Mar. 29, 1859 Kosingen Ostalbkreis Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Mar. 11, 1955 Chicago Cook County Illinois, USA
Business Magnate. He was the founder of the Oscar Mayer Company, which became one of the most successful and enduring meat and cold cut production companies in the United States. Born in Germany, in 1873, at the age of 14, the family grocery business failed, and he immigrated to the United States with his cousin. Settling in Detroit, Michigan, he answered an ad and took a job as an apprentice with George Weber's Retail Meat Market. He stayed there for three years until 1876, when the he moved to Chicago, Illinois to work at the Kohlhammer Meat Market, and also at the Armour Meat Packing Company (located in the stockyards). In 1883, Oscar and his brother, who had established himself in Nurnberg, Germany as a wurstmacher (sausage maker) and ham curer, rented the Kolling Meat Market on Sedgwick Street, in the North side of Chicago. The business became so successful that, in 1888, the landlord refused to renew their rent so that he could foreclose and operate the business himself (he failed within a year). The brothers re-opened two blocks away in a larger building they had built, with living quarters above the storefront. The store opened as "Oscar Mayer and Brother Company", specializing in sausages. They employed another brother as well as salesmen and delivery agents to serve the entire city of Chicago and suburbs. Oscar Mayer sponsored several polka bands in and around Chicago, and in 1893, he sponsored the German exposition at the Chicago World's Fair. By 1900, they had 43 employees and Oscar Mayer became the first company to identify their sausages with a brand name (other meat packers had remained anonymous). In 1919 the company expanded again by acquiring a meatpacking plant in Madison, Wisconsin, and incorporated as Oscar Mayer and Company. Ten years after that, the company patented sliced bacon as a product line, and also adopted the trademark yellow paper ring wrapper around its products. The company offices relocated to Madison in 1919, but maintained a plant in Chicago, where Oscar continued to live. He was an early and innovative user of advertising in the meat business, and became the first meat packer to use newspaper advertisements, and also color newspaper advertisements. One of the iconic symbols of the company - the "Wienermobile" - was introduced in 1936, and, later, the Wiener Whistle was created in 1951. He was an early advocate of television advertising, which he began running in 1950, and proved to be a valuable marketing tool. Oscar Mayer remained active in the company until his death in 1955, serving as chairman of the board until the end. He died shortly before his ninety-sixth birthday.