A worker at McKee Foods in Collegedale, Tennessee, processes rolled cakes in 1958. Photo contributed from the EPB collection at

Even before Little Debbie snack cakes arrived in stores and supermarkets in 1960, workers at the McKee Foods bakery in Collegedale were making sweets for the masses.

This 1958 photo shows a bakery worker processing rolled cakes at the then-new McKee Foods plant in Collegedale.

McKee Foods Corp., which now has more than 6,300 workers and is said to be America's largest family-owned snack cake company, was founded by O.D. and Ruth McKee.

The husband-and-wife team bought a small Chattanooga bakery called the Cookie Company in 1934 and then built their company into a snack cake giant, according to a corporate history published on the company's website.

The McKee Foods company history says that company co-founder O.D. McKee sold snack cakes out of his 1928 Whippet automobile during the Great Depression to support his family.

The year before this photo was made, 1957, the McKees moved their bakery from Chattanooga to Collegedale, where the company's headquarters remains today.

McKee Foods launched the Little Debbie brand in 1960. It was named after 4-year-old Debbie McKee, one of the grandchildren of the company founders, according to a previous report in the Times Free Press.

Today, the Little Debbie brand is manufactured in plants in Collegedale, Gentry, Arkansas, and Stuarts Draft, Virginia.

This photo is part of a collection of vintage images provided by EPB to, a nonprofit historical website curated by history enthusiast Sam Hall.

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Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.

If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non‐digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.


McKee Foods announced earlier this year that it is committed to investing $500 million and creating 482 new jobs at its Collegedale plant in the next 15 years.

According to a previous report in the Times Free Press, the company plans to double the size of its Apison Pike plant and make $350 million in upgrades and investments at its Collegedale headquarters by 2035.

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