Monday, October 20, 2008

America's Famous Dessert

Gelatin has been well known and used for many years. It was popularized in the Victorian era with spectacular and complex "jelly moulds". Gelatin was sold in sheets and had to be purified, which was very time-consuming. In 1845, industrialist Peter Cooper (who built the first American steam powered locomotive, the Tom Thumb), obtained a patent for powdered gelatin.

Forty years later the patent was sold to a LeRoy, New York-based carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle B. Wait. He and his wife May added strawberry, raspberry, orange and lemon flavoring to the powder and gave the product its present name, "Jell-O in 1897. Unable to successfully market their concoction, in 1899 the Waits sold the business to a neighbor, Orator Francis Woodward, for $450.

Beginning in 1902, Woodward's Genesee Pure Food Company placed advertisements in the Ladies' Home Journal proclaiming Jell-O to be "America's Most Famous Dessert." Jell-O remained a minor success until 1904, when Genesee Pure Food Company sent enormous numbers of salesman out into the field to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks, a pioneering marketing tactic at the time.

In 1923, the newly rechristened Jell-O Company launched D-Zerta, an artificially sweetened version of Jell-O. Two years later, Postum and Genesee merged, and in 1927 Postum acquired Clarence Birdseye's frozen foods company to form the General Foods Corporation.

By 1930, there appeared a vogue in American cuisine for congealed salads, and the company introduced lime-flavored Jell-O to complement the various add-ins that cooks across the USA were combining in these aspics and salads. By the 1950s, these salads would become so popular that Jell-O responded with savory and vegetable flavors such as celery, Italian, mixed vegetable and seasoned tomato. These savory flavors have since been discontinued.

This 1910's, 14 page booklet is part of the Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks, circa 1870s-1990s at Duke University.


Major Pepperidge said...

Don't forget the wonderful Maxfield Parrish illustration for Jello (maybe he did more than one, I'm not sure).

And Jack Benny! "Jello Everyone...."

Heidi Ann said...

I love those old cookbooks. A lot of them had such pretty and colorful illustrations inside! I have some for Knox Gelatin, but I'm not sure whether I have any Jell-O ones.

TokyoMagic! said...

"There's ALWAYS room for Jell-O!" I think that was a 50's slogan for the product.

Great usual!