Swans Down Cake Mix and Cake Flour. If you love to bake cakes, you know this name and even if you only love to eat cake, most likely you still know this name. All thanks to Addison Igleheart, (grandfather of Phyllis Igleheart), who in 1894, after years of secretly perfecting his recipe and process, invented Swans Down Cake Flour which immediately became the world’s most popular cake flour, winning the Grand Prize for Cake Flour at the World’s Fair in 1904.
In Evansville, Indiana, three brothers, Levi, (great-grandfather of Phyllis), and William and Asa Igleheart, started Igleheart Brothers as a barrel mill in 1853 before transitioning into grain milling in 1856. Evansville was selected because of the Ohio River and the convergence at that time, of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Their three sons, Addison, John, and Leslie continued the family business. It was forty-three years before global success and fame arrived in 1894, when Addison created a new cake flour, “as soft as the down of a swan” and Swans Down cake flour was born and became a household name. Orders came in from around the world. A complete line of baking equipment including cake pans and recipe books, were purchased by eager housewives across the country and Swans Down was shipped to ports as far west as the West Indies and Singapore.
Igleheart Brothers Milling quickly outgrew their facilities and built a new mill, which burned in 1909. Their third and final mill was built on First Avenue. By 1914, fourteen hundred barrels of Swans Down were produced daily, almost a million pounds each week. The family business was then turned over to their three sons with Edgar Igleheart Sr., father of Phyllis, succeeding as the President of Igleheart Brothers Milling.
After graduation, Edgar had entered the family business working up from the ground floor learning every aspect. In 1922, he married Aline Elles, who was the granddaughter of the founder of The Phoenix Flour Mill, also in Evansville. They honeymooned in Europe for three months. It was on this trip that they became enchanted with the architecture of the French Chateaus. An enchantment that became reality in 1932 when the Igleheart Chateau and Estate were completed.
The immense success of Swans Down and Igleheart Brothers Milling came to the attention of the growing conglomerates. CW Postum Company (Post Cereals later to become General Foods), purchased the family business and named Edgar Igleheart Sr. president of the Evansville division in 1926.
In 1945, Swans Down became the very first cake mix, but was followed quickly by competitors with larger marketing campaigns. The cake mix was retired but you can still find Swans Down Cake Flour, manufactured by Wm. B Reilly and Company, as the preferred flour of cake bakers all over the world. And you can still find remnants of Igleheart Brothers Milling, one of Evansville’s great success stories and a tribute to one of Evansville’s founding families, on First Avenue. The grain silos that produced a million pounds per week one hundred years ago, still stand today.