Tag Archives: businesses

Flashback Friday: Say Cheese!

Wheel of Gorgonzola cheese from the Stella Cheese Company, undated

Just in queso didn’t know, some of the staff at the Michigan Tech Archives really love cheesy puns. So for this week’s Flashback Friday we couldn’t resist highlighting a piece of cheesy Copper Country history: the establishment of the Stella Cheese Company in Baltic, Michigan.

What would later be known as the Stella Cheese Company was initially established as a farming enterprise near Superior, Wisconsin in 1917. Within a short period of time the operation outgrew the size of the farm and the company was forced to expand to its first unit at Lake Nebagamon near what is now the Brule River State Forest and named Nebagamon Cheese Company. Unfortunately, correct pronunciation of the company’s name proved tricky for its Italian owners and the name was changed to Stella. According to an article printed in the Daily Mining Gazette in 1935, the new name was derived from the Italian word for star and a “special and popular cheese called stellarosa.” As far as we can tell, the stellarosa must have been nacho ordinary cheese among the Italian community.

Daily Mining Gazette, August 27, 1935.

Stella’s big cheese was Count Guilio Bolognesi, an Italian immigrant born in 1879 in Luzzara, Italy, who controlled operations from his posh Gold Coast home in Chicago. Bolognesi’s brother, Emilio, served as secretary. Attilio Castigliano served as production manager and vice president. Himself an Italian immigrant, Castiglioano started his American life in Calumet at the turn of the 20th Century. As the business continued to grow, additional units were developed in locations such as Mass City (1929), Baraga, Campbellsport and Perkins and by 1935 Stella had grown into an installation processing 40 million pounds of milk from 10,000 cows and cooperating with roughly 2,000 farmers.

The company’s crowning achievement was the installation of its premier unit in Baltic, Michigan in August of 1935. Bolognesi prophesied that they were placing “in the hands of this district one unit” that was “destined to be the largest in the United States in the particular kind of cheese made.” Stella’s president wasn’t wrong as over the next 18 years the plant in Baltic proved that there wasn’t another unit cheddar than it.

Daily Mining Gazette, August 27, 1935.

Managed by Joseph Basso and Jacob Onkalo, the Baltic unit employed as many as 110 men and women and at its height was processing “100,000 pounds of milk into 300 22-pound loaves of Parmesan and 200 25-pound loaves of Romano in a single day.” According to a retrospective article in the Daily Mining Gazette from 1981, “in a normal year, 15 70,000-pound shipments of Parmesan cheese alone left the Stella plant.” Additionally, “as Italian cheese must be aged for nine or 14 months, South Range and Baltic would normally have as much as $2 million of cheese in its four warehouses,” though the old Baltic School, Derby Hall and South Range wine cellars were also used for storage. Cheese produced at the plant were often sold under the Kraft and Chef Boyardee labels.

The Baltic operation thrived from 1935 until 1953. By 1950, new health regulations and industry standards forced companies such as Stella’s to purchase expensive new equipment, which proved a hardship for smaller operations that fed the Stella plant. Combined with milk supply competition from Copper Country cooperatives, many plants began to close. Baltic outlasted its sister plants in Mass City and Baraga with operations funneled to Baltic. Cheese was last produced in Baltic in February 1953, though warehousing of cheese continued until 1968. Stella was sold to L. D. Schreiber Co. of Green Bay, Wisconsin and in 1963 acquired by Universal Foods.

Stella Cheese workers at the Baltic plant, 1939. Daily Mining Gazette, July 16, 1992.

We hope that you enjoyed this look back at a piece of cheese industry in the Copper Country — we think its pretty grate. Have a Gouda weekend and Labor Day!

 


Vintage Copper Country Christmas Advertisements

Have a look at these jolly Christmas advertisements for some last minute gift-giving inspiration. Below, we have provided a small curated sample of print advertising from the Daily Mining Gazette ranging from 1903 to 1953. (Clicking directly on any advertisement will make it larger for readability.)

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1919, page 7
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1919, page 7

 

A little extra heat is always appreciated in the winter, so why not gift an electric heater this year? The Houghton County Electric Light Company certainly hopes you do.

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 20, 1929, page 9
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 20, 1929, page 9

 

Part stationary furniture, part musical instrument – these wooden radios sold at Klingkammer’s Music Store in Houghton looked great and sounded even better. With light coming from the fireplace and Christmas tree, warmth from blankets on the couch and with Christmas specials quietly playing over your brand new radio, hardly a more cozy scene could be imagined.

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 22, 1953, page 15
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 22, 1953, page 15

 

“Second only to good food, no treat you can serve will add to the day’s pleasures like smooth, mellow, golden Bosch.” Brewed in the sportsman’s paradise, a case of Bosch would have made a great host or hostess’ gift.

 

DMG 12-22-1929 Pg 2
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 22, 1929, page 2

 

If you are lucky enough to be hosting your own holiday dinner this year, do not forget to take advantage of seasonal specials when grocery shopping. You may even be lucky enough to see Santa Claus, as shoppers of Riteway did in 1929.

 

Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1903, page 10
Printed in the Daily Mining Gazette, December 19, 1903, page 10

 

In 1903, Santa visited the E. F. Sutton Company to meet with children, pass out candy and to see how his toys were selling at the store. During the two weeks preceding Christmas, the E. F. Sutton Company used the Daily Mining Gazette columns to call attention to their huge stock of holiday wares. Because of these ads, the store had huge sales in 1903 compared to previous years.

Prompted by the previous advertisement and Santa’s appearance at the E. F. Sutton Company, two young boys co-wrote and mailed a letter to Santa Claus at Santa Clausland, Lake Linden, Michigan, in care of the E. F. Sutton Company. This letter was printed in the Daily Mining Gazette on December 22, 1903, two days after Santa made his appearance at the E F. Sutton Company. It has been transcribed below.

 

Dear Santa Claus:

I now take the time to write you a few lines and hope I will see you tomorrow. Well, Santa Claus, I suppose I may give my order. I no you won’t forget us for you always come to see us no matter how far we were. Santa Claus,  I won’t ask for too much for I know that there is lots of poor people that I would like to see them have something too. Please may I have these things following: A game of lottos; a game of flinch; a  game of trip to New York; cherket board; the coon’s hunt; a glove box; a handkerchief box; a pare of leggons for boys; a merry go round; a child’s cornet; an airship; three funny books.

I don’t want no doll this year, but I like to have a doll’s head. The rest we will leave to you. Santa Claus, when you see papa’s stockings don’t laugh, but please fill them. Well, I must close, goodby.

P.S. – This is from Albert and I.

 

These newspapers, along with roughly 70 other local historic newspapers are available for viewing on microfilm at the Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. Feel free to call us at (906) 487-2505 or email us at copper@mtu.edu to learn more.