Nabisco dates its founding to 1898, a decade when the bakery business underwent a major consolidation. Early in the decade, bakeries throughout the country were consolidated regionally, into companies such as Chicago’s American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company (which was formed from 40 Midwestern bakeries in 1830), the New York Biscuit Company (consisting of seven eastern bakeries), and the United States Baking Company. In 1898, the National Biscuit Company was formed from the combination of those three. The merger resulted in a company with 114 bakeries across the US and headquartered in New York City. The word “biscuit” is a traditional term for what are now termed “cookies” and “crackers” in American English, though British English retains “biscuit” to refer to these baked goods.
Key to the founding of Nabisco was Pittsburgh baking mogul Sylvester S. Marvin. Marvin arrived in Pittsburgh in 1863 and established himself in the cracker business, founding S. S. Marvin Co. Its products included crackers, cakes, and breads. Marvin was called the Edison of manufacturing for his innovations in the bakery business. By 1888, it was the largest in the US, and the centerpiece of the National Biscuit Company . Marvin was also a member of the elite South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club of Johnstown Flood fame. The F. A. Kennedy Steam Bakery in Boston, known for inventing Fig Newtons and producing Lorna Doone cookies, was one of the very first acquisitions made by Nabisco, joining the company in 1898.