The P.E. Sharpless Creamery & Philadelphia Cream Cheese

The most popular butter in the 1880s (according to articles and advertisements in the Atlantic City Gazette-Review, the Daily Republican, Evening Star, the Philadelphia Times, Newport Daily News, the Evening Journal, Press of Atlantic City, etc.) was “Sharpless Gilt-Edge Butter” or “Sharpless Philadelphia Butter”(Philadelphia was added to the name in 1890). It came from a creamery in the vicinity of Philadelphia, and its reputation greatly preceded itself. According to the Philadelphia Times in 1888, Sharpless gilt-edge butter was “the most delicious addition to the feast of good things” and consumers would “never put tongue to anything so toothsome.” The butter was so popular, it was reportedly used at the White House, according to the Lancaster Examiner in 1902, where they write: “The Sharpless butter is In great demand in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Washington. Butter used at the White House is made by Sharpless.”
The Sharpless Creamery grew through the 1890s under the ownership of Pennock Edward Sharpless, a native Pennsylvanian and son of a prominent local dairy farmer, William Sharpless. He moved his creamery to Ward Village, Concord Township, PA in 1893, where he produced many dairy products from butter, pimento cheese, and most importantly — cream cheese! The creamery burned down in June 1900 due to an arson attack, but was immediately rebuilt. In 1904, Sharpless Creamery was fully incorporated as a domestic business corporation (#326461) and mass producing dairy products for sale all around the mid-Atlantic region. In 1910, the New York Produce Review and American Creamery notes that “John B. Fassler, head cheesemaker of the P.E. Sharpless Company plant at Ward, Delaware County reports daily receipts of 16,000 lbs. milk. Of this over half is made up into Neufchatel and Philadelphia cream cheese, the remaining goes into condensed milk.” Sharpless used the moniker “Philadelphia cream cheese” on his tinfoil packaged cream cheese cakes, and examples of advertisements can been seen in every major newspaper at the time in this region (Atlantic City Gazette-Review, Daily Republican, Evening Star, The Philadelphia Times, Newport Daily News, The Evening Journal, Press of Atlantic City, Delaware County Daily Times, Lancaster New Era, Denton Journal, Asbury Park Press, The Washington Post, Harrisburg Telegraph, The Virginian-Pilot, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Reading Times, etc.). The Sharpless Creamery also turned to the fluid milk business in 1922, when they consolidated with the Breyer Ice Cream Company to create the Breyer-Sharpless Milk Association. The Ice Cream Review of 1922 notes that “The Breyer Company confined itself to the manufacture of ice cream previous to the consolidation, while the Sharpless firm have long been known as manufacturers of fancy print butter and package cheese, as well as condensed and evaporated milk.” So basically, the Sharpless Creamery had the Philadelphia dairy market cornered!
The reality of the cream cheese boom at the turn of the 20th century was that there were only 5 major creameries making and selling cream cheese: Phenix Company and F.X. Baumert Company in New York, Kraft Company and Blue Label Cream Cheese Company in Chicago, and the P.E. Sharpless Creamery in the Philadelphia area, according to the 1954 court case Kraft Foods Co. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. It goes on to state that “no other concerns, with the possible exception of one or two small ones, made and sold cream cheese commercially in the United States at that time.” Out of the 5 companies, the P.E. Sharpless Creamery was the only geographically authentic Philadelphia cream cheese company!
The Sharpless Company went on to obtain three U.S. patents on their process of making soft cheese (patent # 1,258,438) and packaging (patent # 1,399,270 and 1,466,380) beginning in 1918, 1921, and 1923. Two patents in 1937 covering the manufacture of cream cheese (patent #2,098,764 and 2,098,765) were given to Pennock Edwards Sharpless’ son, Caspar Sharpless, who became the general manager of the still-operating Sharpless plant in Ward Village after the sale to Kraft Company.
In 1924, Kraft Company purchased the P.E. Sharpless Creamery and all assets, including their patents. Kraft continued using the Sharpless name on their dairy products (likely for name recognition), until 1941 when Kraft trademarked the “Philadelphia Brand” moniker (trademark registration #0392212). Kraft also purchased the Phenix Cheese Company (formerly the Williamstown Lawrence Company) in 1928, the New York State company that is credited with inventing cream cheese and trademarking “Philadelphia cream cheese” before any other company. Of course, Kraft Company is the business that makes and sells Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese today, thus the P.E. Sharpless Creamery is an important story in the evolution of Kraft’s Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese..
The P.E. Sharpless Creamery is no longer standing, but two historic resources — The P.E. Sharpless House (#108) and the L.E. Buckley House (#107) — remain in connection to the creamery.
Read more about the P.E. Sharpless company here.