Before there were Ninnie Baird and her eponymous bakery products, there was Walter Joseph Doherty. And before there were the Burma-Vita Company and its poems advertising its Burma-Shave product, there was, again, Walter Joseph Doherty.
Walter Joseph Doherty was born in County Kerry, Ireland in 1861 and came to Texas at age twenty.
Image is from Makers of Fort Worth, 1914.
By 1888 Doherty operated a grocery store on the near South Side on South Main at Ireland Street. Ireland Street is now Cannon Street.
In the late 1890s Doherty founded the Eagle Steam Bakery on South Main. His bakery would become, one of the largest in the Southwest, capable of baking twenty-five thousand loaves of bread a day. Deliveries were made by horse and wagon. Clip is from the October 22, 1908 Telegram.
On September 20, 1906 the Telegram reported that Doherty had become a naturalized citizen.
This ad in the November 22, 1908 Telegram by Fort Worth’s Medlin Milling Company called Doherty’s bakery the largest in Texas.
This caricature of Doherty, also from Makers of Fort Worth, alludes to his other interest: writing poetry.
These poems were printed in the Telegram in 1907 and Star-Telegram in 1909. Like the poetry of the Burma-Shave roadside signs that began in 1925, each Doherty poem, no matter how sentimental, ended with a plug for his products.
In 1911 the “bigger is better” Star-Telegram offered $10 ($256 today) for the best poem about “Why will Texas lead all other states in population when the 1920 census is taken?” Doherty listed Texas’s mineral resources and also seemed to allude to the Houston Ship Channel, which would open in 1914. (Texas was fifth in population in 1910. In the 1920 census Texas would still be fifth.) Clip is from June 15.
On November 21, 1915 the Star-Telegram published a feature about Doherty, describing how the “barefooted Irish school boy” in Killarney had exasperated the schoolmaster—to the point of cane thrashings—by surreptitiously scribbling lines of poetry instead of applying himself to his lessons in spelling or long division. “Three delightful little volumes” of Doherty’s poems had been published “within the past few years,” the newspaper wrote. His later poetry, the newspaper said, was “tinged with a sadness” after the death of his daughter Mary Cecilia in 1910 at age twenty.
Doherty made a lot of bread making a lot of bread and lived on El Paso Street in Quality Hill. Neighbors included attorney James Swayne and millionaire cattleman George Reynolds. Clip is from the 1907 city directory.
W. J. Doherty died in 1934. Clip is from the October 30 Dallas Morning News.
Walter Joseph Doherty is buried in the Calvary section of Oakwood Cemetery.
Some views of the Eagle Steam Bakery Building (Weinman, 1895) on South Main, built on the site of Doherty’s grocery store of the 1880s: