Northrup, Jesse E.–Minneapolis, Minnesota–In 1884,
Jesse Northrup and Charles P. Braslan started the company known as Northrup,
Braslan & Co., as a wholesaler and retailer of agricultural and garden
seeds. They believed in the hardiness, earliness, and productivity
of northern grown seed, and they saw Minneapolis as a natural distributing
point for a vast undeveloped but promising agricultural region. The
polar bear became a symbol of their business, and represented their “Polar
Brand Seeds.” Their first annual catalog was published in 1885.
In 1887, A. H. Goodwin joined the firm, and it was renamed Northrup, Braslan
& Goodwin Co. By 1889, they had 1,800 acres under contract production.
The company’s business increased faster than they had the capability to
manage it. Colonel W. S. King and his son Preston brought in much
needed financial support in 1894, but in May 1896 a fire destroyed a company
building and the company declared bankruptcy. Even during the company’s
most serious financial difficulties, the retail and catalog business showed
a profit. Later in 1896, a new company emerged called Northrup, King
& Co. Jesse Northrup was president, Preston King was treasurer,
and Charles C. Massie was secretary. The company struggled with some
remaining debt and a limited supply of seeds, but were able to build a
new building on the site of the fire. The headquarters moved in 1917
to a site where the Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway
came together. Most of the long distance shipping was then sent by
railway. Charles C. Massie became president in 1914, after the death
of Preston King and the retirement of J. E. Northrup, with Lyndon M. King
as vice president. In 1918, a branch was established in Salt Lake
City, Utah to produce alfalfa and clover. Maurice Keating was put
in charge of the Utah branch. By 1945, the company had a Pacific
Coast division in Berkeley, California. The company bought G. A.
Klein Seed Co. of Los Angeles in the early 1940s, acquiring Golf Brand
lawn seed. In 1935, they built a seed cleaning plant in Boise, Idaho,
followed by drying plants in Hampton, Iowa, and four locations in Minnesota.
Vegetable breeding intensified during the 1940s and 1950s at the company’s
research center in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Northrup King’s board
of directors made a public stock offering in the fall of 1968. The
company was purchased in 1976 by Sandoz, Ltd., of Basle, Switzerland.