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January 20, 2015 at 09:05am
Founder R.P. Baker’s Sons Took Over in the Mid 1940s
The end of World War II in 1945 marked more than the return of the “Baker boys” to St. Paul from years of military service. It also signaled the beginning of a second generation of Bakers leading the Minnesota Chemical Company – which celebrates its Centennial Anniversary this year.
Robert, Dan and John Baker had all been involved in the company in key roles prior to the outbreak of World War II. Dan and John joined the Army Air Corps once the war started, and Bob joined the Army. All three served as officers based on their experience as cadets at Saint Thomas Military Academy. Midway through the war – in October 1943 – their father, R.P. Baker, who was the founder of Minnesota Chemical Company, died suddenly after leading the company for 38 years. R.P.’s wife (and the mother of Robert, Dan and John) was elected President of the company and Mike O'Connell was elected Vice President. Mike ran the daily operations of the business through the end of the war.
Robert and Dan Baker returned from the war in late 1945; John in mid 1946. Dan was the oldest of the Baker boys, having been born in 1913; John was born in 1915 and Bob in 1917. All three had joined the Minnesota Chemical Company in the 1930s, and had risen to management roles before the war. Dan had been sales manager, John was plant manager; and Robert was a specialty salesman. All three had served on the Minnesota Chemical Company board of directors.
The trio hit the ground running when they came back from World War II. When they rejoined the company, a primary focus was manufacturing soap for the laundry and dairy industries and the only location was in St. Paul. Within a decade, the “Baker boys” had moved the company away from manufacturing of soap and refocused the company on distributing a full range of supplies, and eventually equipment, for commercial and institutional laundries and dry cleaners throughout the Midwest. In the mid 1950’s a Milwaukee sales office and warehouse was also established.
For the next 40 years, Robert, Dan and John Baker led the Minnesota Chemical Company through recessions, competition, inflation, and a host of other challenges. In 1985, the “Baker boys” retired together, transitioning the company to their sons – the new “Baker boys” – Mike (John’s son), Steve and eventually Dan (Robert’s two sons). All three third-generation Bakers had already been working for the company, so the transition went smoothly.
Robert passed away in 1998, Dan in 2006, and John in 2010. The fourth generation of the Bakers is now working for Minnesota Chemical Company – Mike’s son James.
To read more from our Centennial blog, click here.