DescriptionFrom the early 1860s until the mid-1950s, flour milling was one of the more prosperous industries in Grand Rapids. Some of the prestigious flour milling companies that had their operations in the downtown district included Valley City Milling Company, Watson-Higgins Milling Company, and the Voigt Milling Company. For 57 years the Voigt Milling Company (VMC) was highly recognized in the flour milling industry in West Michigan. The firm had its resources in the Star Mill and Crescent Mill. Star Mill, erected in 1868 by Mitchell and Hibbard, was situated on North Front Street south of Bridge Street. In 1870 John Mangold purchased an interest in the firm (Star Mill) and the partnership name became Mangold, Hibbard & Company. In 1875, Christoper Kusterer bought out John Mangold’s interest in May of the same year Carl G.A. Voigt and William G. Herpolsheimer purchased the Hibbard interest; changing the firm’s name from Mangold, Kusterer & col. Voigt and Herpolsheimer bought out Kusterer’s interest and the firm became C.G.A. Voigt & Company with Carl G. A. Voigt, William G. Herpolsheimer, and Louisa F. Mangold as partners.
Crescent Mill, erected in 1875 by Hibbard, Rose & Co., was situated at the West End of Pearl Street Bridge (location of the Van Andel Museum Center). The original cost of the company with its equipment was $65,000. In 1875, John F. Craft leased the mills, bought out the Rose interest and continued business as Hibbard & Craft until 1882/1883, when the Crescent Mill was purchased by Voigt and Herpolsheimer, who carried on business under the firm name of Voigt Milling Company, with Frank A. Voigt as manager. They remodeled the plant and installed the first roller mill in the Michigan. In July 1898, Voigt Milling Co. (operators of Crescent Mill) and C.G. A. Voigt & Col. (operators of Star Mills) consolidated as the Voigt Milling Company, with Carl G.A. Voigt and Frank Voigt as managers.
In 1902 the Voigt and Herpolsheimer partnership, by mutual consent, came to an end. Mr. Voigt continued to operate the milling business and Mr. Herpolsheimer the dry-goods store. After Carl G. A. Voigt’s death in 1908, the business was taken over by sons Frank, Carl, and Ralph. On January 9th, 1909, the business was incorporated and was renewed on January 7, 1939, under Michigan Laws. The firm continued prosperously through World War II, winning government recommendations and “E” ratings from Army and Navy. After World War II, the flour milling industry of the area started to decline. There were three major reasons why this occurred: (1.) farmers of the region tapered off on growing wheat as they found fruit and other crops more profitable; (2) more westward states had vast wheat acreage and more direct rail transportation to import centers; (3) the west could raise both soft and hard wheat which when combined, made a superior product.
In 1955, shackled by a strike, the Voigt Milling Company went out of business for all practical purposes. The mills were demolished in the late 1960s to meet the demands for automobile parking lots of neighborhood business in the ear of urban renewal. Ralph Voigt, interviewed by the Grand Rapids Press in 1970, mentioned that during the time period from 1900-1930 the flour mills usually produced 1,200 barrels of flour and 50 tons of mill feed every day. The products were shipped to wholesalers including bakers, and dealers through the United States, with some export trade. Voigt manufactured patented graham, whole wheat, bran, and pancake flours. Their standard grade was branded “Crescent Flour” with the styles “Mark Twain Flour” and “Royal Patent” used for commercial purposes. In 1900, they began manufacturing cereal, the trade name of which was “Voigt Cream Flakes”. In 1908 Carl S. Voigt was made general manager of the Voigt Cereal Food Company.
Sources: Dun & Bradstreet Analytical Reports, 1946-1951; Grand Rapids Press, “Family Pride and a Gift for Old Time’s Sake”, January 4, 1970, and Dwight Goss, History of Grand Rapids and Its