Friday, September 23, 2011
Nancy Green, the Original Aunt Jemima
On this date, September 23, Nancy Green died in 1923. Born on November 17, 1834, She was a Black storyteller and one of the first black corporate models in the United States.
The world knew her as "Aunt Jemima," but her given name was Nancy Green. The famous Aunt Jemima recipe was not her recipe but she became the advertising world's first living trademark.
Miss Green was born a slave in Montgomery County, Kentucky. Chris Rutt, a newspaperman, and Charles Underwood bought the Pearl Milling Company and had the original idea of developing and packaging a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour. To survive in a highly competitive business, the men needed an image for their product.
In 1889, Rutt attended a vaudeville show where he heard a catchy tune called "Aunt Jemima" sung by a blackface performer who was wearing an apron and bandanna headband. He decided to call their pancake flour "Aunt Jemima."
Rutt and Underwood were broke, so in 1890, they sold the formula to the R.T. Davis Milling Company. Mr. Davis began looking for a Black woman to employ as a living trademark for his product, and he found Nancy Green in Chicago. She was 56 years old. The Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix was introduced in St. Joseph, MO.
In 1893, the Davis Milling Company began an all-out promotion of "Aunt Jemima" at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The Columbian Exposition was the venue for the debut of consumer products which are so familiar today--including Cream of Wheat, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Beer, Aunt Jemima syrup, and Juicy Fruit gum.
Plus it had Little Egypt (Farida Mazar Spyropoulos) dancing at the fair
Green, as "Aunt Jemima," demonstrated the pancake mix and served thousands of pancakes. Green was a hit, friendly, a good storyteller, and a good cook. Her warm and appealing personality made her the ideal "Aunt Jemima," a living trademark. Her exhibition booth drew so many people that special policemen were assigned to keep the crowds moving. The Davis Milling Company received over 50,000 orders, and Fair officials awarded Nancy Green a medal and certificate for her showmanship.
She was proclaimed "Pancake Queen." She was signed to a lifetime contract and traveled on promotional tours all over the country. Flour sales were up all year and pancakes were no longer considered exclusively for breakfast.
Nancy Green maintained this job until a car crash in Chicago killed her on September 23, 1923.
A frequent fundraiser in Delmar in the 1950's was the Aunt Jemima pancake suppers and breakfasts. Altho the newspaper article I took the information from said that person was the original obviously Nancy Green was the original.