Augustus Eugene Staley
American entrepreneur Augustus Eugene (Gene) Staley was born in 1867 on his father's 265-acre red clay farm in North Carolina . Busy with farm work, Gene dropped out of primary school after a few years. Aged 14 he successfully sold a wagon-load of his father's produce in the nearest town. He soon decided he liked selling better than farming, so he left the farm in 1883 (at age 16) and went on the road selling food products, including starch.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Staley was buying bulk starch for two cents a pound, repackaging it under his own Cream Starch label, and selling it for a profit of five cents a pound. When his suppliers realised that Staley was serious competition, they joined together to cut off his supply of raw materials. Staley responded by setting up the A E Staley Manufacturing Company in 1906. He bought a starch plant in Decatur, Illinois, and began processing on 12 March 1912, grinding 1,000 pounds of corn per day.
The company has been involved in a number of notable achievements: including the construction of the Staley dam in Decatur (now the Lake Decatur dam) in 1919; the introduction of soybean processing; the development of a nutrient for penicillin; the continuing expansion of the company's research and development programmes and facilities; and the growth in a range of products manufactured across the USA and Mexico.
Gene Staley died in 1940, having seen his son, A E Staley Jnr (Gus) become president of the company in 1932.