On July 4, 1947, Margaret Rudkin of Fairfield opened a modern commercial bakery in Norwalk and gave it the name of her small bakery, Pepperidge Farm. Rudkin had begun baking bread in 1937 for her son Mark, who had food allergies, and word of her excellent bread spread quickly. Her husband, a broker on Wall Street, began taking loaves to specialty shops in New York, and the bread was named for her family property in Fairfield, which was named for the Pepperidge tree. Despite having to cut back production during World War II because of rationing, the growing reputation of Pepperidge Farm breads lead to the opening of the large commercial bakery in Norwalk and a product line of baked goods, including cookies, crackers, and frozen pastries.
An innovator who kept a keen eye on market changes–she brought back a cookie recipe from Europe that became the foundation of the company’s Distinctive Cookies line–Rudkin sold her company to Campbell Soup Company in 1961. In 1963 her illustrated recipe book, the Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook, became the first cookbook ever to break onto The New York Times Best Sellers List.