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A Brand New Name For an Old Brand

A Brand New Name For an Old Brand
February 18
07:51 2021

New Name for an Old Brand

By John Christian Hopkins

Oh, fiddle dee dee!

It looks like Aunt Jemima is gone with the wind.

Quaker Oats announced recently that the longtime pancake favorite will rebrand Aunt Jemima products as Pearl Milling Company.

The name harkens back to the products’ beginning.

In 1888 two businessmen bought a flour mill and named it the Pearl Milling Company. But their plans of rolling in the dough came up flat, Jack. It seems that in 1888 there was a glut in the flour market. But they men did not let that deter them.

They rolled out a new product, selling their excess flour as the first “ready mix” pancake mix. After some experimentation the men sold their mix in bags with generic labeling: “Self-Rising Pancake Flour.”

By 1915 the Aunt Jemima brand became one of the most famous brand names in America. Quaker Oats acquired the brand in 1926.

Where did Aunt Jemima come from? To distinguish their product from others on the market the men changed the brand to Aunt Jemima – after one of the men saw a lithograph at a vaudeville show depicting an “Aunt Jemima” caricature. The performer was a while man in blackface mimicking a slave.

The name Aunt Jemima came from a popular 1864 song.

But they two men soon ran out of money and sold the Pearl Milling Company to the Randolph Truett Davis Milling Company. Davis fiddled with the recipe, improving the taste by adding rice flour, corn syrup and powdered milk. The cook only had to add water.

The Aunt Jemima logo was a common trope of the typical happy slave stereotype. But it became so popular that in 1893 a model portraying Aunt Jemima appeared at the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago – along with her slogan, “I’s in town, honey.”

In case you don’t think Aunt Jemima was a racist symbol, consider her family. Her husband was “Uncle Rastus.” The terms aunt and uncle were routinely used for older slaves (Uncle Remus, anyone?) since blacks were not worthy of being called mister or miss. Rastus was later changed to Uncle Mose – so it wouldn’t be confused with the Cream of Wheat caricature of Uncle Rastus.

Rastus was often a derogatory word to refer to a black man.

The Aunt Jemima company even depicted her family on its boxes – describing her children as “comical pickaninnies.”

Almost since its inception some people have decried the overt racial tone of the product. Over the years, the Quaker Oats Company has tweaked Aunt Jemima’s image to try and soften the criticism. It took the tragic killing of George Floyd in 2020 for the company to retire the name Aunt Jemima in the name of “racial equality.”

The new name is expected to hit store in June.

Aunt Jemima isn’t the only popular logo to undergo a revision.

The Land O’ Lakes Indian mascot woman has melted away, and the dispute over stereotypical names even affected Uncle Ben – who has been a credit to his rice since 1943. Last year it was announced the name would be changed to Ben’s Rice.

 

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