The Life of C. W. Post: Success Against All Odds

On this day, October 26 in the year 1854, one of the few men who achieved great success against all odds was born in Illinois, United States. His name was Charles William Post, the founder of Postum Cereal Co. Ltd. which later became General Foods Corporation.

Charles Post
Charles Post (Credit: wiki commons)

Charles Post was the son of an itinerant laborer and a poet. He attended the University of Illinois but did not finish a course. Instead, he travelled to Kansas where he opened a general store using $500 as capital which he borrowed from his mother. He went back to Illinois after a year, got married and became a salesman and manufacturer of agricultural implements for 13 years. By this time, he was suffering from nervous breakdown. To find a cure, he went to Texas in 1885. Soon, he got involved in real estate investment around Fort Worth. Three years later, he was able to purchase a 200-acre ranch for development into a subdivision.

The venture was not successful and Charles Post’s mental problem recurred. He moved with his family to Michigan where he tried to find treatment for his mental problem. With the guidance of a Christian Science practitioner who advised him to eat a particular natural diet and to regularly perform mental suggestion. After some time, he began to feel better. He wrote and published a book about this particular strategy of self-help. He also opened a mental health clinic which he named La Vita Inn.

Regarding his diet, Charles Post experimented with different combinations of ingredients to come up with a healthy and palatable food. In 1895, he came up with Postum which was prepared with bran, wheat, and molasses. He formed Postum Cereal Company to market this product which became a hit. He went on to produce and market cereal mix called Grape-Nut although it neither contained grape nor nut. He also came up with cornflakes which he called Elijah’s Manna. Both products were successful like the first.

Unfortunately for Charles Post, his mental breakdown returned once more. In 1914, he was operated to remove his appendix. Unable to bear all his suffering which was aggravated with his unhappy second marriage, he committed suicide that same year.

Charles Post’s only child Marjorie Merriwether Post inherited his estate. Aided by her husband who was a stockbroker, Postum Cereal Company grew and was renamed General Foods Corporation in 1929.


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