My grandmother’s bread pail

Every so often I pull out this bread pail that was my grandmother’s.  She mixed bread in it for her family of six children, plus two of her husband’s younger siblings who lived with them during the Depression.  I think at one time she owned several of these, but this one is the only one I know about that’s still left in the family.  I continue to use it, but obviously I don’t make as much bread as she did.

The bread pail’s official name is the Number 4 Universal Bread Maker by Landers, Frary & Clark of New Britain, Connecticut.  It won a gold medal in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair.  Winning a gold medal at the World’s Fair was a big deal — Landers, Frary actually put it on the front of the bread pail itself.  This particular World’s Fair celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase (1803), one year late.  You can read lots more about it here if you’re interested.

Anyway, the bread “machine” was one of many products that came out around the turn of the twentieth century, all of which were designed to make women’s home-making jobs easier.  According to the National Housewares Manufacturers Association (see this reprint), the company who manufactured my bread pail produced goods under the trademark “Universal” from the 1890s until GE’s Housewares division acquired it in 1965.  In addition to the Universal bread maker, they produced a new type of food chopper that chopped vegetables as well as ground meat, and even more significant for us caffeine lovers, they designed the “Universal” coffee percolator.  Remember, electricity was just becoming available to the masses at that time: the first percolators were designed for the stove, and they made coffee that tasted better than people had ever made at home before. 

In fact, the aunt who gave me my grandmother’s  bread pail preferred to use a stove-top percolator, long after everyone else had switched to much fancier countertop coffee machines.  She claimed it made the best coffee, the hottest coffee.  She also told me, when she gave me the bread pail, that she expected me to use it — that when my grandmother was alive, she would check up on people she gave things to, and if they didn’t use them, she had no problem taking them back to give to someone else who would use them.

So I use it.  Not because I’m afraid it will be taken away — my aunt died a few years ago — but because it’s a great way to make bread.  You can mix up the ingredients, knead the bread with the hand crank, and then put the lid on to let the dough rise overnight, or while you go do something else.  You come back, crank it around to knead the dough a second time, and plop it into the pans.  It rises a second time, and you put the bread in the oven.  Voila!  That’s it.

I use the bread pail to make different yeast breads, but this time I made whole wheat bread.  It came out dense, with a smooth texture — perfect for breakfast, especially when toasted and spread with butter and jam.  Even if you don’t have one of these nifty pails, you can make this bread with an electric stand mixer and dough hook, or even with a big bowl and spoon.  But if you make bread often, you might check into acquiring a Universal Bread Maker.  I think you can still pick one up on eBay in the “antiques” section, although you may have to scrub off the rust if it hasn’t been used lately.  Bread pail or not, have a slice of whole wheat bread for breakfast.  Shoot, go ahead and have two slices.  My grandmother would approve.

Whole Wheat Bread
(From Breads, Rolls & Pastries (New Hampshire: Yankee Publishing Inc, 1981)

2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup molasses
5 to 6 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside.  Scald mild, remove from heat, and stir in butter until melted.  Add salt and molasses, and blend.  Cool and stir in yeast.  Beat in flour, 1 cup at a time, to form a stiff dough.  Turn out onto floured board and knead until smooth (or turn the crank in your bread pail!).  Cover and let rise until doubled.  Punch down, knead, and place in 1 greased 9-inch or 2 greadsed 8-inch loaf pans.  Cover and let rise until doubled.  Bake in preheated 300 degree oven 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Comments

  1. I have a bread pail that your grandmother gave me before you were born, and indeed I was careful to have freshly baked bread from the pail whenever she came from Texas to visit us in Virginia. But in those days I made most of the bread we ate; it was just that easy and effortless, and there was always a loaf to give away to someone. Funny…I have been musing about that pail and thinking that either I should use it or give it to your sister, whose hubby bakes yummy bread! Yup, it either needs to be used in its present home, or it needs a new home where it will be used, just like your granny believed!

    • I agree it should be used, but by all means keep it In the family! I have at least two bakers in the next generation here who will think that pail is very cool one day.

  2. I just got the no 4 ant havent found recipes for it anywhere. I want to use mine asap. would you mind sending me the recipes you use in your bread pail?
    Dave

    • Anne Rosales says:

      sorry, have been away and just saw this!! You can basically use any bread-making recipe in it. That’s why it’s so fantastic — makes it really simple.

    • Do you still want a recipe? I have several. I have baked my own bread for 50 years in one of these bread pails.

      • Chrisann says:

        I would love some recipes. I am 60 yrs old and made my own bread… but recently acquired my grandmothers universal bread maker. My mother has oassed, but I remember she made lots of bread for us 6 kids in this… but I don’t have any of her recipes!

  3. Janet Thurston says:

    This breadpail is a Godsend for making bread and it runs in my family for a long long time . . .but I lost the recipe so very glad you shared your and love the pics

  4. Charles Mac Arthur says:

    My mother had a #4 I used to play with as a toy when I was little. I just recently found one but some kid must have used it in a meth lab — it smelled so chemical, and had quite a bit of rust. Yesterday I got a replacement for the pail part, of stainless steel and then I noticed some lead solder used for the two bucket seams. So I guess I will put the old one up on the shelf. Maybe lead is why our world has turned so crazy?
    But the #4 is very very quick and easy to mix up a batch. And it makes the whole house smell like gramma’s.

  5. I just got my great grandmother’s old no. 4 in the mail from my mom. I have been baking bread in a dutch oven for a few years and it always produces amazing, crusty and chewy artisan type bread. I want to start making a bread that is a little more practical for sandwiches with the Universal, but it is so rusty. How much rust needs to come out and do I need to season it with oil before I use it?

    • Anne Rosales says:

      I would try to get as much rust out as you can — use steel wool and burn off some of those extra calories we all consumed during the holidays! You could season it with a little oil, but mainly you just don’t want rusty dough . . . Good luck!

  6. Charles Mac Arthur says:

    I have made a “modern” version of the #4 bread dough mixer after I tried and tried to clean up the original. I had also found a Mirro and a CamCo bread dough mixers, but both had aluminum bread buckets, not good with bread dough being acid PH-5. I wanted to give my three “kids” one for each of their houses, so right now I am building a dozen of them.

    My mother would have known all about making good bread, but she passed away years ago [I am 84] so I have been experimenting, trying to find the best recipe for the taste and smell of home made bread. I haven’ had to throw out a loaf yet.

    My aunt, Edith Langstroth, had a recipe for “shredded wheat bread” that was fantastic, and I am getting pretty close. So far I crumble two shredded wheat biscuits and add two tablespoons of molasses to my regular recipe, and that is getting nearer to what I can remember. A dash of extra water seems sto help the dough consistency

    And NO ADDATIVES. I figure about 65 cents a loaf and it never lasts like “store bread” for a month on the shelf. If we get enough of these organically energized machines around I hope to form a neighborhood bread club and make six loaves at a time, giving away five, and only baking once a week while we swap with neighbors.

    • Anne Rosales says:

      Wow, Charles, impressive. Especially that you’re building more bread pails. I’ve looked for them on ebay, and I think you can often pick up different versions there — might need some cleaning, spare parts, etc. But would be the real thing. Good luck!

    • I have been looking for a bread pail for my sister inlaws. They have used a old one for years and it has now broken. Can you share how you are making them? Thanks angela

  7. I just got my bread pail and haven’t used it yet but can’t wait. I would love to see the pails that Charles is making, I love his idea of a bread sharing club!

  8. Charles Mac Arthur says:

    I continue to work on the 2012 #4. Stainless steel orders take just under 6 months for delivery. So I am concentrating on the dough hook and crank mechanisms, developiong a simplfied and easier “machine”. If the newest one works out it will easily adapt to an bucket already owned. Graniteware buckets seem promising, manh people already having them. Some are made in the USA so outrageous deliveries are no longer a necssity.
    I am presently trying to interest the Maine Windjammer fleet, with guests out for up to almost a week, and hungry from salt air. Some of the chips cooks have overns fired up before the guests wake up, and the salt air, plus bread arome, I think would make their costal cruises even more memorable. I hope to check out a unit to make a ten pound batch.
    And for pizza, although many pizza shops [551 in Maine] buy their dough from commercial sources, the ability to add herbs to pizza dough while guaranteeing “no additives” strikes me as sensible. About four miles away there will soon be a wood fired beehive over, where artisan cooks may be able to get baking services.
    So far two year without trying to sell, just develope.
    Charlie

    • Good luck with the sales, Charles — wow, you sure have lots of ideas for improvement! Have you perfected your recipe yet? The shredded wheat and molasses bread sounded great. I make a version of the whole wheat one I published in my post but am not satisfied with it — too heavy, and I’m not sure what to change.

  9. Charles Mac Arthur says:

    I suspect lots of things we buy at the storve as food may have a few chemicals to aid factory production but do nothing for health or digestion. So I am still working on the 2012 versrion of the Landers, Frary and Clark hand crank bread dough mixer, and I am getting closer to success for ways to manufacture it without lots of special shop tools. I live in “subsidized” low income housing, and most of us are “seniors”, I am 84. We are almost 20 older couples, so I am leaning toward several possible sizes of mixers, one to be a 1 to 10 loaf. I am thinking that if I made ten loaves at a time, once a week, I could distribute them to my neighbors, in exchange for each of the recipients to “contribute” a 10 pound bag of flour every ten weeks. A good loaf of bread is worth $3.00 or more hereabouts, but my problem is that if I sold the bread, it would add about $930 a month to my income, and I would get evicted for being too wealthy. I would be a micro economy and might want to vote with rich folks like Donald Trump.
    On the other hand the 10 loaf mixer might be great for “underground” bakers, who secretly shared their skills in the neighborhood. Baking only 10 loaves a day would be just about as easy as one a day, and would add somewheres around $900 extra income.
    If that idea caught on I would have to “Un-retire”, I don’t mind a little work, but not a lot anymore.

  10. Barbara Boville says:

    Oh my goodness, I love my Landers, Frary and Clark No. 8 breadpail. I have been using for the 43 years I have been married. I use it exclusively for all bread from Sept. thru May expecially. The pail was originally my grandmothers. About 15 years ago my husband had the pail re-made in stainless for me. My parents had my grandmother’s No.4, I am not sure what dad did with it. Looked all over for it, I hate to think that he just threw it out. If the house ever is on fire I will grab my husband, my photos, my spinning wheel and my bread pail. As I type dough is in the pail, beef barley soup in the slow cooker. Oh a tip about baking the bread: I put it in a cold oven to rise in the bread pans,with a 9 x 12 cake pan of hot, hot water on the shelf below.

    • Ha Ha, I hope your house never catches fire! I have some bread rising right now, and I’m lucky enough to have replaced my oven last year with a new model that has a “bread proof” setting of 100 degrees, so am using that. But I bet the cake pan with hot water works just as well!

  11. Charles Mac Arthur says:

    I know not too much about bread making, but have picked up a lot abut bread mixers design, organically powered. I have a digital photo of my finished “prototype machine” but I don’t have a clue how to send it to you. Being 84, we didn’t have computers in school to grow up with. My start was with a #2 lead pencil.

    Charlie, happily ignorant

  12. Hi Charles, I can’t wait for the new version..please distribute to Australia…

  13. Ann,
    That’s the exact same bread machine I remember so well from my childhood. Those memories with my Mom are some of the best memories I have. Two hundred turns of the crank and in a little while you had seven loaves. Which were shared with my Aunt and her family, one house up the street. Mom, Aunt Bean and Grandma, the smell of the yeast, the smell of warm bread, the soft smooth feel of the dough dusted with flour, like my grandma’s cheeks. Our family went through two of them and Mom tried to have the pail re-tinned, but could never find anyone to do it. It was to be a gift, for she knew how special those times were for me. You know it’s coming, so here it is: if you ever feel like being an angel, I’d be happy to make bread in that pail in my home. If you want, please check up on me and I promise to make and share home made bread every other week for the rest of my life.

    • Thanks for sharing your lovely memories, Tom. You know, I’ve seen similar bread pails from time to time on ebay. In varying conditions, of course — but maybe you’ll get lucky and can be your own angel!!

      Best,

      Anne

  14. Hi–this is great info. I just discovered this bread maker; but it has a thin coating of rust on it. Would any of you have some suggestions how to best remove the rust and ensure it is safe to use for “food production?” Thanks very much for any suggestions/ideas.

    • I was able to remove rust from mine with some steel wool and lots of good old fashioned elbow grease. You might try that. Then again, I don’t know whether you have a lot of rust to deal with or not. Good luck!

  15. Bruce MacDonald says:

    Dear bread bucket brigade,
    I re-habbed an old #4 recently, but got concerned about the lead solder in the bucket itself. I shouldn’t worry perhaps, since at age 74 something else will get me before lead poisoning, I’m sure. . Nonetheless, I solved my problem by going to my local supermarket and got a two-gallon food grade pail, which fits right inside the bucket.
    I needed to cut the top rim of the pail in two places to accommodate the crosspiece that holds the the mixing unit in place. Easy. I should say before I used it at all I scrubbed the whole unit with soap and water and a coarse steel wool, then oiled it. Looks quite nice, works like a charm. If you’re worried about the soldered seam, then this will work for you.
    Bruce

  16. Cathie Hascup says:

    I have a #8 Universal Bread Maker – I want to make approx 3-4 loaves – is the # 8 to large or will the smaller amount of loaves work as well?

  17. We have a bread maker no. 4 in our family, passed down from my Norwegian ancestors that arrived early 1900s. It has been used every year during the Christmas season to make our traditional Sista Kage bread. My mom and I just retrieved the bread maker to bake this year’s batch when I decided to search the internet for some stories. That’s when I discovered your post. It’s a family treasure that will be passed on and on. I’m the family historian and and the history behind this treasure is one of my faves!

  18. Barb Clough says:

    My sister now has the one my Mom had – she made enough dough to make 5-6 loaves at a time. That way we all got a loaf to take home!!

  19. My bread maker was a wedding gift in 1984 from an elderly family friend who lived in Orrington, Maine. It was something I’d requested for our wedding.
    Over time, it sat out on a high shelf and has oxidized, turning it into a dark gray versus the shiny silver color it used to have. Does anyone know how to return it to its original color, or is this okay and part of the process? I’ve obviously not used it in a while and am ready to again.

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