Museums rarely keep food in their collections. It is apt to attract bugs, mold and all sorts of nasty things museums try hard to avoid. But, in some cases, it is worth the risk (when properly stored, of course). A rare surviving example of the famous Lindsey Hard Cracker is such a case.
Founded in about 1852 by Nathaniel Benjamin Lindsey (1826-1904), the N.B. Lindsey Company started in a small bakery on Stacey Street before expanding into a larger building near the old brick pond and again to 8 Anderson St. sometime shortly after the Civil War.
The plain, off-white round hard cracker was a staple in Marblehead homes. As the Marblehead Messenger column “Heada Foreva” remembered in 1969, the crackers were added to chowder or given to ill children with “boiling salt water poured over them.” The recipe supposedly came from an old sea cacaptain.The Lindsey family never took credit for inventing the cracker, but only for saving the recipe and successfully manufacturing it on a large scale. Lindsey Company distributed their signature crackers nationwide, even to California.The cracker was so popular that it was said other bakeries sent spies to Marblehead to try to discover Lindsey’s secret recipe.
The bakery produced other delectable products as well over the years, including Regatta Creams, made with special machinery installed in the Anderson Street bakery; Peerless Pilots that pop in the oven like “pop corn;” Cream Jumbles; Cocoa Bars; Buttercups; Electric Snaps; and Cream Bars; among others. Until the early 20th century, residents could bring their beans and bread to be baked in the bakery’s ovens.
The Lindsey Company stayed in the family until 1939, when Edith A. Lindsey (1873-1958), widow of N.B. Lindsey’s son, Ernest (1870-1934), sold the factory to two local businessmen.
McCormack is the Marblehead Museum’s executive director. From the Vault is a monthly segment highlighting an item from Marblehead Museum’s collection of over 60,000 artifacts. Learn more and explore at marbleheadmuseum.org.