In 1873 Oscar Ferdinand Mayer immigrated as a fourteen (14) year old with his elder cousin, John Scholl and John’s young family, to the United States from Germany with the dream of opportunity. The Scholl’s and young Oscar found their way to Detroit and, within days of his arrival, Oscar was combing the streets of Detroit looking for the first “opportunity” which he found in the form of a sign in a shop window that read “Junge wollte” (“Boy wanted”). Oscar stepped through the door to find himself in a butcher shop, thereby setting the direction of an entire family for more than a century. A few years later, the Scholl family, including Oscar, moved to Chicago where Oscar continued his apprenticeship, working in the Chicago stockyards at, among other firms, Armour & Co.


In 1883, ten years after his arrival and at the “ripe young age of 24”, Oscar opened his own butcher shop, first leasing a site and subsequently building his own store with the financial help of his bride’s dowry. From that day in 1883 until the sale of Oscar Mayer & Company in 1981 to General Foods Corporation, four generations of Mayers led and directed the growth and prosperity of this successful family enterprise. Among those members of the family who followed in Oscar F.’s footsteps was his eldest child and son, Oscar Gottfried Mayer, who eventually succeeded his father as president and later chairman of the Oscar Mayer & Co.

Under Oscar Gottfried’s leadership, Oscar Mayer & Co, grew to a national and then international food processing business and achieved great operational and financial success. Recognizing that he and his family had been very fortunate, Oscar Gottfried developed a philosophy which he entitled “A Plan For Living” which he unveiled when giving the commencement address at Beloit College in 1955. The Plan had three principles, which are:

Life Long Personal Development

Generous Consideration for Others

Due Service to Society

Oscar and his wife, Elsa, determined that they needed to find some way to actualize these principles and, with foresight and wisdom, together they established through a Trust what is now the Oscar & Elsa Mayer Family Foundation was established in 1965. While the focus and emphasis of the Foundation’s activities have changed to reflect issues and concerns of the day, the Board endeavors to use the philosophy and the values espoused by Oscar and Elsa to direct its grant-making activities.