Tuesday, April 15, 2008

So who else was real?

OK. Chef Boyardee was real. But what about all those other food icons?

Aunt Jemima was an invented character that the company hired actresses to play. The first Aunt Jemima was Nancy Green, who was born into slavery in 1834 and signed a contract that gave her the exclusive right to play Aunt Jemima her whole life.

Betty Crocker was invented in 1921 so that the company could answer letters they received with a more personal touch. The Crocker came from the last name of a company executive, William Crocker. The name Betty was picked because it sounded warm and friendly. The actual signature on the letters came from a secretary who won an in-house contest to do so. Her signature is still used on Betty Crocker products.

Harland David Sanders (1890-1980) was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Although he sold the company, his image is still used.

Duncan Hines (1880-1959) was a traveling salesman who wrote a guide, in 1935, to good restaurants around the country. The book was so popular that restaurants he included in the guide would hang a sign in the window that said "Recommended by Duncan Hines." In 1953 Duncan Hines sold the rights to his name. It was licensed to a number of food businesses, including ultimately the company who made the cake mixes.


In the early 1900s, Amanda Smith of Pottstown, Pennslvania, was famous in her town for making delicious pies. Her son Robert saw an opportunity and began selling slices at the lunch counter of the local YMCA. This escalated to whole pies sold door-to-door, and finally to a factory, and then several factories. By the 1950s, the company had begun selling its trademark frozen pies.

MRS. T.--Real
Mary Twardzik of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, used to make pierogies for church fundraisers. Her son, Ted, took his mother's recipe and started the company in 1952.

The Kitchens of Sara Lee was a small company that sold frozen baked goods. It was founded by Charles Lubin, a bakery entrepreneur, who named the company for his 8-year-old daughter Sara Lee. The company was bought in 1956 by a large food company called Consolidated, who kept both the name and their frozen cheesecake, which was a best-seller. The Sara Lee brand thrived and by the 1980s, Consolidated changed its name to the Sara Lee Corporation.

UNCLE BEN--Not real

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