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Our History

1852

Due to the scarcity of land and opportunity in Germany, the Fromms and Niemans immigrate to the United States where land and opportunity are plentiful.

1852

The home Joachim Nieman built on Pigeon Creek in Ozaukee County, WI in the 1850s

Late 1800s

John F. Nieman is the first Nieman born and raised in the United States.

Late 1800s

Joachim and his 17 year old grandson, John

1883

Dairy farmer Fredrick “Fritz” Fromm marries Alwina Nieman. They have five children: Walter, Edward, John, Henry, and Erna. 

1883

Fritz and Alwina's wedding portrait, 1883

1891

John Nieman marries Annie Thesfelt at the age of 23. Seven weeks after their wedding day, Annie dies tragically. The official cause is not known, but she displayed symptoms consistent with typhoid fever and scarlet fever. 

1891

The Wedding of John Nieman and Annie Thesfeldt on November 22, 1891

1890s

After the untimely death of John Nieman’s first wife, he leaves for Hermansville, Michigan in the early 1890s to participate as a businessman and merchant in the logging boom of northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. 

Eventually in the late 1890s, John marries his first wife’s younger sister Martha, and they have five children together: a daughter who passed in infancy, Edwin J., Herbert A., Alice, and John W. Nieman. Martha, however, insists that they move back to Cedarburg, Wisconsin. So John moves his family and the hard-earned wealth he has accumulated during the logging boom back to Cedarburg. 

1890s

Hermansville Michigan, 1899 - John is right of center with a mustache and a cap, leaning against the logs

1904

The four Fromm brothers (Walter age 16, Edward 14, John 12, and Henry 10) form what they simply call “The Company”, while sitting on the porch of their family’s farm house in the small town of Hamburg, Wisconsin. “The Company’s” mission was to pursue their dream of producing the finest, most beautiful silver foxes in the world, in addition to cultivating and harvesting the best ginseng the far East Asian markets had ever seen. 

1904

Country school, 1905. Henry, sitting left; Edward sitting right; John, standing left; Walter, third from right.

1908

After issuing numerous loans to local farmers and utilizing their hogs as collateral, John Nieman tells his wife, “This town really could use a bank." Subsequently, he and a number of other local businessman found Cedarburg State Bank.

Cedarburg State Bank became 1st Wisconsin Bank in 1985 and then merged with US Bank in 2001.

1908

A vintage illustration of Cedarburg State Bank for a matchbook

February 19th, 1910

Bursting with entrepreneurial energy and zeal, John Nieman forms the Cedarburg Cannery and the Old Milwaukee River Cannery

The business would later become the Herbert A. Nieman Canning Company which is located in what today is the Old Ross Wells Plant on land currently designated to become the new Mequon Town Center near the Mequon Police Station.

February 19th, 1910

Employees packaging "Nieman's Garden Spot Cut Green Beans" at Milwaukee River Cannery in Mequon

December 1910

John Nieman forms the Thiensville State Bank in 1910.

The Thiensville State Bank later merged with Colonial, Valley, M&I, and finally BMO Harris.

December 1910

John F Nieman

1916

Alwina Nieman-Fromm declares, “What good is land unless it gives a family a start in life,” and she co-signs a $6,800 loan with her 160 acre farm as collateral to provide the four Fromm brothers (her sons) with enough money to purchase three silver foxes and begin to carry out their business plan. Alwina had received this farm as a wedding gift from her father Joachim Nieman when she married Fredrick Fromm.

1916

Alwina (approximately age 10) with brother Herman and parents Joachim and Marie Nieman, 1870

1921

John Nieman’s son Edwin marries Erna Fromm, the sister of the four Company founding Fromm Brothers. Edwin moves Erna along with twelve pairs of Fromm Silver Foxes to Mequon, thus marking the beginning of the Silver Fox era in the Mequon-Thiensville and Cedarburg area.

1921

Edwin J. Nieman and Erna Fromm's wedding portrait, 1921

1920s

At this point, the four Fromm brothers need some business help and an infusion of capital, which becomes available to them from their successful relative John F. Nieman.  With the necessary capital, John Nieman's son Edwin and the Fromm brothers form Fromm Bros. Nieman Company.

1920s

Edwin J. Nieman Sr. (top row, 3rd from left) with the Fromm Family including Erna Fromm (bottom row, 3rd from right)

1924

After reading Dr. Robert Green's articles in the American Fox and Fur Farmer magazines about disease outbreaks, Edward Fromm proactively reaches out to Dr. Green at the University of Minnesota. Together, Fromm Bros. Nieman Co. and Dr. Green form Fromm Laboraties Inc. in Grafton, Wisconsin and begin work on the fox distemper vaccine.

1924

Dr Robert Green with centrifuge, 1940 (Image courtesy of the University of Minnesota Archives, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities)

1925

Fromm Bros. Nieman Company builds its own food manufacturing plant in Mequon, Wisconsin. This allows them to continue producing their own nutritionally geared recipes at a volume sustainable for their growth.

This plant is still in operation today and serves as the primary research and development area for new foods and treats. The Mequon plant also serves as home base for the company, housing everything from customer service, sales, and marketing to accounting and human resources.

1925

Fromm Bros. Nieman Company Mequon plant construction, 1925 - Edwin J. Nieman sitting on bricks

1930s

The business takes off. The company, eventually called Fromm Brothers, Inc. becomes the world’s largest producer of the renowned "Bright with Silver" foxes and ginseng. At its height, Fromm has over 1,000 employees in north central Wisconsin. Being in the midst of the Great Depression, there are long lines several hundreds deep of people waiting outside the Fromm Bros. gates in Hamburg, WI hoping for an opportunity to join the team.

1930s

Fromm employees on the main farm in Hamburg, Wisconsin. 1930

1933

Fromm Bros. Nieman Company's innovative breeding techinques and sound nutrition result in the world's very first litter of eleven silver foxes which were born on the company's farm in Mequon-Thiensville.

1933

Fromm Bros. Nieman employees with record setting silver fox litter

1939

After 15 long years, Dr. Robert Green and Fromm Laboratories, Inc. create and market the fox encephalitis vaccine, fox distemper vaccine, canine distemper vaccine, and feline distemper vaccine  — utilizing attenuated viruses developed through their research work with ferrets. This achievement marks a major milestone in dog, cat, and fox health.

1939

Fromm Laboratories Inc. Canine Distemper Vaccine advertisement, 1939

1940s

With the expertise of biochemist Dr. Willard Roberts, Fromm pioneers the process of cooking meat and grain together to produce the first all-granular pet food.

1940s

Dr. Willard Roberts with his Great Dane Karen

1948

Federal Foods is formed by Dr. Willard Roberts, Loyal Wells, and Fromm Bros. Nieman Company with Edwin J. Nieman Sr. as its majority owner.

1948

Federal Foods, Inc. Logo

1949

The first bag of Fromm Complete Dog Meal is sold.

1949

Original Fromm Complete Dog Meal bag

1949-1950s

Fromm Dog Meal is marketed with the tagline “Fifty thousand foxes can’t be wrong!” referencing Fromm’s extensive feeding trials of more than 50,000 foxes and dogs.

1949-1950s

Cover of the 1949 Fromm Dog Food brochure

1970s

Fromm ventures into lifestyle specific recipes with formulas such as “Hi-Stress” food for working dogs.

1970s

Fromm Hi-Stress dog character

1984

After graduating with a Chemical Engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and gaining professional experience at a Minnesota based company, Edwin J. Nieman Sr.'s grandson Tom returns to Wisconsin with his wife Kathy and their newborn son Bryan to take the reins of the family business.

1984

Four generations of Niemans; Edwin Sr., Edwin Jr., Tom, and Bryan. 1984.

1980s

Fromm pioneers the use of mixed tocopherols as a natural preservative in pet foods. Our research concludes that tocopherols are just as effective, and in most cases better, at preventing oxidation and extending the shelf life of pet foods compared to those preserved with artificial preservatives.

Mixed tocopherols remain the most popular natural preservative in pet food today.

1980s

1980s product line photo

1985

Just 18 months after having Bryan, Tom and Kathy welcome their second son, Dan, into the world.

1985

Tom with newborn Dan and one year old Bryan

1990

Tom and Dr. Willard Roberts formulate and launch Fromm “New Formula” with the tagline “More isn’t better, better is better” referencing protein quality versus protein quantity. Competitors are boasting big protein numbers, but Fromm is able to achieve better results with less protein. Fromm foods use better quality protein than the competition in a balanced approach. The concept is a success; in feeding trials, Fromm “New Formula” measures much higher digestibility than its high protein rivals.

1990

Tom Nieman working with Dr. Willard Roberts, 1991

1995

Federal Foods is renamed Fromm Family Foods to reflect its 4th generation ownership and the company’s strong family values.

1995

Cover of "Fromm Family Foods" brochure, 1990s.

1999

Fromm Gold Nutritionals is introduced to commemorate Fromm Dog Meal’s Golden Anniversary. The multiple meat protein recipes are launched with the tagline “What we learned in 50 years could have filled a book... We decided a bag would be more appropriate.”  

1999

Original Gold Nutritionals packaging, 1999

2003

Fromm Four-Star Nutritionals becomes the first variety-driven gourmet pet food. Fromm Four-Star allows pet parents to feed a variety of recipes without the digestive upset usually associated with switching foods. Fromm Four-Star is marketed as “True, Four-Star canine and feline cuisine”, utilizing extremely high quality meats and fish as the first ingredient complimented with a vast array of fresh fruits and vegetables.

2003

Original Four-Star products, 2003

2008

Richard Best joins the Fromm Family Foods team. Tom and Richard scout for possible expansion sites to keep up with the brand growth.

Richard subsequently becomes Chief Operating Officer for the company in 2010.

2008

Richard Best

2009

Fromm purchases and begins retrofitting a vacant late 1960s slip-form concrete feed mill in Columbus Wisconsin. Over the next year the Columbus, Wisconsin landmark is completely revived and transformed into what will soon become Fromm Family Foods' second artisan pet food plant. Retrofitting the existing site as opposed to completely new construction allows Fromm Family Foods to continue growing without a single dollar of outside investment.

2009

Columbus extrusion area being constructed, 2009

2010

Fromm Family Foods' Mequon plant is running production twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week just to keep up with the increasing demand. By June of 2010 and just before the Fromm Family Foods Mequon plant is out of capacity, Fromm has successfully commissioned existing recipes at the Fromm Family Foods Columbus plant. The new plant is officially up and running just in the nick of time. The additional plant adds 60 Wisconsin jobs, resurrects an old landmark, and allows Fromm Family Foods to support continued growth.

2010

Fromm Family Foods Columbus Plant, 2010

2011

In a unique ribbon cutting and ground breaking ceremony, Fromm begins work on a 40,000 square foot addition to the recently completed Fromm Family Foods Columbus, Wisconsin plant. 

2011

Ground breaking ceremony, 2011

2012

Fromm Family Foods wins the Wisconsin Business Development (WBD) Howard Ford Small Business AchievemenAward.

2012

Howard Ford Small Business Achievement Award presentation in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, 2012

2013

Tom Nieman wins the U.S. Small Business Administration - Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year Award. In addition, Fromm breaks ground on a second extrusion and packaging line at their existing Columbus, Wisconsin plant.

2013

SBA award presentation in Milwaukee, 2013

2014

Remaining committed to independent pet specialty, Fromm celebrates their 110th anniversary on the heels of another year of outstanding growth. 

2014

Ceremonial cake cutting at Global Pet Expo, 2014

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A special thanks to Harold W Pfohl for preserving, restoring, and providing several photos used in this timeline.
Thank you to The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for preserving and providing the photo of Dr. Robert Green.