of Proceedings City Council of Boston, October 14, 1907.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 13, 1909.
- Drake’s Cake Walk, Sheet Music, Composed by Edwin F. Kendall, in the collection of the New York Public Library, 1909.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 10, 1910.
- New York Post, May 23, 1913.
- Wonders of Brooklyn, XXXIII, Drake Brothers, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 17, 1920.
- Photograph of Drake’s Clinton Avenue Bakery, Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Printers’ Ink, May 4, 1913, pages 65-66.
- The Power Wagon, May 1914.
- Wallabout Cultural Survey, March 2005.
- Certificate of Incorporation of Drake Bakeries, Incorporated, filed in the County of Kings July 31, 1924, pages 69-79. (Kings County Clerk – Record Room. Search by date July 31, 1924).
- Lehmann Brothers Collection – Contemporary Business Archives, Harvard Business School.
- Interstate Bakeries Corporation. Annual Report, 1999.
- Borden Selling Drake Bakery to Purina; Considering Asset Writedowns. Associated Press, July 1, 1986.
- New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division – First Department, Cornelius P Gearon, Walter Anderson, and Andrew H. Huber, (Plaintiffs – Appellants) against David T. Layman, Jr., Robert H. Graham, Ralph D. Ward, Alex Neubert, Benjamin Titman, Central Distributors, Inc., and Isidore Strongin (Defendants – Appellees). Case on Appeal, Volume 1, pages 1 – 544, Hudson Dispatch Printers, Union City, NJ, County of New York at the County Court House, December 20, 1934.
- Bessemer Trust – Our Heritage, sourced from bessemertrust.com website on August 4, 2014.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 17, 1925.
- Standard Catalog of Vintage Baseball Cards, Krause Publications, 2012.
- Archives of McKee Foods Corporation.
- The Iron Age, November 19, 1925. Page 1428.
- Devil Dogs Trademark Filing, US Patent Trademark Office, October 21, 1926.
- Yankee Doodles Trademark Filing, US Patent Trademark Office, April 16, 1947.
- Long Island Daily Press, November 17, 1936.
- "Yankee Cake Company, Provident Preservation Society Website".
- Old Formula Book (of Drake Bakeries, Inc.), In the archives of McKee Foods Corporation.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 3, 1929.
- Newman E. Drake Obituary, New York Sun, March 19, 1930.
- Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 3, 1930.
- Pennsylvania Department of State, Business Entity Filing History.
- McKee Foods Photographic Archives.
- Drake Bakeries Order Pad, October 17, 1955.
- Drake’s Cake, Photograph in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York, circa 1940.
- Brooklyn Eagle, June 12, 1945.
- The Dough Chute, January – March 2005.
- Strike to Shut City Bakeries, The Sun, New York, September 9, 1946.
- Long Island Star-Journal, March 1, 1949.
- Village Market, Inc. advertisement, Bulletin, Wilton, CT, January 25, 1956.
- Ring Ding Trademark Filing, US Patent Trademark Office, February 11, 1958.
- Funny Bones Trademark Filing, US Patent Trademark Office, May 16, 1961.
- Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School.
- Yodels Trademark Filing, US Patent Trademark Office, January 4, 1968.
- Fruit Doodles Trademark Filing, US Patent Trademark Office, December 23, 1964.
- New Plant for Drake Bakeries, The Bakers Digest, October 1968, page 76.
- Advertisement, Telegraph (Newspaper), February 25, 1981.
- Let Them Eat Drake, ADWEEK, February 8, 1999.
- Ralston May Spin Off Drake’s. Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 1987.
- Ralston Purina to Sell Drake Bakeries. Associated Press, July 13, 1987.
- Ralston Sells Bakery. Chicago Tribune, August 22, 1987.
- Estate Planning. Fortune, November 20, 1989.
- Route Drivers Fight Move to Franchises. New York Times, September 26, 1987.
- Bakery Celebrates with a Big Ring Ding. The Citizen, Auburn, NY, April 11, 1988.
- Rebirth of a Legend. Snack Food. February 1995.
- Interview with Gilles Boudreau conducted by Steven Bush. September 17, 2013.
- Twinkies Maker Hostess Files for Bankruptcy Protection. Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2012.
- Hostess Brands to Wind Down Company After BCTGM Union Strike Cripples Operations. Hostess Brands Press Release, November 16, 2012.
- McKee Completes Purchase of Drake’s Cakes from Bankrupt Hostess. Chattanooga Times Free Press, April 9, 2013.
- McKee Sees Drake Snack Cakes Increasing Footprint. Milling & Baking News, September 25, 2013.