Working as a moulder for the Duffy Trowbridge company prior to the turn of the century, Henry Zimmerman switched careers, and by 1903 was the owner of Zimmerman’s Bakery, located at 722 Broadway.
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Henry Zimmerman was born in Germany circa 1867, and emigrated with his parents (Mr. and Mrs. Valentine Zimmerman) circa 1875. He first lived in Quincy, Ill., and ultimately found his way to Hannibal. Working as a moulder for the Duffy Trowbridge company prior to the turn of the century, he switched careers, and by 1903 was the owner of Zimmerman’s Bakery, located at 722 Broadway.
That career move would have a positive impact not only upon his family, but also of the community as a whole, for the next half a century.
In 2017, the building that formerly housed Zimmerman’s Bakery is occupied by the C.L. Downey Company. The building served as a bakery as early as 1885, when John Seeger operated a bakery and confectionery in that location.
In 1895, John Loetterle operated the bakery at 722 Broadway, and lived upstairs. He later operated a grocery store at 335-337 Palmyra Avenue.
By 1901, Frank C. Fuch owned the bakery and confectionery shop at 722 Broadway.
In 1903, Henry Zimmerman and his wife Anna (Anna Maria Seeger) took over the business, living upstairs. They had a telephone; their number was 30. They baked and sold fancy bread and cakes.
In 1914, Henry Zimmerman bought property adjoining his bakery, (720 Broadway) installing another oven in order to double the capacity of plant.
Henry and Anna had three children, a son and two daughters, Elmer H. Zimmerman, born circa 1893; Caroline A. (Carrie) Zimmerman (Rupp), born circa 1895; and Gertrude Zimmerman (Frier), born circa 1910.
Elmer worked with his father in the business, as did daughter Carrie’s husband, Willard Rupp.
In September 1925, Zimmerman’s Bakery was featured in the Marion County Herald (Palmyra) newspaper:
“They do a tremendous wholesale business, supplying stores and dealers in the city with their bread and bakery products which so large a portion of the public demands. Their plant is one of the most modernly equipped and one of the cleanest sanitary institutions in the state and they urge the people to call at any time and inspect for themselves. No need to let them know that you are coming; just drop in any time and inspect this well known plant. Then you will know why their delicious products are so clean and wholesome.”
The Zimmermans lived at 3520 St. Mary’s Avenue from circa 1918-1950. Prior to 1918, that house was occupied by the Wilbur Chamberlain family. In 2017 the house is owned by Wesley and Rhonda Knapp.
In 1930, Willard Rupp (son of Valentine and Theresa Frances Pike Rupp) was sales manager for Zimmerman’s Bakery, working with his father-in-law and brother-in-law in the family business. By 1940, he had branched out on his own, he and his wife Carrie operating Rupp Bakery at 100 Center St.
Both bakeries continued in operation simultaneously, selling bread and bakery products in Northeast Missouri and West Central Illinois.
Willard Rupp’s sons, Willard (Jake) and Robert J. (Pat) Rupp, did not following in their father’s footsteps.
Willard Sr., and his wife, Carrie, lived at 2000 Broadway for most of their married life. By 1959, Willard had retired from the bakery business. He died July 14, 1976, a week after the death of his wife. They are buried at Grand View Cemetery.
Henry Zimmerman died in 1940, and his son, Elmer, continued the business. Elmer died in 1967.
In 2013, Howard Sederwall told Dominic Genetti of the Hannibal Courier-Post, how his own bakery experience tied in with the Zimmerman family bakery legacy.
“The war (World War II) was on,” Sederwall explained. “They needed help down at Zimmerman’s Bakery. I was working in a green house for a dollar a day. People don’t believe, but this is back in the ‘40s, dollar a day was good. Gas was five gallons for a dollar. It was something,” he said. “My first check down there was $25.65, I won’t forget it. From a dollar a day, that’s a good thing.
“We had a big oven down there, held 1,000 loaves of bread, you put it in and it came back, go around, about this way, then it came out,” Sederwall said, motioning his hands in demonstration. “I was 6’4, weighed about 185 pounds, I was an ol’ country boy. It didn’t bother me. You dumped three pans of bread and loaded three pans of bread. So every 30 minutes, you handled 2,000 loaves of bread. You worked, it was something.”
In 1960, Sederwall opened his own bakery in the same location, which he named the Pastry Box. He continued the bakery legacy for the next 30 years, until he retired in 1990.
That closure ended a 105-year reign of bread baking at 722 Broadway.
Sederwall continued his bakery business in a shop near his house on Route O.
In 2013, he told the Courier-Post: Just about every piece of machinery he has is at least 50 years old. “There’s even a couple that are teasing with 70 or 90 years,” he said.
The machinery was reflective of a century-plus of bread baking in Hannibal.
Sidenote: Willard Rupp and his wife had a large, pink automobile. After their deaths in 1976, their sons gave the car to Willard’s younger sister, Cordelia (Delo) Gwinner, mother of long-time Hannibal plumber, Bud Gwinner.
Bud’s daughter, Terrie Johnson, remembers a funny family story. Her father was at a local bar, eating lunch, when another customer came into the eatery. That customer announced loudly that an old lady driving “a large pink football field” almost hit him. “Dad just put his head down and kept eating,” Terrie said, knowing that it was his mother driving the car.
Mary Lou Montgomery is a writer, speaker and researcher with a specialty in history. She is the former editor of the Courier-Post.