When we think about gelatin; Jell-O immediately comes to mind. However, Jell-O is a brand name that once belonged to Postum Company and now is a part of Kraft Foods.
Gelatin itself was discovered long before the first patent was obtained in 1845 by Peter Cooper who invented the famous “Tom Thumb” locomotive.
History has its first reference to gelatin in 1682 when a Frenchman named Denis Papin recorded his research. He had learned how to get gelatin from animal bones by boiling them. The substance that resulted had no taste, no odor and no color but was pure protein.
It took 50 years before anything was done about Peter Cooper’s patent. In 1899 Mr. Pearl B. Wait improved gelatin by adding fruit syrup to it. His wife, Mary Davis Wait, named the product Jell-O for reasons that remain a mystery today. He later sold the business to Francis Woodward for $450.
Woodward later tried to sell the same business for $35, but no one was interested in buying it.
Cooking experts discovered Jell-O in 1900, and by 1902 it was being advertised as “America’s most favorite dessert.” In 1906 sales reached one million dollars.
The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry. Lime was introduced in 1930.
Norman Rockwell and several other talented artists were employed to create advertisements for Jell-O, and they made illustrated leaflets, magazine ads and recipe booklets. In 1962 packages of Jell-O contained baseball trading cards.
In Cecil B. De Mille’s 1923 silent film “The Ten Commandments,” Jell-O was used to create the effect of keeping the Red Sea parted as the Israelites fled Egypt. In the “Wizard of Oz” the horse that changed colors was actually six horses sponged down with Jell-O.
More than 1,134,239 packages of Jell-O gelatin are purchased or eaten every day all over the world. If placed end to end, the 413,997,403 million packages of Jell-O gelatin produced in a year would stretch three-fifths of the way around the globe.
Jell-O is a brand name recognized by 99 percent of Americans and is used regularly in 72 percent of our homes. Today Jell-O is the largest selling prepared dessert and is known world-wide.
Nongelatin pudding and pie fillings are also sold under the Jell-O brand as an instant pudding product.
Memorials – Jerry and Renae Magill of Gretna gave in memory of Madge Magill of Craig. Jerry and Elaine Jackson of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., gave in memory of Neal Jackson. Joan Schuler, Van and Bonnie Newell, Norm and Pat Shamburg and Connie Vernon gave in memory of Lela Hassler. Charles and Roberta Lang of Uehling gave in memory of Donna Nelson Patrick of Omaha and Robert E. Price of Craig.
Museum Hours – Burt County Museum, 319 No. 13th St., Tekamah, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m., or by appointment by calling 374-1505.