You've probably heard of Betty Crocker, America's favorite baking spokeswoman, but are you certain that she actually existed?
How It All Began
Betty’s story began with a promotion run by Gold Medal Flour back in 1921. Home cooks could win a pincushion resembling a flour sack if they correctly completed a jigsaw puzzle of a milling scene. The Washburn Crosby Company, a flour milling concern and largest predecessor of General Mills, Inc., received thousands of responses and a flood of questions about baking. The name Betty Crocker was created to personalize responses to consumer inquires.
photo via The Story of Betty Crocker
The surname Crocker was chosen to honor a popular, recently retired director of the company, William G. Crocker. Betty was chosen simply as a friendly-sounding name. Women employees were invited to submit sample Betty Crocker signatures the one judged most distinctive is the basis for the one in use today.
1946 Photo chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
“her picture has probably been published more often than that of any living person.”
In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company saved a local radio station from bankruptcy, changed the station’s name to its acronym, WCCO, and presented Betty Crocker on daytime radio’s first cooking show. “Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air” was an immediate success, and the next year was expanded to 13 regional stations. Each station had its own Betty Crocker voice, reading scripts written at the Home Service Department in Minneapolis. In 1927, the cooking school became a program on the fledgling NBC network, continuing for 24 years with more than one million listeners enrolled.
via: https://www.bettycrocker.com/about-us The Story of Betty Crocker
Portraits of Betty Crocker, 1936–1981. Photograph by the Cartwheel Company.
For many Americans, the name Betty Crocker evokes an image of domestic perfection. From the often-reissued Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook to the iconic red spoon logo that bears her signature, Betty Crocker is one of the most recognized names in cooking. It comes as a surprise to some that “America’s First Lady of Food” is, in fact, fictional.
Betty Crocker got her start not in the kitchen but in the advertising department of the Washburn Crosby Company of Minneapolis. After an October 1921 contest in the Saturday Evening Post, Washburn Crosby received many household questions along with contest entries. Samuel Gale, head of advertising, wanted to answer the questions but felt that the advice should come from a woman. Gale solved his problem by inventing Betty Crocker. Her last name was chosen to honor former company director William G. Crocker. “Betty” was chosen because it sounded cheerful and friendly.
The advertising staff began to answer consumer questions using Betty Crocker’s name and persona. The answers, provided by the all-female home service department, promoted a new kind of cooking. Betty’s answers encouraged standard pan sizes, measurements, and cooking temperatures. She gave advice about how to use new electrical appliances. And she offered homemakers nationwide the chance to receive personal advice from a kindly figure who signed each letter, “Cordially Yours, Betty Crocker.”
In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company bought a faltering radio station and renamed it WCCO. On October 2, the first Betty Crocker Home Service Program premiered on the station. Betty, voiced by Washburn Crosby home economist Blanche Ingersoll, promoted good cooking as the secret to a happy home.
By the following year, The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air was offering listeners a chance to cook along with Betty. In twenty-seven years on the air, over one million people completed the program. By the end of 1925, the two radio programs were on the air in twelve regional markets. While different women voiced Betty in each city, they read scripts in the main Betty Crocker office in Minneapolis.
While Blanche Ingersoll provided Betty’s voice in the Twin Cities, it was another home economist, Marjorie Child Husted, who drove her persona. Husted had joined the Washburn Crosby Company sales team in 1923. She led a team of home economists to create and triple-test recipes to meet the Betty Crocker standard. She also wrote the scripts for Betty Crocker’s radio broadcasts. Husted carefully shaped the public face of Betty Crocker. She arranged for “Betty” to interview Hollywood stars about cooking, their favorite recipes, and their home lives.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Betty Crocker brand responded to the shifting needs of American homemakers. During the Great Depression, she offered tips for household thrift as Husted and her staff worked to create low-cost recipes that would stretch food budgets. During World War II, she advertised recipes for rationing and encouraged patriotic work on the home front. In 1945, Fortune magazine declared Betty Crocker the second most popular woman in America.
Also during the war, Husted worried that women were not being honored for their work in the home. She developed the Betty Crocker American Home Legion in 1944 to recognize women for their contributions. Husted championed the rights of women in the workplace, criticizing General Mills and other companies for discriminating against their female employees.
The 1950s brought changes for Betty Crocker. The step-by-step instructions of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook (1950) helped make it a best seller. In 1954, General Mills introduced Betty Crocker’s red spoon logo that gave cookbooks, cake mixes, and other items the Betty seal of approval. In 1958, the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens moved from Minneapolis to General Mills’ headquarters in Golden Valley. Tour guides often found themselves consoling guests who had been shocked to find that their cooking heroine wasn't real.
Betty Crocker’s popularity waned in the later decades of the twentieth century. However, cookbooks, recipes, and products bearing her logo, signature, and portrait continued to be produced. In 1996, a new Betty Crocker portrait was made by blending the faces of seventy-five contest winners with the previous portrait to create a Betty for the next century.
Betty Crocker - HISTORY
Aunt Jemima ® and Betty Crocker have been American cultural icons for decades, but neither of these women ever existed. Both were created by marketers to better sell products. What is especially incredible about these two marketing campaigns is the years consumers believed they were depicting real women. Aunt Jemima was created in the 1890s and Betty Crocker was developed about thirty years later in the 1920s. While there have been updates to both characters since their creation, until recent years both remained stuck in the time period they were created and helped to perpetuate stereotypes.
It was and still is common to use women in marketing campaigns around food products. Since women have long been seen by marketers as the primary consumer of domestic products there has been a focus on selling to women by women. Betty Crocker’s campaign was so well done, according to an April 1945 Fortune magazine, she was the second best known American woman, only after Eleanor Roosevelt. While never quit as well-known as Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima has also had a lasting impact on consumers and sparked decades of racial debates.
Looking Backwards to Sell
Originally Aunt Jemima was a ready mix created in 1889 by the Pearl Milling Company. This product sparked a brand, which included the character of Aunt Jemima. Nancy Green, a cook and storyteller, was the first woman hired to bring Aunt Jemima to life. She played the character at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Aunt Jemima was depicted as a formerly enslaved cook who spoke with a stereotypical enslaved dialect. Her clothing reflected the same idea, dressed in the costume of a post-Civil War formerly enslaved woman, wearing a simple dress, apron, and head scarf.
At the 1933 World’s Fair Aunt Jemima was portrayed by another woman, Anna Robinson. Robinson not only appeared at the fair, but also traveled the country promoting the Aunt Jemima line of products. It became a social event to go and see Aunt Jemima make pancakes. This lead to changes in the Aunt Jemima logo so it was a closer likeness to Robinson.
While the character was not created until the 1890s, Aunt Jemima’s clothing and language in 1950s still harked back to the post-Civil War time period. In this ad, Aunt Jemima is quoted saying “I’se” instead of “I”, highlighting the racist dialect the character used. Her clothing was also not updated and still represents post-Civil War African Americans. In these ads often the only African American included is Aunt Jemima and they perpetuate a glorified view of life on a plantation in the South.
Betty Crocker was Born
Betty Crocker’s creation was a bit different from Aunt Jemima’s. Instead of being created as part of a logo, Betty Crocker was developed a piece at a time. Throughout the late 1910s and early 1920s, the Washburn Crosby Company (a precursor to General Mills), received thousands of questions from women across the country about their baking conundrums. In 1921, the Washburn Crosby’s advertising department decided the best solution was to create a warm, friendly, and authoritative figure who could answer these questions.
Betty Crocker’s last name was taken from a recently retired director of Washburn Crosby, William G. Crocker. “Betty” was chosen as the character’s first name for its wholesome and maternal quality. To create her signature a contest was held among the female employees at Washburn Crosby and the most unique was selected. It is the same signature still used today. From that point on, Betty Crocker signed response to letters written to the company on baking, cooking, and domestic issues. In 1924, her voice was created when Washburn Crosby began airing a cooking radio show called, the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air. Marjorie Child Husted provided the first Betty Crocker voice. When the show was picked up by multiple stations, additional women voiced Betty Crocker. Husted, a home economist, continued to voice her show and wrote the scripts for all of the other Betty Crockers.
In 1936, Betty Crocker was given a face. Artist Neysa McMein blended the facial features of the Washburn Crosby Home Service Department’s female employees. While created base on a representation of working women, Betty Crocker was not dressed as a professional woman. Since then, Betty Crocker’s look has updated multiple times to better reflect the women buying her product.
Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker are still prominent characters today, helping to sell many products. Since their creation each woman’s appearance has been altered to relate to a wider audience. Aunt Jemima’s skin lighted over time, whereas Betty Crocker’s skin was darkened to olive in 1996 to give her a more multicultural look. Both women also wear more professional clothing. Today Aunt Jemima wears a lace collar and pearl earrings. Betty Crocker, who does not appear on her products, no longer wears a suit jacket, instead she wears a simple red sweater. These updated looks help modern consumers relate to the characters, not real women, on their favorite flour mixes.
Great-Grandpa Bacon’s Fool-Proof Pie Crust
3/4 cup butter or shortening ( I always use butter)
1/8 cup milk (reserved until the end)
In a bowl, mix the flour and salt. Roughly chop the butter and add to the flour mixture. With a fork press the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles course meal. If its easier, you can also do this quickly using your hands – jus don’t crumble the butter so much that it starts to melt from your body heat.
Once the butter is mixed in, add the ice-cold water (the colder the water the better). Mix until the dough clumps together and you can easily form a crumbly yet cohesive ball.
Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry cloth, board or marble slab and cut in half with a sharp knife. Place one half of the dough ball off to the side. Roll out the remaining half of the dough with a wooden roller that has been dusted with flour. If you don’t have a wooden rolling pin you can use a wine bottle, or a cylindrical jar or vase (if you use either make sure to dust it with flour). Roll the dough out as much as possible without tearing it. Makes sure it is big enough to accommodate your pie dish. Once the dough is the right size, gently fold the dough in half on the cloth.
Line the crease of the fold line up with the center of your pie dish and gently lay the crust (still folded) down so that it covers just one side of your dish, then unfold the other half to cover the other half of the dish. There should be excess dough hanging off the sides of the dish. It should like this…
Pour the rhubarb mixture into the pie dish and set aside.
Next, in the same fashion as before, roll out the other half of the dough ball. In order to make a basket weave design for the top crust, you’ll need a sharp knife to cut strips of dough.
Place the first strip of dough vertically on the pie and the second strip of dough horizontally so that it forms a cross. Next weave the remaining strips in an over-under pattern, alternating each slice as you go.
Next, cut away the excess dough along the sides, leaving a collar of about 1 inch of extra dough all the way around the rim. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crust together.
When finished dot the exposed holes with the remaining tablespoon of butter and brush the top crust lightly with milk.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the rhubarb custard is bubbling. Let cool on a wire rack before serving. This pie is very versatile in the presentation department – serve it warm, cold or at room temperature.
Like pecan pie it is pretty sweet as it is, so you don’t need to add whipped cream or ice cream. Its ideal companion is a hot cup of coffee. And no one would look twice if you wanted to enjoy a slice for breakfast. Sometimes that’s the best time of day for a little decadence. If he was still alive, Bacon would be right there with you, enjoying a plate of breakfast trout.
If you get a chance to try this recipe, please let us know how you liked it. And if you have any questions on how to make your pie crust please comment below and we’ll get right back to you.
In the meantime, cheers to all the recipes that turn into traditions and cheers to Bacon and Dolly for always being a part of our most delicious holiday celebrations.
How Helper got its start
Beef prices were soaring and the U.S. economy had weakened when the undisputed king of boxed dinners was launched on the West Coast in December 1970.
Betty Crocker’s Hamburger Helper did as promised. It guided families who were striving to stretch a pound of meat into a dinner for five.
With one pan, one pound of hamburger and one package, Hamburger Helper revolutionized dinner. It was economical, convenient, filled with variety and enjoyed by the entire family.
And let’s not forget that in the vein of products such as Spam and Twinkies, Hamburger Helper has become part of pop culture lexicon.
An American staple and remarkably resilient, Hamburger Helper – today known just as Helper – has introduced numerous varieties in the past 45 years. With it, General Mills created a new category – dry packaged dinners. We’ve dominated the segment since.
It also spawned Tuna Helper, Chicken Helper, Pork Helper, Asian Helper and even Fruit Helper.
The brand made its national debut in August 1971. With five flavors – Beef Noodle, Potato Stroganoff, Hash, Rice Oriental and Chili Tomato, it was an instant success. More than one in four – 27 percent – of U.S. households purchased Hamburger Helper in its first year.
Betty Crocker had launched four similar dinner mixes in 1967 – Noodles Stroganoff, Macaroni Monte Bello, Noodles Cantong, and Rice Keriyaki. (Yes, that’s how the latter two were spelled, instead of “Canton” and “Teriyaki.”)
There was one key difference.
The hamburger for those dinners had to be browned in one pan. Noodles needed to be cooked in another. It didn’t succeed.
Birth of the Helping Hand – “Lefty”
By the end of its first decade, Hamburger Helper had its own struggles. Declining sales led the brand to get a helping hand. Literally. A spokes character debuted in 1977.
The talking, cute, red-nosed, puffy white-gloved hand with only three fingers and a thumb became a trusted helper in the kitchen.
Was he too similar to the Pillsbury Doughboy?
A bit grotesque? And what about only four digits?
The icon-in-waiting survived the internal debate. Lefty was born. Although not named.
People embraced the Helping Hand, later named Lefty, because he’s a left hand. Sales jumped.
Watch the first commercial with Lefty, here.
Today, Helper remains one of the more dominate players in the packaged meal segment with its 41 varieties. The Helper lineup today includes many Asian, Italian and Mexican meals.
It’s estimated that more than 1 million households eat Helper for dinner each weeknight.
In April of 2016, Lefty was featured on a hip hop mixtape project that had the internet buzzing. It included five original songs created by established music artists and students from McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.
After all these years, Helper still has a hold on American culture.
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The Clark House
A number of families have owned this property over the past century, but it commonly is referred to as The Cark House after the family who occupied the home from 1893. At the time, the home was the showplace of Valley Center and the setting for many social events and soirees.
A Civil War soldier, George Herbst, homesteaded at this site on 160 acres, and built a modest house in 1870. He lived here until his death in 1883.
The executor of Mr. Herbst’s estate, the Rev. John Henry Sherrard, claimed 142 acres of the land for himself and his wife Hannah, and built a new adobe house at the site. Heavy rains of 1883-84 caused the adobe to begin to melt, so Rev. Sherrard had the exterior covered with red clay bricks. His initials, JHS, are seen above the door today.
When Mrs. Sherrard died in 1893, her husband sold the property to the family of Dr. James Harrison Clark, a physician who made house calls by buggy or horseback. The Clarks called their ranch, “Glenn Alpine” and it was a popular social gathering place.
In 1905, the Clarks sold the property to Arthur Miller whose family operated a dairy in the area for many years. By 1933, the street officially took on the name Miller Road.
The 140-acre property was sold by the Millers in 1941 to geologist and mining engineer William E. Tizard and his wife Agnes, a home economist. They called the ranch “Deer Stream” because of the deer in a canyon behind the house. The Tizards made significant improvements to the house including electricity and indoor plumbing. Starting in the early 1920s, Mrs. Tizard (then Agnes White) took on the persona of the character “Betty Crocker”. As Betty Crocker, Agnes White hosted the country’s first radio cooking show, appeared in magazine advertisements, and developed many recipes for the company that became General Mills. She built a stainless steel demonstration kitchen in her Valley Center house.
After the death of Mrs. Tizard in 1979 at age 84, Mr. Tizard gave the house and surrounding acreage to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in exchange for an annuity. He died in 1981 at age 85.
During the next decade, the house was rented to several families, including Tom and Susan Elm, who purchased the house in the 1990s. They sold the property in 2000 to Keith Alen and Marla Wheeler who restored the house. The Wheelers use an adjoining 3,000 square foot barn, which also dates to the pre 1900 era, for an antiques business. The house sites on an 8-acre parcel.
A Little History of Betty Crocker
In 1921, a promotion for Gold Medal flour offered consumers a pincushion resembling a flour sack if they correctly completed a jigsaw puzzle of a milling scene. The Washburn Crosby Company, a flour-milling company and largest predecessor of General Mills, Inc., received thousands of responses and a flood of questions about baking. The name Betty Crocker was created to personalize responses to consumer inquiries.
The surname Crocker was chosen to honor a popular, recently retired director of the company, William G. Crocker, whose family name had long been associated with milling. Betty was chosen simply as a friendly sounding name. Female employees were invited to submit sample Betty Crocker signatures the one judged most distinctive is still used today.
During this same period, the company was expanding its commitment to consumer service and product quality by sponsoring cooking schools across the country and employing home economists to carefully test and demonstrate its gold-medal-winning flour. Within a few years, the consumer demand for baking information, fueled by the popularity of Betty Crocker, grew the staff of home economists to 21. This was the beginning of the Home Service Department and, ultimately, the Betty Crocker Kitchens.
In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company saved a local radio station from bankruptcy, changed the station's name to its acronym, WCCO, and presented Betty Crocker on daytime radio's first cooking show. "Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air" was an immediate success, and the next year was expanded to 13 regional stations. "Graduates" of the program who completed reports and sent them to Betty Crocker for grading, numbered 238 the first year and ranged in age from 16 to 82.
Each station had its own Betty Crocker voice, reading scripts written at the Home Service Department in Minneapolis. In 1927, the cooking school became a program on the fledgling NBC network, continuing for 24 years with more than one million listeners enrolled.
During the early 1940s, surveys showed that the name Betty Crocker was known to nine out of 10 American homemakers. According to Fortune magazine in April 1945, she was the second best-known woman in America, following First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Betty Crocker was known as the First Lady of Food.
In 1945, at the request of the U.S. Office of War Information, for four months Betty Crocker broadcast on NVC radio a program called "Our Nation's Rations" to help homemakers make the most of rationed foods. Almost seven million copies of a Betty Crocker wartime booklet, Your Share, were distributed at this time. Another Betty Crocker publication, Thru Highway to Good Nutrition, won national recognition by the American Red Cross for outstanding service in the national interest.
In the early 1950s, Betty Crocker became a television personality in a variety of programs on CBS and ABC. Television audiences across the country saw her teach George Burns and Gracie Allen how to bake a cake.
In 1954, the Betty Crocker Search for the All-American Homemaker of Tomorrow was initiated and continued until 1977. High-school seniors competed for college scholarships and trips to the national awards ceremony based on their knowledge of cooking, baking and household management.
The Cookbooks and Big Red Spoon
Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, first published in 1950, quickly became a national best-seller. The 11th edition, now titled Betty Crocker Cookbook, is one of the more than 250 Betty Crocker cookbooks published since 1950. And Betty Crocker's monthly recipe magazine-available at grocery stores nationwide-has been published since the 1980s.
The Betty Crocker Red Spoon, designed by Lippincott & Margulies, Inc., began appearing on packaging in 1954. Its obvious tie-in with the kitchen made it a valued logo. With just minor modifications over the years, it is the most recognizable symbol of Betty Crocker today. In addition to cookbooks and magazines, more than 200 products, including SuperMoist cake mixes, Rich & Creamy frostings, Hamburger Helper mixes and Bisquick baking mix currently carry the Betty Crocker spoon.
So there you have it - hope you enjoyed this little visit in Betty Crocker History.
A History of Betty Crocker – The Home Cook Who Never Was
Did you know, one of our most beloved kitchen personalities, Betty Crocker, was a woman who never existed? The name was first developed in 1921 as a way to give a personalized response to consumer product questions. The name Betty was selected because it was viewed as a cheery, all-American name. It was paired with the last name Crocker, in honor of William Crocker, a Washburn Crosby Company director. There are also a number of Betty Crocker-branded products, such as hand mixers, which support General Mills product line of foodstuffs.
- In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Betty Crocker was used by General Mills to symbolize the ideal female American cook. In that time, she became one of the most well-known figures in American culture.
- The first “portrait” of Betty Crocker appeared in 1936. It has subtly changed over the years, but has always accommodated General Mills’ cultural perception of the American homemaker: knowledgeable and caring.
- In 1945, Fortune magazine named Betty Crocker the second most popular woman in America first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was named first.
- In 1949, actress Adelaide Hawley Cumming became Betty Crocker for many years. She appeared for several years on the Burns and Allen Show, and even had her own TV show. Hawley continued to portray Betty Crocker until 1964.
She also appeared in the CBS network’s first color commercial, in which she baked a “mystery fruit cake”.
Betty Crocker retires her catalog
It started with a spoon. The teaspoon tucked into boxes of Wheaties in 1931 proved so popular around Depression-era breakfast tables that consumers soon clamored for forks and knives as well. Next the company slipped paper coupons into packages of Gold Medal Flour and other General Mills brands.
By the time baking mixes came along, point values were printed on the outside of the box. The growing number of kitchen and dining items wound up in a catalog and eventually made their way online. But General Mills Merchandise Manager Renee Stark says the role of consumers remained the same for the program's 75 years.
"They would buy the products, they would clip the box tops, and they would send those in -- plus cash -- for savings on merchandise," Stark says.
Stashing Betty Crocker points became a habit in many kitchens, and over the decades became a family tradition for some. Stark says the points often went towards gifts for loved ones.
"The mom would become the gatekeeper," Stark says. "Because she would start to build the hope chest for the daughter, thinking that sheɽ be getting married. So sheɽ start to build something. Then after they got married, as gifts they would always give them additional place settings or serving pieces."
Cigarette brands, airlines, hotel chains and electronics stores are all among the companies that offer rewards programs for regular customers.
But Mark Bergen, who chairs the marketing department at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, says the Betty Crocker program was remarkable for two characteristics -- its longevity and the depth of emotion it inspired among its devotees. It became more than a coupon redemption program, Bergen says, by working its way into the fabric of family life.
"This is so visceral and exciting because it meant something," he says. "The gift that my family got from my mother-in-law came from this program. One of our colleagues here, her first silverware when she left school was done with her mom. And to this day she's using it and it has memories."
Various aspects of the program contributed to its appeal. Its structure allowed consumer excitement to build by stages. As a coveted item was spotted in the catalog, the family point collection grew incrementally, the coupons were mailed and the long-awaited product finally arrived in the mail.
There was no minimum order, meaning a table setting could be built one piece at a time as the family budget allowed. The merchandise offered, Bergen says, was of a high enough quality that people were willing to save for it over time.
And while the products were nice, there was never anything pretentious or intimidating about them. After all, they came from Betty Crocker, at one point one of the most popular women in America.
General Mills created Betty Crocker in 1921 and she soon gained her own radio show. Betty offered warm, reassuring responses to consumer questions, and provided recipes and helpful tips on such topics as the best way to cut a wedding cake.
Minneapolis writer Susan Marks is author of the book "Finding Betty Crocker: the Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food." Marks says the Betty Crocker persona resonated with Americans -- mothers, especially -- looking to provide their families with some wholesomeness. For many, she says, the points program is as laden with memories and nostalgia as Betty's baking products and cookbooks.
"Because it's a connection they had in the kitchen with their mother, their grandmother, and these were happy times," Marks says. "And sometimes for a lot of people those times are over. Those people are not in their lives anymore, they've passed on. And through Betty Crocker they can hold onto that. So there's a lot of emotion."
Emotions could not keep the points program alive, though. Bergen of the Carlson School says shopping patterns have changed, with home baking becoming less common.
In many households, the habit of saving up for a future purchase has faded in favor of buying on credit. And, he says, the idea of clipping box tops and sending them through the mail has become old-fashioned. Most modern loyalty programs work with the swipe of a plastic card and offer rewards that change quickly, often based on popularity.
General Mills tried to give collectors of any discontinued silverware pattern two years notice so they could finish building their collection. The company is continuing its Box Tops for Education program, which helps schools pay for educational supplies.
General Mills says the Betty Crocker Web site will link to the site of another company that will honor leftover Betty Crocker points.