Jones-Minsinger gelatin and convenience food ephemera collection

Summary

Creator: Jones-Minsinger, Elizabeth
Date(s): approximately 1910-1990
Call Number: MSS 0788
Language: Materials entirely in English.
Abstract: The Jones-Minsinger Gelatin and convenience food ephemera collection contains recipe booklets and advertisements promoting Jell-O and Royal-brand gelatin as well as other convenience foods dating from the 1910s to the 1980s.
Physical Description: 28 items
Immediate Source of Acquisition: Gift of Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, October 2016
Processing Information: Processed and encoded by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, July 2017. Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical and Historical Notes

The majority of items in this collection were produced to promote Jell-O brand gelatin from the 1910s to the 1970s. Gelatin dishes were once considered a sign of wealth due to their difficult preparation, involving hours of rendering and clarifying. Unflavored, dried gelatin was commercially available by the 1840s, and American industrialist Peter Cooper secured a patent for a granulated gelatin dessert powder in 1845, but did little with his product. Charles Knox began selling sheets of dried gelatin in 1894 and published a recipe book entitled Dainty Desserts in 1896. Cooper sold his patent for granulated gelatin to Pearle Waite of LeRoy, New York, in 1895. Waite created a fruit-flavored gelatin dessert that his wife Mary called “Jell-O,” but lacked the experience and capital to market the product. In 1899, he sold the formula to Orator Frank Woodward, a manufacturer of proprietary medicines and packaged foods in the same town, for $450.

The Jell-O name was first used by Woodward’s Genesee Pure Food Company in 1900 and advertisements for Jell-O gelatin first appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1902, where it was described as “America’s Most Famous Dessert.” In 1904, Woodward began sending out salesmen with free Jell-O cookbooks to distribute to grocers and home economists, and soon employed artists like Rose O’Neill, Maxfield Parrish, and Norman Rockwell to illustrate advertisements. In 1923, Jell-O Company, Inc. took over Genesee Pure Food Company with no change in management or control. In 1925, the company merged with Postum and in 1927 became the General Foods Corporation. The Jell-O factory remained in LeRoy, New York, until 1964, and the town still operates a Jell-O museum. As of 2017, Jell-O gelatin is produced by the Kraft Heinz Company in Dover, Delaware.

Several items in this collection relate to Royal-brand gelatin, which was first produced in 1925, as a subsidiary of the Royal Baking Powder Company. In 1929, the Royal Baking Powder Co. merged with several other enterprises to form Standard Brands, Inc. This conglomerate merged with Nabisco in 1981. In 2000, Jel Sert acquired the Royal brand from Nabisco. Other items in this collection were produced by the Campbell Soup Company, Whirlpool Corporation, Kraft, Inc., and Lipton Kitchens, now a subsidiary of Unilever.

Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, a graduate student in the University of Delaware’s Department of History, assembled this collection of ephemera while researching the cultural history of gelatin in the twentieth-century United States.

Sources

LeBesco, Kathleen. “There’s Always Room for Resistance: Jell-O, Gender, and Social Class,” in Cooking Lessons: The Politics of Gender and Food, edited by Sherrie A. Inness, 129-150. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2001.

Spring, Joel. Educating the Consumer-Citizen: A History of the Marriage of Schools, Advertising, and Media. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2003.

Harvard Baker Library, Lehmann Brothers Collection, “Standard Brands Incorporated” (accessed May 23, 2017) http://www.library.hbs.edu/hc/lehman/company.html?company=standard_brands_incorporated

Le Roy, New York Historical Society website, “The History of Jell-O” (accessed May 23, 2017) http://www.jellogallery.org/history.html

What’s Cooking America website, “History of Gelatin, Gelatine, and Jell-O” (accessed May 23, 2017) https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Jell-0-history.htm

The New York Times. “Upstate, Where It Was First Made, Unwavering Devotion to Jell-O,” May 4, 2008 (accessed May 23, 2017) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/nyregion/04jello.html?ex=1210564800&en=11a9dce77358ac6b&ei=5070&_r=0

Jel Sert Company website, “Royal Fun for Everyone” (accessed May 23, 2017) http://jelsert.com/products/desserts/royal.aspx

Funding Universe website, “Nabisco Foods Group History,” (accessed May 23, 2017) http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/nabisco-foods-group-history/

Information derived from the collection.

Scope and Contents

The Jones-Minsinger Gelatin and convenience food ephemera collection contains recipe booklets and advertisements promoting Jell-O and Royal-brand gelatin as well as other convenience foods dating from the 1910s to the 1980s.

Most items in this collection are advertisements and recipe booklets promoting Jell-O-brand gelatin and associated products. These items targeted American women and children as the primary consumers of Jell-O. Advertisements stressed the product’s popularity with women and insisted it was always fresh because high demand insured no box of Jell-O would sit on the grocer’s shelf for long. Materials focused on entertainment appealed to hostesses, promising they could create spectacular dishes and still have time to enjoy their guests. A 1962 recipe booklet attributed Jell-O gelatin’s success to housewives, who “turned their imaginative attention to Jell-O” and created the first recipe booklets. These items also marketed Jell-O gelatin as the ideal food to be prepared and consumed by children. Advertisements insisted that children wanted Jell-O more than other types of desserts, and used a young girl known as “the Jell-O girl” as their main spokesperson for several decades. A 1977 book provided numerous recipes that could be executed by children, interspersed with magic tricks by “Marvello the Great.”

Most Jell-O advertisements, regardless of when they were produced, stressed the product’s ease of preparation. These materials assured readers that Jell-O gelatin could be made quickly and with little effort, but would turn out right every time. Recipes could also be made in advance, insuring there would be no last minute fuss.

However, these Jell-O advertisements also responded to changing consumer demands, shifting their emphasis from purity to nutritional value to cost-effectiveness over time. Early materials depicted Jell-O gelatin as a modern foodstuff, stressing its uniformity in production and including images of factories and machinery. Concerns about adulteration created a focus on purity, and advertisements often emphasized the source of Jell-O gelatin’s ingredients and the cleanliness of production. Nutritional value centered on ease of digestion, and several advertisements described gelatin as an ideal food for convalescents. By the 1930s, advertisements instead discussed the products’ vitamin content. The onset of the Great Depression also saw an increased emphasis on Jell-O gelatin’s cost-effectiveness. Advertisements insisted that Jell-O products could stretch the family food budget and that gelatin salads were an easy way to use up leftovers. Advertisements from the 1940s also emphasized waste prevention, but did so in promotion of the war effort. By the 1960s, advertisements began highlighting the Jell-O brand’s nostalgic value and recast gelatin as a diet food that would “sit light on the conscience.”

This collection also contains two booklets from the 1930s promoting Royal-brand gelatin and pudding. These materials highlighted the products’ pleasant aroma, ease of digestion, and richness in vitamins. Royal products were guaranteed fresh because they were “rushed to grocers” by the same delivery system that carried Chase & Sanborn coffee, another product made by Standard Brands, Inc.

Four recipe booklets in this collection promote convenience foods and new kitchen technologies in the 1970s and 1980s. A Campbell’s Soup booklet provided recipes for both condensed and ready-to-eat soups. A cookbook highlighting Philadelphia Cream Cheese included recipes incorporating various other products produced by Kraft, Inc. A recipe booklet for Lipton Cup-a-Soup focused on making meals for one or two people, often using the microwave for quick preparation. A 1979 booklet from Whirlpool introduced consumers to microwave cooking, advertised special microwave utensils, and even suggested cooking clams and lobster in the microwave.

Using these materials

Shelving Summary

  • Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversized box (18 inches)

Access Information

This collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

MSS 0788, Jones-Minsinger gelatin and convenience food ephemera collection, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec

Container List

“They Wanted Jell-O.” Rose O’Neill (artist), approximately 1919 Box 1
“Let’s Keep a Waste Chart Like the Army’s!” Jell-O advertisement from Country Gentleman , 1944 Box 1
Hostess Guide from Jell-O Gelatin. Sent to Mrs. C.M. Lachmann of Chicago, Il, approximately 1967 Box 1
A Campbell Cookbook: Cooking with Soup . Campbell Soup Company, 1977 Box 1
Easy Homemade Desserts with Jell-O Pudding . General Foods, 1979 Box 1
Jell-O: Amazing, Magical Desserts. Plus: Magic Tricks by Marvelo the Great . General Foods, 1977 Box 1
Miss Jell-O Tells the What and How of America’s Most Famous Dessert . The Jell-O Company, Inc, approximately 1923-1927 Box 1
The New Joys of Jell-O Brand Gelatin Dessert Recipe Book . General Foods (1 of 2), 1975 Box 1
The New Joys of Jell-O Brand Gelatin Dessert Recipe Book . General Foods (2 of 2), 1975 Box 1
The Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook . Kraft, Inc, 1981 Box 1
Whirlpool Micro Menus Cookbook . Whirlpool, 1979 Box 1
All Doors Open to Jell-O: America’s Most Famous Dessert . The Genesee Pure Food Company, 1917 Box 1
Century of Progress: Recipes for Royal Desserts . Standard Brands Incorporated, 1934 Box 1
Cooking for One Two…or a Few! Meals in Minutes with Lipton Cup-a-Soup . The Lipton Kitchens, approximately 1985 Box 1
“It’s so Simple”: Jell-O, America’s Most Famous Dessert . Genesee Pure Food Company, 1922 Box 1
Jell-O . The Genesee Pure Food Company, before 1923 Box 1
Jell-O: America’s Most Famous Dessert . The Jell-O Company, Inc, approximately 1923-1927 Box 1
Jell-O, America’s Most Famous Dessert: Of What and How Made . The Genesee Pure Food Company, before 1923 Box 1
Jell-O Gelatin Recipes: Plain or Festive . General Foods, 1961 Box 1
The Joys of Jell-O Gelatin Dessert . General Foods, approximately 1960 to 1980 Box 1
The New Jell-O Book of Surprise: Desserts, Salads . G.F. Corp. [General Foods], 1930 Box 1
New Jell-O Recipes . The Jell-O Company, Inc. (1 of 2), 1925-1926 Box 1
New Jell-O Recipes . The Jell-O Company, Inc. (2 of 2), 1925-1926 Box 1
Sweet Endings from Dream Whip Whipped Topping Mix . General Foods, 1974 Box 1
Through the Menu with Jell-O . The Jell-O Company, 1927 Box 1
Time-Tested Royal Recipes , Standard Brands Incorporated, approximately 1930 to 1950 Box 1
Today…what salad…what dessert? Jell-O Brings Dozens of Answers… P. Co. Inc. [probably Postum], 1928 Box 1
Try the New Jell-O: You Make it Without Boiling Water! G.F. Corp. [General Foods], 1932 Box 1

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