Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eddie Cudahy and Pat Crowe

Cudahy Money from Meat

Servants were surprised when the collie dog returned home alone.

But there was no alarm until the boys father, Edward Sr., returned from a dinner engagement at 10:30.

Cudahy telephoned police, and two cops on bicycles were sent to the mansion. The family waited long into the night without hearing a word about the boy.

By sunrise the next day, the disappearance was extra-edition news in the Omaha newspapers, the Bee, the Daily News and the World-Herald.

The Cudahys were pillars of the city, and Edward Cudahy Sr. and his brothers were iconic American success stories.

Edward A. Cudahy
Edward A. Cudahy
Edward Sr. was born in Milwaukee in 1860, the youngest of five sons of Irish immigrants who settled in Milwaukee.

Some people are born to certain professions - lawyer, doctor, teacher or laborer. The Cudahy boys were born to be meatpackers, and they were determined to one day direct a slaughterhouse dynasty that would be the Standard Oil of beef.

At 13, Edward went to work for Plankington Packing Co., one of the largest meatpacking firms in Milwaukee, where his older brothers Patrick and Michael had worked their way up to supervisory positions.

Each Cudahy brother learned the business from the ground up, working in each aspect of meatpacking, where livestock on the hoof is slaughtered, butchered, packed and shipped for sale.

Railroads had changed the food industry by allowing expeditious shipment of perishables. The Cudahys came to understand that it was more economical to slaughter livestock near the farm, then ship the meat to the population centers back east.

By age 23, Edward Cudahy was hired as superintendent of the huge Armour packing plant adjacent to the vast Chicago Stockyards.

By the mid-1880s, Omaha had developed its own thriving livestock yards, where farmers and ranchers from a 250-mile radius - reaching into Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota--would deliver animals for slaughter.

The sprawling pens of the Union Stockyards in South Omaha soon were ringed by hulking slaughterhouses where pigs, cattle and sheep were butchered and prepared for shipment.

The Cudahy brothers opened a plant in Omaha in 1887, with Michael as president and Edward vice-president and general manager. Within a decade, the Cudahy brand was among the nations big five meatpackers, along with Armour, Wilson, Swift and Morrell, each of which had plants in South Omaha.

Mrs Cudahy
Mrs Cudahy
There was plenty of meat to go around, and the owners became millionaires.

Edward Cudahy did not conceal his wealth. The opulent mansion he built on a hill above downtown Omaha bespoke his prosperity. And the two men in the buggy were listening attentively.

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