Dakota Datebook

Edwin Ladd and Pure Foods

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Edwin Ladd was born on this date in 1859. He was one of the first chemists at the North Dakota Agricultural College and later became president of the school.

Professor Ladd became nationally known for conducting research on food samples and discovering many to be impure and adulterated. Beef was laced with poisonous preservatives, and glucose was being presented as sugar. Coffee was sometimes mixed with roasted peas, wheat, pea-hull pellets or chicory. Some was actually wheat middlings and dextrins molded to look like real coffee beans. Customers were also being cheated in the products’ weight.

Outraged, Professor Ladd began a long crusade, and in 1901, the North Dakota legislature passed one of the first pure foods laws in the nation. Food manufacturers were infuriated by this uppity prairie professor and sued Ladd for damages. But in every case brought against him, Professor Edwin Ladd won.

In 1920, Ladd was elected to the US Senate. He died in office in 1925.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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