The Origins of Nestlé

The Origins of Nestlé

[Page, Charles A. (1838-1873)] Certificate of appointment for Charles A. Page as Consul to Zurich, dated June 19, 1865. Recto in English, partially printed, signed by President Andrew Johnson and acting Secretary of State, William Seward. Verso in French, manuscript, signed by Karl Schenk (1823-1895) as President of the Swiss Federal Council and Johann Jakob Kern (1810-1873) as Vice Chancellor. 18 x 22 ½ inches. Creased at fold lines, some light wear and toning, small tape repair to edge, but overall quite presentable and attractive.

     An extraordinary document: this document appointing Charles Page as the American consul to Switzerland marks the origins of the Nestlé Company, which is today the largest food and beverage company in the world.

     Born in Palmyra, Illinois, Charles A. Page started as a newspaper editor in Mount Vernon, Iowa. His loyalty to the party of Lincoln earned him a job at the treasury department that he supplemented by writing features for the New York Tribune under Horace Greeley. In 1865 President Andrew Johnson rewarded Page for his service by appointing him as the United States Counsel of Trade, stationed at Zurich. It was a move that would transform Page’s life -- and start a new chapter in culinary history. 

     While Independently of his official duties, Page founded a company that would grow beyond his wildest expectations.

     Canned condensed milk was invented in the United States in the 1850s. Immune to spoilage, it became a popular alternative to fresh milk. During the Civil War, when supply lines were uncertain, condensed milk became a staple among the troops. The product was unknown in Europe, however, and when Page arrived in Zurich he recognized an opportunity. Charles summoned his brothers George and David, who had studied manufacturing processes, and together they founded the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company, headquartered in Cham, the heart of the Swiss dairy region. By 1873 the Pages were shipping their products throughout Europe, and by the 1880s their company had annual revenues of more than $3 million per year – over $77.5 million in today’s dollars. Their signature product – Milkmaid Sweetened Condensed Milk – is still sold today. In 1905, the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company merged with its fiercest competitor, a smaller company specializing in powdered baby formula founded in 1867 in Vevey, Switzerland, by a German émigré named Heinrich Nestlé. The combined company developed product lines in chocolate, cheese, coffee, and other convenience foods, and the rest is culinary history.

     This certificate is the document that set everything in motion. … [I NEED TO SEE THE DOCUMENT]. The recto, partially printed, “reposing special trust and confidence in the abilities & integrity of Charles A. Page of Iowa”  verso, entirely in manuscript, 19 June 1865

died aet 35.

Page, CHarles A. Letters of a war correspondent, ed. by James R. Gilmore. BostonL L. C. Page & Co., 1899.

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