STICKNEY & POOR SPICE COMPANY
BRAND NAME COOKING WITH STICKNEY & POOR
The official company website:
The following is an excerpt from the book Ideas that
Became Big Business by Clinton Woods. Published by Founders,
Inc. Baltimore, MD, 1959, 414 pages.
Buy this book:
Became Big Business
The Stickney & Poor Story
In 1815 William Stickney, a Boston grocer,
ground mustard for the table by hand and carried it to his
customers in a basket.
"He struggled along for three years before this
phase of his activities had increased to the extent that his
listing in the Boston Directory was changed from "Grocer" to
Stickney & Poor, in a way, is "The House that Mustard
Built". Mustard has continued a mainstay of the business
ever since, although a great variety of other items have
been added to the line. Maintenance of the good name given
it by William Stickney has likewise continued a mainstay of
Around 1824, mechanization started with a one horse-power
motor--a real horse. This was the period when he moved out
of the crowded city, presumably to allow his motive power
room in which to operate, and a nearby field for relaxation.
Rufus Barrus Stickney entered the business of his father at
the age of 13--a business career started early in those
days. At 20 he was a partner. At 22 he was sole proprietor.
This was in 1846. By this time mechanization had proceeded a
step further, and the business was using steam power instead
of live horse-power.
The year '49 was the year of the California Gold Rush and no
ship sailing there was complete without mustard for
medicinal use. The Stickney firm expanded to Stickney & Poor
by adding John R. Poor of Danvers as a partner and built a
new and larger wooden factory on Cambridge Street,
Charlestown, where later, in 1867 the first of the present
four-story brick buildings was erected. This, along with
additional structures, houses Stickney & Poor today.
In the 1820's the business consisted chiefly of Mustard and
Pepper-Sauce. From this the firm branched out to grinding
spices and Cream of Tartar--for a time, also to roasting
coffee. In a period of the Civil War, Yeast Powder, Split
Peas, Pearl Barley, Bicarbonate of Soda, Herbs, etc. joined
the other products. The plant continued to expand and
finally packaging machinery was installed.
In 1891, the business was incorporated under the laws of
Massachusetts as the Stickney & Poor Spice Company. James
Smiley Murphy was its first treasurer and held the
presidency from 1909 until his death in 1932. It was under
him that the company became one of the major factors in the
spice trade of the United States.
Afterwards, the board of directors elected Mr. Murphy's very
capable daughter, Roxanna Smiley Beebe-Center to the
presidency. Grinding mustard test samples by hand is some
job but Mrs. Beebe-Center doesn't hesitate to do it. With
the reins in her competent hands the company continues its
Today, the plant in Charlestown is still the main one.
Products include Extracts, Prepared Mustard, White & Cider
Vinegar, Seasonings of all kinds, Grocers' Sundries, and the
nationally known Stickney Stuffing.
Distribution is intensive throughout New England by means of
company salesmen who sell the wholesale trade and also
throughout the United States by means of brokers. The
familiar yellow and red container with a galleon trade mark
which sailed the seas in the service of the Government in
World War II still continues to sail the seas in the import
In October 1945 Stickney & Poor Spice Company was awarded a
Certificate of Achievement by the United States Navy. In
November 1947, it received the Centennial Anniversary
Certificate from the Brand Names Foundation, Incorporated.
In 1950, the company received a most unexpected and gracious
tribute. It was honored by the Zuider-Zee Museum in
Enkhuizen, Holland. To Stickney & Poor, America's oldest
spice millers, they sent a generous sample of what they
believe to be the oldest pepper in the world. This museum is
housed in what was formerly an Old Dutch East Indies Company
warehouse, built in 1602, which served for almost fifty
years as a storage place for pepper from Sumatra. When the
building was remodeled the pepper was found beneath the
The present position held by the company is due in no small
measure to the fact that five directors' connection with the
company, either direct or through their families, extends
back well over half a century. It is also due in no small
measure to the long terms of service of many of its
Operations in a spice business require expert knowledge of
the raw materials. Mustard Seed, for instance, does not
behave the same in manufacturing process when it has just
been received, as when it has been aged several months.
There is not just one way to grind spices, but many, and
some grinds are better for one purpose, some for another. S
& P employees have been with the company so long that they
really know their spices. Six have received the fifty years'