April 14, 2024

Black Entrepreneur History

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Joseph Lee – Hotelier, Restaurateur & Inventor of Bread Processing Machines

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived a Black man in the 19th century named Joseph Lee who became a master baker and caterer, going on to invent the Dough Kneading Machine to make bread and the Bread-Crumb Machine, both of which are the basis of the machines used in restaurants and hotels all over the world.

Joseph Lee was born in South Carolina at around 1848-1849. His parents were enslaved in Beaufort, South Carolina which is more than likely his place of birth. He worked and learned the skill of baking at the US Coast Survey and became a master at it while in a home in Beaufort and then later went on to move to the state of Massachusetts when he was able (free) and of age.

Joseph Lee lived, founded and ran his businesses in Massachusetts, with his home in Auburndale, Massachusetts. He was a hotelier, owner of two hotels one named Woodland Park Hotel which was located in Auburndale. The hotel building and property was approximately 392,600 square feet. He took much pride in how his guests were treated, all the way down to how they arrived, whenever there was a reservation[1]. Woodland Park Hotel was venue for many parties and conferences.

At the time he was owner of the Woodland Park Hotel, he was also the proprietor of Fort Point House, an attractive, coastal, elevated property to used as a first class family resort[2].

Joseph Lee was not only a real estate mogul, but was also a restaurateur and caterer, with baking as one of his most prized skills, while cooking a variety of other foods as well.

Being a hotel and restaurant business owner, there was much food demand and it had to be done well and fresh, therefore, he got the idea to invent a Dough Kneading Machine. The Kneading machine was such a success that today, this Dough Kneading Machine is the basis for all of them around the world.

By the use of my machine the labor of preparing and kneading such dough is greatly lessened, the object of my invention being to provide a machine, which, while simple in construction and operation, will thoroughly mix and knead the dough and bring it tot he desired condition” without the laborious task of kneading by hand, creating a finer and more superior quality dough.

Joseph Lee invented the Dough Kneading Machine to be used in hotels and homes where a large quantity of bread and pastry dough was being made. – U.S. Patent Number 524042

One thing Joseph Lee hated was being wasteful. Whenever he had to throw away good food, in particularly day old bread because it wasn’t used, he decided to fix the problem with his invention of the Bread Crumbing Machine.

It was only one year later that Joseph Lee created the Bread Crumbing Machine in order to prevent the waste of bread in commercial establishments, such as his own restaurants and hotels, where bread would be thrown away on a daily basis. Instead of throwing it away, he decided to invent this machine so that fresh bread can be crumbed to fineness, not useless big crumbles, to use for cooking, even in family homes. U.S. Patent – 540553

Although he sold the rights to his inventions, becoming wealthy enough to live off of the money, he will always be known as the man who revolutionized the food industry.


  • [1]The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts)16 Sep 1891, Wed Page 8
  • [2]The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) 26 Apr 1885, Sun Page 14