401 West 7th Avenue
Corsicana, Texas 75151
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1967
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
In 1900, Tom McElwee took an excellent but unknown
Fruit Cake, its recipe brought to Corsicana Texas by August Weidmann from the German town
of Wiesbaden, and together the two men turned it into one of the most famous Christmas
Cakes in the world.
By 1906, the bakery had grown into a new structure
of such size Tom was able to make the second floor of the bakery into a private hotel.
Tim hit on the idea of turning his hobby-famous people- into a long range money
maker. Only a flamboyant, wealthy major domo of the Corsicana Opera House could have
pulled it off, one like Tom, who was accustomed to bringing the nations best performers to
this farm and rail center.
Tom cultivated these visiting celebrities.
He put them up in his little "Grand Hotel" (two blocks away a young fellow named
Conrad Hilton was operating the Beaton Hotel). As for the quality of Tom's
guests, folks who worked the bakery during those years distinctly remember the visits of
Will Rogers, Enrico Caruso, "Terrible Tempered" John McGraw. They
remember the great John Ringling; but more so they tell of an afternoon when Ringlings
whole circus traipsed over and ordered Christmas cakes for circus friends in every corner
of the earth.
From then on the cake and its fame have spread
over the world. Today the bakery ships from this new home cakes not only to all
fifty states and U. S. Possessions, but into more than 130 foreign lands.
From the Handbook of Texas
COLLIN STREET BAKERY, CORSICANA. In 1896 August Weidmann, a young German
immigrant, opened a bakery on Collin Street in Corsicana, with financial backing
from Tom McElwee, local cotton buyer and opera-house proprietor. Weidmann's
specialty was a fruitcake baked by a recipe he had brought with him from his
native country. McElwee suggested the trade name DeLuxe Fruitcake for the
product. In 1906 the business was moved to a location on Sixth Avenue, and there
McElwee opened an exclusive hotel on the second floor of the bakery. Enrico
Caruso, John J. McGraw, and Will Rogers were among the celebrities who stayed at
the hotel at various times. In 1914 a Ringling Brothers circus troupe, in
Corsicana for a performance, bought dozens of DeLuxe Fruitcakes to give as
Christmas gifts to friends and relatives all over the United States and in
Europe. As a result, the bakery received an overwhelming number of orders from
the recipients for more cakes, and the company's mail-order business resulted.
McElwee died in 1946; Weidmann died the following year. Lee McNutt, R. F.
Rutherford, Harry Montgomery, and H. T. Cook purchased the business from
McElwee's widow. L. W. (Bill) McNutt, Jr., Lee McNutt's son, joined the firm in
1958, and in 1967 became company president. His two sons are also involved in
the company's management. In 1967 the bakery moved to its current location at
401 West Seventh Avenue. Although there is a small retail outlet in the bakery
that sells traditional bakery items, the emphasis of the business has continued
to be its mail-order DeLuxe Fruitcakes. Company officials have rejected numerous
offers from major food companies to distribute the fruitcakes. The cakes are
available only through the bakery or by mail order and cannot be purchased in
stores. From October through mid-December the company bakes 30,000 fruitcakes
(75,000 pounds) a day and expands its force from fifty regular employees to more
than 600. The cakes are shipped to all fifty states and more than 190 countries.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Dallas Morning News, November 22, 1950, May 21, 1972.
Pecan Press, December 1983.
Tommy W. Stringer
"COLLIN STREET BAKERY, CORSICANA." The Handbook of Texas Online.