Pepperidge Farm Owner and Stockbroker Margaret Rudkin
Rudkin’s business flourished through both World Wars, thanks to her commitment to old-fashioned country cooking and baking.
As a native New Yorker, she graduated high school as valedictorian before working as bookkeeper at a bank in 1919. Soon thereafter she married Wall Street broker Henry Albert Rudkin who was 12 years her senior.
Early Life and Education
Margaret Rudkin grew up in Queens, New York City among a family of immigrants. After graduating valedictorian of her public high school class and working as bookkeeper at McClure Jones & Co. where she met Henry (also a stockbroker).
They purchased a 125-acre property in Fairfield, Connecticut that they named Pepperidge Farm after an old pepperridge tree on the estate. There, she attempted to bake healthier bread for her youngest son who suffered from severe allergies and asthma that prevented him from consuming store-bought Wonder Bread.
She transformed her kitchen and garage into a small bakery and began selling loaves around town. Following an endorsement by one of the doctors she had consulted, sales quickly took off. Trying different recipes, she eventually settled on an ancient one that produced soft yet succulent loaves.
Margaret Fogarty was raised in Tudor City, a turn-of-the-century neighborhood of dignified four-story brownstones. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school class and working for a small bank as a Wall Street broker, she met and married Henry Rudkin (then partner in their firm) by 1926; together they purchased 125 acres in Fairfield County Connecticut and built Pepperidge Farm after an ancient pepperidge tree.
By the 1940s and ’50s, Pepperidge Farm had expanded into a national business under Henry Rudkin’s marketing and financial oversight while Margaret Rudkin managed operations. Margaret designed Pepperidge Farm’s commercial bakery in 1947; by 1950 Pepperidge Farm produced over 50,000 loaves per week while advertising heavily via television commercials; additionally she created The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook which became immensely popular with consumers.
Achievement and Honors
Rudkin’s approach enabled Pepperidge Farm to adapt quickly to consumer demand while simultaneously upholding quality controls as production facilities expanded. She emphasized the “homemade” quality of her products despite fewer Americans baking bread at home at that time.
She frequently spoke at business groups and industry conferences, earning accolades such as being honored with the Women’s International Exposition’s Distinguished Award to Industry award. Fortune Magazine named her one of America’s leading women executives.
In 1923, she married Henry Albert Rudkin of McClure Jones & Co. who was 12 years her senior. Together they purchased and settled at Pepperidge Farm in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Margaret Rudkin created an eclectic cookbook in her later years called De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine (or Virtuous Enjoyment and Good Health), from 15th century Venice, while also including modern updates. This work made it onto the New York Times bestseller list; unfortunately Margaret died of breast cancer at age 81.
Margaret Fogarty graduated valedictorian of her high school class in 1897 and immediately began working at McClure Jones & Co in Manhattan. With the support of Henry, another stockbroker, they soon acquired their own 125-acre estate called Pepperidge Farm after its namesake tree (Nyssa sylvatica). From their investments, they became wealthy enough to afford horses, cars and full-time servants; but unfortunately due to a combination of circumstances (the Great Depression + an unfortunate polo accident), their lifestyle changed dramatically.
Margaret Rudkin was an astute young woman. In high school she served as class valedictorian, studied mathematics in college and eventually made it onto Wall Street before marrying Henry Albert Rudkin, 12 years her senior stock broker, moving to Fairfield County Connecticut and purchasing Pepperidge Farm (named for its abundance of peppridge trees) where they both made homes (via Connecticut Explored).
Margaret began earning recognition for her business acumen decades before women entered the workplace at any rate. She was honored at the Women’s International Exposition and listed among Fortune Magazine’s “Famous Seven.” Through acquisitions and new product introduction, such as coffee cake and Melba toast lines, Margaret expanded Pepperidge Farm before selling it off in 1960 to Campbell Soup Company for $28 Million of stock.