Gustav A. Lay embodied the American success story. He immigrated to the United States and became a successful baker, building the United Baking Company which was later sold to the nationally known General Baking Corporation.
Gustav was born in Baden, Germany December 9, 1864 to Christian and Barbara (Hoflin) Lay. His father was engaged in the linen weaving business in Germany. Gustav attended school in Germany until he was eleven years old when he left to become a baker's apprentice.[John M. Killits, ed., Toledo and Lucs County, Ohio 1623-1923, vol. 2 (The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company: Chicago & Toledo, 1923), p.516].
In April 1883, at the age of 17, Gustav came to America. After arriving he went west. The young immigrant arrived in Toledo unable to speak English and with only $1.50 in his pocket. Gustav spent the next three days searching for a job, landing one in a neighborhood bakery at "lower town." He gradually improved his position to that of baker, his specialty was tye bread. Each day after baking he would climb onto his horse-drawn cart to do deliveries around the city.
Gustav decided to set up his own business and in 1888 set up a small bakery on Canton Street.Killits gives Scott Street as the location of the bakery, 516. Shortly after this he married Sophie Sackman and together they built the United Baking Company. The national baking corporation, General Baking, saw the Lay bakery as a rival and began negotiations for its purchase. In 1924 Gustav Lay sold his company for $1,000,000.
Gustav managed the business for General Baking for two years before he decided to retire. In 1926 Sophie died, Gustav spent a number of years traveling with his daughter and granddaughter. He went on two trips around the world and when he was home spent the winters in Florida.
Gustav Lay was a member of many clubs in Toledo. He was also director of the Commercial Savings Bank and Trust Company, the Ohio Citizens Trust Company, and vice president and director of the Toledo Electric Sales Company. Gustav Lay died of a heart attack in 1937 at the age of 72 years.[Toledo Biography Scrapbook, Gustav A. Lay, Local History Room, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. John M. Killits, ed., Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio 1623-1923, vol.2 (The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company: Chicago & Toledo, 1923), p.519].
Gustav Lay's grave
(Photography of Woodlawn Cemetery by Josef Schneider.)