By the 1880’s, dough kneaders varied considerably in size and design from gargantuan machines in commercial bakeries, to hand-cranked dish-pan size models for home use, however, until the early 20th century people sometimes felt bread made using a barrel or less of flour was just as well kneaded by hand. 

The biggest stumbling blocks to their earlier use were the space they took up and the cost of the machines. 


Perhaps the oldest record of a dough kneader is a tablet discovered on the tombstone of Senatore Eurysace, who was a prominent baker in ancient Rome.  Plenius tells us the old Romans employed slaves for kneading their dough.  In the better families these slaves were compelled to wear gloves and protect their mouths with a cloth, as a safeguard against any contact of their breath or perspiration with the dough.  After the downfall of the Roman Empire we do not find any more traces of historical records of improvements in devices or implements for bread making until toward the end of the eighteenth century, when some timid, clumsy efforts were made to introduce labor-saving apparatus in the baker’s shop…The brake is also a very old implement of the bakeshop.  It is used to this day for honey cakes, pretzels and noodle dough.  The first mixers of any account for bread dough were made in France, by Salignac, 1760.  Braun, Emil.  The Baker’s Book.  1903.  NY.

Dough was put to rise in this covered container

Salignac’s machine was described as a trough, inside which the dough was agitated by arms shaped somewhat like harrows.  It was demonstrated before the Academy of Sciences and the dough was prepared in 14 to 15 minutes.  “But for some reason the machine never came into general use”.  Another Frenchman named Cousin produced a kneading machine the following year [1761] which was no more successful than Salignac’s. 

Dough after kneading, ready to put aside to rise

Next, in 1796 a Paris baker named Lembert was experimenting with a machine called the Lembertine, however, he did not introduce it until 1810 when a prize of 1500 francs was offered by the Société d’ Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale.  Lembert claimed the reward for his machine which then did see, “a certain amount of use in France”.  – Chisholm, Hugh.  The Encyclopaedia Britannica.  1910.  NY.

Messrs. Cavallier and Co. of Paris were granted a patent for a Petrisseur, or mechanical bread maker, by 1830, and Mr. Poole, of Lincoln’s Inn, agent to the French inventors, had received an English patent for their machine by that year as well.  Those machines were still for commercial use.  – The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette.  Vol. 13.  May 8, 1830.  2.  – Timbs, John.  Arcana of Science and Art, or an Annual Register of Popular Inventions. 

The following month a gentleman from the General Hospital in Guernsey had a letter published saying his facility had been using a machine for this purpose for a, “long time”, though he gave no year of its initial use.  He likened it to a brick-making machine in its operation. 

It was said of the machine it was a, “substitute for the uncleanly and disgusting practice of bread-making by the naked hands and feet of men.  We understand it is coming rapidly into general use among our French neighbours, and trust that we shall not be slow in following their example.  The continuance of the present practice is a real disgrace to civilization”.  – The Mechanics’ Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette.  Vol. 13.  May 8, 1830. 

Let’s thank those early inventors that our bread has never seen dirty hands and feet used to knead it, and take a closer look at the use of kneaders in the home. 

How early were mechanical kneaders in use in the home kitchen?  In the Aug. 1847 issue of The Cultivator a subscriber offered a premium to anyone who could come up with a dough-kneading apparatus to aid in bread baking which would, “be simple in its construction, easily cleaned, to occupy a small space, durable, and not to exceed $5. in cost, for one to work 5 lbs. of flour at a time”.  In response, another reader sent in a drawing and description of an apparatus he had made in a half day at a cost of $2. which had been in use in his family for more than two years without any break-down. 

It consists, first, in an upright shaft or post, four inches square to reach from the floor to the ceiling, or joist at one end, or side of the cook room, the bottom and top ends of which are to be rounded, for the purpose of fitting into sockets of wood at bottom and top; a piece of good board of hard wood, with a 1 ½ inch auger hole through it, makes a good socket, one at bottom and one at top of shaft, and secured.  The shaft must be loose to allow of being turned about.

The bench may be about 2 ½ feet long, 15 to 16 inches wide, and three inches thick.  The legs of the bench may be of a sufficient height to suit the operator say about three feet from the floor to the top of the bench.  On the top of the bench rests the biscuit board, secured temporarily to its place by strips of board nailed across the bench at the ends of the biscuit board, to prevent it from slipping while kneading the dough. 

The lever is to pass through the upright post at a level with the top of the bench, by a mortise, 1 ¼ inches wide by 5 or 6 inches long, and secured in its place by a small iron pin; the size of the lever may be 2 ½ inches square, and rounded on the lower edge, for the purpose of cutting or pressing the dough; the end of the lever should be made to pass through the upright post loosely, so as to allow of an upward and downward motion.  The post being loose in the sockets, allows for a forward and backward motion, the dough forming the fulcrum upon which the lever is made to operate, by taking hold of the outer end of the lever (which should be reduced to a proper size for the hand, say 1 ¼ inches in diameter), raising it up and bringing it up towards you, then pressing it down upon the dough and pushing it from you in the same motion, which cuts the dough down to the biscuit board, and by taking small parcels at a time will soon thoroughly knead a large batch.  The flour at the first mixing would be better stirred up somewhat in a tray or wooden bowl, or tin pan, for the purpose, (which every family have in their possession) and after having been so mixed in part with a large spoon or ladle, it may be turned out upon the biscuit board.  The lever should be of hard smooth wood, to admit of being easier cleaned, which is easily done by taking out the iron pin that secures it in the post.  The biscuit board should also be taken out and put away when not in use.

With the foregoing directions, &c., I am persuaded almost any person could rig up a good machine, which will save the female portion of the family a great deal of hard labor.  The bread will be better and cleaner, as the hands need not be put into the dough, except for the purpose of forming the biscuits or loaf, as the case may be.  I therefore respectfully present it to all the ‘good house-wives’ whether ‘working women’ or not.  I would remark one thing further—that we have had no sodden bread since the above machine has been in use.  J.A.C. Baly’s Neck, Talbot County, Md., Oct. 9, 1847.  The Cultivator.  Dec. 1847.

To understand J. A. Demuth’s claim that his machine produced beaten biscuits with a fraction of the labor, we must evaluate what a beaten biscuit was.  It was not like the light fluffy pillows of dough we Southern cooks pride ourselves in today, but more a hard cracker.  In the days before baking powder was a kitchen standard, beating the dough with paddles or wooden mallets incorporated air into it for a product that was somewhere between a hard sea biscuit (hardtack) and today’s biscuit. 

Beaten Biscuit such as “Aunt Chloe” used to make in the old Southern plantation kitchen are easily and quickly made by using Demuth’s Dough kneader and beaten biscuit machine made for family use.  Agents wanted.  J. A. Demuth, St. Joseph, Mo.  – Progress.  Aug. 1908.

Dough-makers were defined as a kneading-machine or dough-brake.  A dough-brake was a machine that rolled out dough for cutting in making crackers.  A doughing-machine cut the dough into prescribed weights, also called a dough-divider.  A dougher was a baker.  – The Century Dictionary.  1889.

While this has been a fast cruise through mechanical baking history, hopefully the reader has seen that such machines have been in use since the 18th century and that they were improved upon through patent after patent into the present century.