POST, C. W. (1854-1914)
Charles William Post was a businessman and experimenter who invented and marketed several important breakfast cereals and a coffee substitute. He was born in Springfield, Illinois, on October 26, 1854. He attended school in Illinois, dropping out of Illinois Industrial University after two years. At age seventeen he briefly relocated to Independence, Kansas, where he was a salesman, clerk, and store owner. After his return to Springfield in 1872, he focused on selling and manufacturing agricultural implements as well as inventing his own cultivator, harrow, plow, and haystacker.
Although he was successful, the strain of business life proved too much, and Post suffered a nervous breakdown in 1885. Thereafter, he moved to Fort Worth, where he worked to develop two subdivisions. He suffered a second breakdown in 1891 and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, home of John Harvey Kellogg's health complex. There he partially adopted Kellogg's beliefs concerning human health. He started his own sanitarium in 1892, also in Battle Creek. In 1894 he invented a coffee substitute called Postum that he insisted had healthful benefits. He soon recognized the potential for a strong market in breakfast cereals and invented Grape-Nuts. He built his own paper mill in 1899 to construct cartons for his cereal. Soon he had a cereal empire. In 1908 he invented the popular Post Toasties. As a result of his activities, Post and Kellogg became lifelong enemies. Post's empire eventually became a part of General Foods.
As a successful businessman, Post served as president of the American Manufacturers Association and the Citizen's Industrial Association, in which, despite the organization's title, he worked to defeat unions and the open shop system. Wealthy enough to pursue his dreams, in 1906 Post returned to Texas, where he hoped to establish a model farming community. In 1907 he bought 225,000 acres in Lynn and Garza Counties, where he established the town of Post City (now Post), Texas. Although he platted out the settlement, planted trees, and built roads and schools, the settlement grew slowly. Post worked to improve the region's prospects, going so far as to conduct long and expensive rainmaking experiments from 1911 to 1914 that failed to produce rain. Post's health began to fail in his later years, and on May 9, 1914, he apparently committed suicide at his home in Santa Barbara, California.
See also WATER: Rainmaking.
Charles Vollan University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Major, Nettie Letich. C. W. Post. Washington DC: Judd and Detweiler, 1963.