Hidden away amidst the Hillside housing development at North 9th and Somers, the former home and bakery of Austrian native, Oswald Jaeger, is barely discernable from neighboring thoroughfares. Just a glimpse of the turret can be seen while traveling northbound on Interstate 43. My curiosity has long been piqued by the blue spire that can narrowly be seen, for just a moment, shortly after the McKinley/Fond du Lac exit. The character and context of Oswald Jaeger’s bakery buildings have been significantly altered—the facades painted an all-encompassing shade of white save for the bright blue roofline of the original two buildings—and the surrounding neighborhood condemned by the City of Milwaukee in the 1950s and replaced with the present labyrinth of apartment buildings.1 However, the Oswald Jaeger Baking Company complex stands and continues to imbue the story of a “one-horse baker” and his company’s growth into a Wisconsin baking giant.
Oswald Jaeger Bakery Company
A cooper by trade in his native Austria, Oswald Jaeger arrived to Milwaukee in 1856 and learned the art of baking working as an apprentice in several bakeries. In 1879, Jaeger opened his own establishment at North 4th and Cherry Streets.2] Here, his shop was described as emitting …”the rich, hearty aroma of bread…something for a man to savor” noting that …”the good burghers of Milwaukee. These robust folks know good food” and found it veritable reward to frequent the Jaeger bakery.3
In 1881, Jaeger purchased the gabled building at what is now 918 West Somers.4 The 1870s bakery building, formerly that of another baker, located in the heart of the German-American neighborhood occupying much of Milwaukee’s northwest side, housed Oswald Jaeger’s bakery as well as the Jaeger family and a handful of employees.5 The turreted corner piece of the bakery, which initially drew my attention, was constructed in 1894 and marks the beginning of the Jaeger Bakery expansion from a neighborhood mom-and-pop shop to a baking giant shipping its products throughout Wisconsin and beyond.6
In 1905, Oswald’s son, Armin took over the bakery and continued the familyowned operation as Oswald Jaeger Baking Company. Under Armin’s direction, the family enterprise continued to grow into the early 20th century with an office building addition in 1920, a new cake plant and garage building between 1923 and 1924 and finally a large $300,000 addition facing onto N. 9th Street in 1927.7 From this time into the 1960s, the fleet of Oswald Jaeger Baking Company trucks could be seen delivering Jaeger’s Peter Pan long loaf, Butter-Nut Bread and Sichling Rye to area retailers.
Armin remained with the company until his retirement in 1968 at which time Oswald Jaeger Baking Company was sold to Beatrice Foods in Chicago.8 The baking company has since been purchased and merged into a number of the nations largest packaged bread and bakery manufacturers including Metz Baking Company, Earthgrains, and Sara Lee Bakery Group.9
1 “Historic Designation Study Report: St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Complex” (City of Milwaukee, Department of City Development, Historic Preservation Commission, Fall 1990), 4.
2 Frank Flower.History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1881), 1213; “One Horse Baker is Giant Now”. Milwaukee Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI) November 17, 1965.
3 “One Horse Baker is Giant Now”. Milwaukee Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI) November 17, 1965.
4 “Real Estate Transfers, “ Milwaukee Daily Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI), September 16, 1881.
5 “Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” 1876. Rascher Fire Insurance Maps, Wisconsin. Volume 1, Sheet 94.
6 “New Stores Built, “ Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, WI), October 21, 1894.
7 Advertisement, Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, WI), May 13, 1927.
8 “Deaths: Armin F. Jaeger, “ Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, WI), June 15, 1979.
9 “Sara Lee to Add Lots More Ovens With Deal, “ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI), July 3, 2001.