Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fun! Food! Facts!: Aunt Jemima

In 1889 Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood bought the Pearl Milling Co. in St. Joseph, Missouri and developed the world’s first self-rising pancake mix. That fall Rutt attended a vaudeville show where a performer in blackface performed the popular tune “Old Aunt Jemima”, which he adopted as the name of his new product. The next year the pair went broke, and sold the product to the R. T. Davis Milling Co. Davis went looking for a living trademark for the mythical Aunt Jemima, and discovered 59 year-old Nancy Green, a cook for a Chicago judge.

In 1893 Davis built the world’s biggest flour barrel for the World Exposition in Chicago, and had Green, in character as Aunt Jemima, cooking thousands of pancakes for the crowd, while she entertained the attendees with verbal banter. Green was so popular that it resulted in 50,000 orders for the pancake mix, and she was signed to a lifetime contract, touring the country promoting the mix. By 1910 the name Aunt Jemima was known nationwide, causing flour sales to go from what had been a largely seasonal, winter-only product, to a product with a year-round demand. Green continued as Aunt Jemima until she was tragically hit by a car in Chicago and killed in 1923. Quaker Oats bought the rights to the mix and the label in 1925; Nancy Green lives on to this day on the packaging of Aunt Jemima products.
Mick Vann ©


  1. I love history, especially food trevia. My great grandfather went to the 1893 fair to escape the yellow fever in Louisiana. According to letters, his sampling of food was limited to fermited apple juice not pancake mixes.

  2. If he was there, he sure should have see Nancy Green, because according to the research, she made a huge impression on the crowd...and if grandad didn't notice her, he might have noticed the world's biggest flour barrel.

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