Colorado Milling and Elevator Company (Signed by J. K. Mullen)
Colorado Milling and Elevator Company (Signed by J. K. Mullen)
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Colorado Milling and Elevator Company
February 16, 1899
Collier & Cleaveland Lth. Co., Denver
11 3/4" (w) by 8 1/2" (h)
This certificate features vignettes of the company's Hungarian and Crescent mills.
The Colorado Milling and Elevator Company was founded by John Kernan Mullen (1847 – 1929) who worked in grain mills and eventually bought the mills and acquired additional grain mills. Farmers were upset with wild fluctuations in the price of grain, so the Colorado Milling and Mining Company established a trust to help control the prices of grain. As the owner of the trust, Mullen became immensely wealthy.
The decline of the firm came in the late 1900s when ambitious financiers tried turning the company into a conglomerate.
The Federal Government deregulated sugar and flour which led to a drop in prices and profits. The conglomerate was overextended. The financiers exercised their preferred stock and the company was left in ruins.
The company eventually became part of ConAgra.
Some of the company's mills included:
- Star Mill
- Iron Clad Mill
- Sigler Mill
- Crescent Mill (pictured on this piece)
- Excelsior Mill
- Hungarian Mill (pictured on this piece)
- Big Thompson Mill
J. K. Mullen
Born in 1847 in Ballinasloe, Galway County, Ireland, John Kernan Mullen dropped out of school in the ninth grade to become an apprentice at Miller’s Flour Mill in Oriskany Falls, New York. While most boys his age were studying, Mullen became a primary wage earner for his family. He attained the position of manager at the mill by the time he was 20 years old.
Deep calluses and scars on his hands and arms were badges of honor for Mullen, who prided himself on being a self-made man, having worked his way up from sharpening burrs with a pickaxe and sacking corn, to eventually becoming president of the Union Savings and Loan Association.
Mullen traveled the American West, following the footsteps of opportunity, working in Mills in Nebraska, Kansas and eventually Colorado.
In the fall of 1871, Mullen gave up control of Banner Flour Mills in Kansas, and left for Denver, where he believed initiative, hard work and intelligence would pay off. He found work at Merchant’s Mills and worked his way up to beocome a manager, leaving the business in 1876. Five years later, he was president of Union Savings and Loan Association, the very organization with which he had invested his flour mill earnings.
But Mullen’s efforts didn’t fall solely on his career. He spent his day off teaching Sunday School classes at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, where he met his wife, Catherine. She, too, was an opportunity seeker who possessed a significant amount of property. Together, the couple entered into a contract with veteran miller Theodore Seth, with whom they renovated the North Denver Star Mills. With the profits quickly earned there, the couple founded J.K. Mullen and Company.
Under that banner, Mullen flourished. His flour mill operations became the biggest in the state, and he patented Hungarian High Altitude Flour. His resourceful spirit kept Mullen afloat during an economic panic of 1893, as Mullen led the charge for agriculture to replace mining as the state economy’s foundation. It was then that Mullen emerged as one of Colorado’s financial elite. By 1904, Mullen had amassed about $1.25 million in investment capital.
He went on to become a director at the First National Bank of Denver, served on the Denver Board of Trade and as vice president of the City and County of Denver Library Commission.
Mullen died on August 9, 1929 of pneumonia. He was the first Roman Catholic layman to lie in state at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. After Mullen's death, his daughters established the Mullen Home for Boys (now Mullen High School) in his memory. Today, the J.K. Mullen Foundation adheres closely to Mullen’s ideal of an “exclusive family trust” for the “benefit of religious, charitable, educational and benevolent purposes.”
For 40 years, he was a tireless worker and a shrewd leader. Upon his death in 1929, the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company controlled $27 million in wheat, had 27 flour mills, 149 grain elevators, 800 employees, 15,000 wheat growers serving its plants in five states and delivered flour to 41 states and several countries abroad. The combined worth of these assets was estimated at approximately $20 million.
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