These two coupons for Koester's bread were tucked inside a handwritten recipe book that I picked up at a yard sale last year in southern York County. The pink one is for a free loaf of Koester's Honey Bread (regular price 10¢). The yellow one is for a free loaf of Koester's Homade Bread (regular price 12¢). My wife and I like the line at the bottom of the coupon that states: "Mr. Grocer: Please collect 12¢ from our salesman for this coupon."
Beyond that, information has been relatively hard to come by. It turns out that Koester is remembered more for a baseball card set it issued in 1921 than for its baked goods (more on that later).
Pictured at right are some images of Koester's company and product logos, if that helps to jog anyone's memories.
The best information I was able to track down was compiled by the website German Marylanders, which is dedicated to profiling men and women of German ancestry who moved to Maryland and "paved the way for life as we live today." Eilert Herman Koester (1858-1948) and his wife Lisette Koester (1860-1947), both of whom were born in Germany, established The E.H. Koester Bakery Co. in Baltimore in 1886. It was, at one point, the largest family-owned bakery in the U.S. The bakery later was taken over by the Koester's son, William, after he served in the Navy in World War II. The bakery was sold in 1977.
There must be people out there who remember Koester's bread and bakery products. Please post your memories in the comments section, because I'm sure there's more to tell about this company, its history and its customers. It's a slice (no pun intended) of American history that shouldn't be forgotten.
Of course, in one respect, Koester's will never be forgotten. The company issued one of the most collectible baseball card sets -- including one extremely valuable card -- of all time.
In 1921, Koester's issued a 52-card set1 to commemorate the World Series between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees2. The set included the players and managers from both teams.
One of the Yankees in the set is Babe Ruth, who is listed as "George Ruth, L.F.-New York Americans" and is pictured in a Boston Red Sox uniform, because it had still been less than two years since the Red Sox sold him to the Yankees for $100,000.
The Koester's set features black and white photos on heavier-than-normal paper. The back of the cards are blank and have no markings. The website Babe Ruth Cards notes that: "Although trading cards began as a medium for advertising with the company producing the card’s name on the back, the 1921 Koester Bread card series lacks advertising. ... While the mechanism of distribution for the 1921 Koester Bread company’s cards is unknown, even without advertising these cards likely boosted sales among the always passionate about sports New Yorkers."
Oh, and these Babe Ruth cards, which are quite rare, are valued in excess of $10,000 in the marketplace.
Here's what it looks like, so that you can keep your eyes peeled at the next yard sale you attend.
Very geeky addendum
As I was examining the coupons in preparation for writing this entry, I noted with excitement that the words "Koester's Honey Bread" and "Koester's Homade Bread" appear to have been printed in the Cooper Black font. At first, I didn't think this was possible, because I didn't believe that Cooper Black was that old. But it turns out it was first released in 1922, so it's entirely reasonable for it to be used in the typography of a 1940s coupon. As I explained all of this to my wife, she stared at me as if I had suddenly sprouted a third eye. So there.
1. The Koester's set is known as the D383 within the American Card Catalog.
2. The Giants defeated the Yankees, five games to three. Yes, you read that right.