How did King Arthur Flour get its name?

photo 2[1]

How did an American company founded in 1790, just a few short years after the Revolution, end up being named after an English king?

The answer is quite “dramatic.”

longwharf

British troops landing on Boston’s Long Wharf in 1768, from an engraving by Paul Revere.

In 1790, Boston businessman Henry Wood began importing flour from England, headquartering his new firm at the city’s Long Wharf.

The United States, with nearly 4 million inhabitants, couldn’t produce enough flour of its own to satisfy the bread-baking wives of the new nation’s 16 states; Wood saw a sales opportunity and took it.

Excalibur

The business flourished over the next 106 years, eventually coming to be known as Sands, Taylor & Wood.

And then, one hot September day in 1896, a star was born.

photo 1[1]

Messrs. Taylor, Sands, and Wood (l to r), at the Boston Food Fair in 1896.

“In 1896, Mark Taylor, Orin Sands, and George Wood, of the Sands, Taylor & Wood Company, introduced their new and exceptional product: King Arthur Flour. This new flour was milled from a unique blend of 100 percent hard wheat with no additives needed to enhance its baking qualities or appearance.

 

“Wood received inspiration for the name while in the audience of a Boston musical based on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He witnessed the same values in Arthurian legend he saw in his new exceptional flour: purity, loyalty, honesty, superior strength, and a dedication to a higher purpose.

“King Arthur Flour was introduced at the Boston Food Fair on September 10, 1896, and it became an immediate success.” – from  Images of America: King Arthur Flour Company.

This all-American flour company, whimsically named after one of England’s finest kings, has been building on that success ever since.

Interested in more King Arthur Flour history? Check out our history page, including video.

 

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. June

    I love learning about the history of King Arthur; it deepens my appreciation of where we’ve been.

    Doesn’t it? Even as an employee owner, it helps to have a history lesson every so often to remind us of where we came from.-Jon

    Reply
  2. Mary Cristy

    Thanks for the info about the company – interesting! I enjoyed reading it! I love your site – KEEP UP THE AWESOME WORK!! CONGRATS on the completion of the cooking school/center – WOO HOO!!

    We will certainly do our best! Isn’t it amazing how a small flour company can turn into something so much bigger?-Jon

    Reply
  3. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez - SENAC- Petrópolis, R.J., Brazil

    Bread and it´s history is always an emotional voyage!
    Well what can we say about historical, typical assortment of breads made with King Arthur´s historical flour??
    Quality of ingredients we buy to bake breads is really one of priority parts to get excelent results! Not only mise-en-place, mixing, developing, resting, shaping, baking. I consider far the choose of high quality ingredients the most important of all, antecipating all of the other works.
    Is really a great happiness we know that King arthur is one of world´s leading company on bread baking quality ingredients!
    Hope you follow increasing research and quality, as always!

    Reply
  4. kaf-sub-jmbs6

    Nice story; great connection made by Mr. Woods and the Knights of the Round Table! Who hasn’t read those tales!

    I know it is one of my favorite myths! I know I get some enjoyment when I say “I work in Avalon”.-Jon

    Reply
  5. Claire

    So, did the company also make a product called Excalibur flour? Was that before or after King Arthur?

    I don’t believe that we have, but PJ will shed some light on the subject if I can wrong!-Jon

    Yes, we used to make Excalibur flour for the professional trade. Gorgeous logo, eh? PJH

    Reply
  6. Karen D.

    What a great hiSTORY lesson! And the best part of all-
    it’s 100% American product.

    It certainly is and always will be!-Jon

    Reply
  7. marianne anderson

    Great and interesting history lesson from the best employee owned company
    in the USA. Thanks. And thanks also for your new shipping/rewards program.
    I’ll be using it soonest.

    Great to hear, I hope you like the program!-Jon

    Reply
  8. gwen egan

    the original flour company logo had “excalibur flour” with the names of the owners below and a picture of a young king arthur in the center. it’s on this particular blog.

    Reply
  9. ChrissyMo

    I have been making breads for quite a few years now, and the only flour I use is the King Arthur brand. I’ve tried others with results not worth mentioning. I love learning about the history of the company and love that it is an American based.

    Reply
  10. Beverly Sickinger

    I am pleased to say I enjoyed the history about the King Arthur Co. I love to bake & shair what I bake with me family & friends. I have 12 bags of your flour it my kitchen now, but its almost baking time here in Georgia for the holidays, I have to start early so everyone gets the goodies in time. Grandkids love cookies , pecan pies for everyone, bread , & so much more to make & suprise everyone with something new. I even made doggie treats for the hole family doggies. I would like to thank the people at King Arthur for all there help when I have hit a bump, with my recipe’s . Thank you again Beverly
    Oh, Beverly! Think of all the people (and dogs) in your life who are smiling because of the wonderful things you bake. You are so kind to extend your appreciation. We love to hear from our customers, so thank YOU! Elisabeth

    Reply
  11. Bettina

    King Arthur was a great leader just as King Arthur flour is a great leader in the flour industry. When you want excellent results in every thing you bake King Arthur flour is your champion.

    Reply
  12. Connie Peterson

    I am a fan of King Arthur Flour. What a unique way to learn about the history.
    Thanks for the terrific product and it’s history.

    Reply
  13. Nanny

    Oh how i love KA flour. Even though i’m over 70 now i can still hear my grandmother and many of her Finnish friends praising, and swearing by, KA. It always came out sounding like they were saying “King Artir floury”. Such nice memories. My Dad’s uncle was a baker in the United Cooperative Society store for many many years. Like all the Finnish women he also would use no other flour but KA. People from all over the area would come long distances to purchase his breads, rolls and other delicious items but he never gave out his secret ingredients – except for he HAD to use KA flour. I’ve spent years trying to duplicate his Finnish nisu.. It comes out pretty good but not like his. His sour dough rye bread was a staple for everything but especially to go with stews. Now my granddaughter is interested in baking. She already knows that there is no other flour to use except KA. So the tradition lives on even if the results arent quite the same. Ohh to turn the years back for just a few minutes to be a fly on the wall gathering all his recipes. So glad your company is doing so well, its a treasured part of life both today and “yesterday”!

    Thanks for sharing your memories here, Nanny – I’m so glad KA has been a part of your family’s life. You’ve made my day! PJH

    Reply
  14. Maryanne

    Nice to learn about KAF history. Today I got a package from you and it totally brightened my day! My co-worker said, you can’t have a bad day when there is a KAF package on your desk!

    Our amazing customer/bakers make our day as well – thanks for sharing your sunshine with us today. Happy Baking – Irene@KAF

    Reply
  15. ann k.

    my cakes always turn out great when I use ka flour.I would not use any other kind as long as I can find it in my grocery store. I am so glad you now have self-rising flour.

    Reply
  16. JCKeller88

    I loved this story about the logo. I have to share that my three-year-old grandson, who is not old enough to tell the cross of St. George from the symbol of the American Red Cross, looked at my box of gluten-free baking mix, pointed to the man on the horse and asked, “Grandma! Why is that man riding to the hospital???”

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for sharing, JC. We here at King Arthur all got a good laugh at your story this morning. We’re guessing your grandson is not the only child in the world wondering why the flour man looks like he is on this way to the ER! We love baking for the simple fact that it allows you to creates fun memories like these with the people you love. Happy baking! –Kye@KAF

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *