Color illustration of a smiling woman with a colorful scarf tied around her head on an orange background. Black text wraps around the top and bottom of the button.
Aunt Jemima pancake ﬂour, the first nationally distributed ready-mix food and one of the earliest products to be marketed through personal appearances and advertisements featuring its namesake, was created by combining advances in manufacturing and distribution with popular nostalgia for the antebellum south.The product was originally named “Self-Rising Pancake Flour” and sold in bags.
In the fall of 1889, Rutt was inspired to rename the mix after attending a minstrel show, during which a popular song titled “Old Aunt Jemima” was performed by men in blackface, one of whom was depicting a slave mammy of the plantation South. The song, which was written by the African-American singer, dancer and acrobat Billy Kersands in 1875, was a staple of the minstrel circuit and was based on a song sung by ﬁeld slaves. The pamphlet, as included in the text. The sentence reads as follows: "New ways in which millions of women are using it to make delicious pancakes, waffles and muffins"
Rutt and Underwood sold their milling company to a larger corporation owned by R.G. Davis of Chicago. He transformed the local product into a national one by distributing it through a network of suppliers and by creating a persona for Aunt Jemima. Davis hired Nancy Green, a former Kentucky slave and cook in a Chicago kitchen, to portray Aunt Jemima in that city’s 1893 Columbian Exposition. She served pancakes from a booth designed to look like a huge ﬂour barrel and told stories of life as a cook on an Old South plantation. Her highly publicized appearance spurred thousands of orders for the product from distributors. Davis also commissioned a pamphlet detailing the “life” of Aunt Jemima. She was depicted as the actual house slave of one Colonel Higbee of Louisiana, whose plantation was known across the South for its ﬁne dining –especially its pancake breakfasts.
Excerpted from A Lesson In Marketing Magic: The History Of Aunt Jemima