Little Known Black History Fact: Joseph Lee

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  • The next time you use a food processor or a bread maker, think of the name Joseph Lee. In the late 1890’s this African-American inventor made the first food processor. Lee was a restaurant owner who was tired of throwing away day-old bread and looked for a simpler way to recycle it. So he invented a machine that processed the bread into breadcrumbs. With his new invention, Lee was making coatings for fried meat, croquettes and cake batters, and serving it up in his restaurant.

    Lee was born in Boston, MA in 1849. He worked in a bakery as a child. He later opened two restaurants in the Boston area then in the Woodland Park Hotel. He then purchased the Squantum Inn, a summer resort in South Shores specializing in seafood.  Seven years after his patent for the bread crumbler, Lee opened the Lee Catering Company and had many wealthy clients.

    Lee’s new bread crumbling machine was patented on June 4, 1895.

    He eventually sold it to the Royal Worcester Bread Crumb Company of Boston. The company distributed Lee’s invention in restaurants around the country.

    After the successful invention of the crumbler, Lee realized his need for a machine that actually made the bread. He invented a machine that made the bread faster in larger quantities and with a cleaner process. He then patented the bread maker.

    Joseph Lee died in 1905.

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