This Week in Business History- Episode 23

“But in 1908, tragedy would strike. A heart condition led to the sudden death of Charles Knox. In a single moment, Rose would lose her lifelong companion, business partner, and dear friend. It was a staggering loss. Many of Rose Knox’s friends would advise her to sell off the enterprise. Her friends in those very different days would discourage a women from leading a business. But Rose Knox would challenge the status quo. And would defy her doubters. She would do the unthinkable at the time. That’s right. Rose Knox chose to take the reigns & lead Knox Gelatin Company into a new era.”

-Scott Luton, Host, This Week in Business History


In this episode, Scott W. Luton dives into the story of Rose Knox, who overcame terrific challenges to lead Knox Gelatin Company to new heights. She also refused to maintain the status quo, especially as it related to how leaders managed their workforces in the early 20th Century. Learn the story of a true pioneer – – that many may not know.

Scott Luton (00:11):


Scott Luton (00:12):

Good morning, Scott Luton here with you on this edition of this week in business history. Welcome to today’s show on this program, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming. We’ll take a look back at the upcoming week, and then we share some of the most relevant events and milestones from years past, of course, mostly business focused with a little dab of global supply chain. And occasionally we might just throw in a good story outside of our primary realm. So I invite you to join me on this. Look back in history to identify some of the most significant leaders, companies, innovations, and perhaps lessons learned in our collective business journey. Now let’s dive in to this week in business history.

Scott Luton (01:14):

Hello, and thanks for joining us. I’m your host Scott Luton. And today on this edition of this week in business history, we’re focused on the week of November 16th. Thanks so much for listening to the show. Hey, before we get started, I want to share a really neat note that I picked up from a dear friend, Gary Smith here in, uh, in the last week or so Gary recently published an article entitled after the dust settles in a magazine called supply chain management review in it. He explores what may well be an entirely new landscape in global supply chains in the post pandemic environment. One quote really stood out that resonated. At least with me, Gary Smith included a point expressed in a recent New York times column written by Tom Friedman in the column and stay with me here, Freedman and quotes, Dov Seidman, who said, quote, in my view, trust is the only legal performance enhancing drug.

Scott Luton (02:10):

Whenever there is more trust in a company country or community, good things happen in quote, amen. And I wholeheartedly agree when teams trust each other, they can move mountains and when they don’t trust each other teams fall apart like clockwork. Great article, Gary, thanks so much for sharing. Hey, back to today’s episode of this week in business history today, we’re diving into the story of an innovative forward thinking business leader and historical leader. One that certainly moved mountains. A story that I bet you haven’t heard, but one that you should know, it’ll inspire you to be bold. Get out of your comfort zone, do big things and be the change in this world. Stay tuned and thanks again for joining us here on this week in business history, powered by our team at supply chain. Now we’ll November 18th, 1857 Rose Mark Ward was born in Mansfield, Ohio in the late 1870s.

Scott Luton (03:09):

The Mark Ward family would relocate to Gloversville New York, a little known fact about Gloversville New York. The city was first settled by new England Puritans in the 1790s due to the purity and abundance of water in hemlock bark, leather tanning, especially the manufacturing of gloves became a burgeoning industry in the area. Thus in 1828, when the first post office was established in the city, it was officially named Gloversville New York. Now back to RoseMark word, she would end up meeting Charles Briggs Knox and Gloversville in 1881. They would marry just two years later and establish a very interesting relationship and incredible strong bond. Charles Knox was a successful sales person for a knit goods company, but he didn’t involve Rose in a wide variety of business discussions and he greatly valued her perspective and expertise. In fact, Charles would give Rose knocks a fixed allowance for her to run the household with if she had any of the monthly allotment left over at the end of the month, it was hers to keep in savings.

Scott Luton (04:14):

Occasionally Charles Knox would have to borrow from Rose knocks. His savings, a tight ledger was kept though. And Charles would have to repay in a timely manner over time. Rose proved to be an excellent manager and very frugal with her finances. In fact, she accumulated $5,000 in savings. Now for perspective, $5,000 in the late 19th century is worth about $140,000 today in 1890 Charles and Rose Knox wanted to gain control of their own destiny. So they decided to take those savings and purchase a gelatin business. In Johnstown New York, the business had hit hard times and the NOx team was determined to turn things around. Here’s a little background on gelatin that I certainly didn’t know back in the 1890s. If you wanted gelatin to cook with you didn’t have any really easy options. Most would source cow. Shinbones cook them for hours and use that liquid combined with egg whites to form gelatin.

Scott Luton (05:17):

I don’t know about you, but if it were me, I’d probably had avoided any recipes that called for gelatin back in the day. But with Rose Knox’s culinary expertise and Charles knocks his enterprising approach, the duo figured out a way to produce a granulated gelatin, no more cow, shin bones and hours and hours of slaving in the kitchen to produce gelatin. You could now pick up a simple packet of gelatin and the grocery store and be good to go. Charles Knox would marry that revolutionary product with his very unorthodox marketing approach, which proved to be very effective. In fact, he would earn the nickname, the Napoleon of advertising, a big part of those successful advertising campaigns were because of Rose Knox’s recipes, which will be featured in newspapers, magazines, and grocery store handouts Knox gelatin company took off and life was good for 18 years. The company continued to grow and Charles and Rose Knox would add other products and companies to their enterprise, such as a small hardware store in a line of soaps, ointment and tonics, but in 1908 tragedy would strike a heart condition led to the sudden death of Charles Knox in a single moment, Rose would lose her lifelong companion business partner and dear friend.

Scott Luton (06:39):

It was a staggering loss. Any of Rose Knox’s friends would advise her to sell off the enterprise, her friends, and those very different days would discourage a woman from leading a business, but Rose Knox would challenge the status quo and would defy her doubters. She would do the unthinkable at the time. That’s right. Rose Knox chose to take the reins and lead Knox gelatin company into a new era. Two of the very first changes to the business that Rose Knox would make first, the back door would be closed at the time. Certain employees were only allowed to enter the company through the back door. Rose Knox would not stand for it. She would say, quote, we are all ladies and gentlemen working together here, and we’ll all come in through the front door in quote, secondly, own her very first day. Rose Knox would force the resignation of one of her late husband’s top executives.

Scott Luton (07:38):

The executive had told Rose that he would not work for a woman and he was out after closely studying the overall business. Rose Knox identified a strong need for focus at the company. Thus, she sold off many of the peripheral businesses to truly focus on one thing, selling gelatin and especially selling gelatin to the American housewife. Rose Knox rationalize the decision by stating gelatin was bought and used by women and women across the country were highly interested in recipes for their families that were easy to prepare nutritious and economical. So she invested into a test kitchen and began to churn out hundreds of recipes that Knox gelatin company could share far and wide. The culinary content would engage educators and inform consumers and, and households would respond across the nation by purchasing a ton of gelatin, a ton of Knox gelatin by 1915 Knox gelatin company had tripled in size Rose Knox would operate the company for 40 years and take Knox gelatin company to incredible new Heights while also challenging and changing the business landscape of her day under her direction, the company would become and remains to this day.

Scott Luton (09:02):

The leading manufacturer and distributor of gelatin bros Knox would be amongst the first businesses across the country to Institute a five day workweek in 1913, that was some 13 years before Henry Ford implemented a five day workweek and some 25 to 30 years before it became commonplace across the United States, but she didn’t stop there. Rose Knox also implemented two weeks of annual paid vacation and paid sick leave. This took place decades before they became remotely commonplace across industry. These brave moves were perhaps some of the key reasons that Knox gelatin company made it through the great depression without having to lay off a single employee. Rose Knox was a revolutionary business leader and was embraced by her colleagues. She would become the first female member of the American grocery manufacturers association in 1929. Rose Knox would become the organization’s first female director, a true game changer to find all of those doubters that told her to sell it all back in 1908, they told her to give up a woman couldn’t possibly lead the company they said, but Hey, we’re all better off. Thanks to the exceptional courage, strength and vision of one Rose Knox. She would go on to retire as president of Knox gelatin company in 1947 at the age of 90 Rose Knox passed away just three years later in 1950, while still serving as the chairman of the board of directors for the company. Wow. What a story one, we can all draw inspiration from Knox gelatin company was acquired by Thomas J Lipton inc in 1972. And it’s now part of the Treehouse foods portfolio of companies.

Speaker 3 (10:54):

Before we tackle a few other items to note here on this week in business history, I wanted to invite you to check out a few of our other podcasts. These that make up the supply chain. Now family of programming, Greg white, who had just mentioned is offering up exceptional insights on supply chain tech and the entrepreneurial journey at tequila sunrise and that’s T E C H Q U I L a tequila sunrise. Chris Barnes is challenging his guests to challenge his assertion. That supply chain is boring on the aptly titled podcast series. Supply chain is boring. Kerryn bursa is diving into the world of the digital supply chain and digital transformation in our tech talk, digital supply chain podcasts that’s T E K T O K digital supply chain podcast. And finally, as part of our give-back programming here at supply chain. Now I interviewed veterans and veterans advocate several times a month to gain their stories, insights via veteran voices. You can find these and others tequila. Sunrise supply chain is boring. Tech talk better and voices all wherever you get your podcasts. Now back to the show,

Scott Luton (12:09):

A few other items to note on this week in business history for the week of November 16th on November 17th, 1858, the city of Denver, Colorado is founded. Interestingly enough, the city was named after Kansas territorial, governor James Denver in an effort by land speculators to Curry political favor, but much to their surprise. Governor James Denver had already resigned from office. So while the attempt failed, the name stuck and Denver has grown into the Capitol and most popular city in the state of Colorado to friends of the show that were just in Denver a few weeks ago, clay and Delaney tell me that they ate at a restaurant in the city that claimed to have invented the cheeseburger. Now that’s quite a contribution to the world culinary scene. If you asked me on November 18th, 1865, the short story, the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County, Bob Mark Twain was published in the New York Saturday press.

Scott Luton (13:08):

It would be Twain’s first big time successful publication and make him famous across the country. As we all know, Mark Twain has a thousand popular quotes and sayings. Perhaps my favorite is this one, quote, a man who carries a cat by the tail, learns a lesson he can learn in no other way in quote on November 17th, 1911, the Omega PSI Phi fraternity is founded on the campus of Howard university in Washington, DC, amongst its members through the years, poet, Langston Hughes, entertainer and entrepreneur, Steve Harvey, current NASA administrator, Charles F Bolden jr and scientist, Charles drew it. The ladder name is new to you. Charles drew was an extraordinary American surgeon and researcher whose work in the blood transfusion field has saved perhaps millions of lives since the 1930s on November 20th, 1985, Microsoft releases windows 1.0 and on November 22nd, 1995. The movie smash toy story is released, which is the first feature-length film that was created entirely using computer generated imagery.

Scott Luton (14:25):

Now with four installments and the potential for a fifth, the toy story franchise is the 20th highest grossing franchise worldwide having grossed more than $3 billion globally. Hey, that wraps up this edition of this week in business history. Those were some of the stories that stood out to us, but Hey, what do you think? Find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and share your comments there. We’re here to listen. Thanks so much for listening to our podcast. Hope you’ve enjoyed this latest edition of this week in business history. How about Rose Knox? What an incredible story. Hey, be sure to check out a wide variety of industry thought friendly reminder. You can now find this week in business history, wherever you get your podcasts from and be sure to tell us what you think we’d love to earn your review on behalf of the entire team here at this week in business history and supply chain. Now this is Scott Luton wishing all of our listeners, nothing but the best. Thank you so much. We’re grateful for your support. Do good. Give forward, be the change that’s needed on that note. We’ll see. Next time here on this week in business history. Thanks.

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott introduces you to This Week in Business History through our YouTube channel.

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


Resources, Links, and Events Mentioned in This Episode:

Subscribe to This Week in Business History and all Supply Chain Now Programming Here:
Leave a review for Supply Chain Now:
Connect with Scott on LinkedIn:
Check out Gary Smith’s article:
Download the Q3 2020 U.S. Bank Freight Payment Index: