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Leaders in Innovation

Filling the “Knead” for Bread

Meet 2019 NIHF Inductee Joseph Lee!

We are honored to have Joseph Lee join the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF).

The Invention

Joseph Lee’s bread machines impacted the restaurant, baking and catering industries at the turn of the 20th century.

While working in the food industry, Lee saw bread going to waste and began looking for ways to address this problem.

His first invention, a bread crumber, tore and ground stale or unused bread until it became breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs could then be used for coatings or batters.

Continuing to innovate, Lee then invented an automated bread making machine that mixed and kneaded dough to create uniform loaves of bread, often doing the work of several people.

The Inventor

Lee was born the son of slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1849 — over ten years before the onset of the Civil War.  Lee spent more than ten years in bondage before serving as a steward in the U.S. Coast Survey (now part of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) where he was tasked with cooking and baking.

As an adult, the self-educated Lee owned and operated restaurants, hotels and various catering establishments in the Boston area.

Ultimately, Lee sold the rights to his bread-crumbing machine to the Goodell Company. Lee also sold the rights to his bread-kneading machine to The National Bread Co., continuing to own stock and receive royalties.

The Impact

By decreasing waste and increasing productivity, the machines allowed businesses to operate at a larger capacity and with higher efficiency. Lee’s innovations pioneered bread production during his lifetime.

Lee joined the ranks of other global innovators in the National Inventors Hall of Fame during the 2019 Induction Ceremony

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