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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Vintage Voice: How They Got Started

            Selling salt to American consumers in the early 1900s was no easy task. The common salt container of the day was a large barrel. However, in 1911, Joy Morton developed free-running salt, and a round asphalt-laminated paper canister with an aluminum pouring spout, which eventually became the industry standard (and still is today!). Then, he decided to advertise nationwide. One ad prepared for Good Housekeeping magazine caught the fancy of company executives. It featured a little girl under an umbrella, with a container of salt pouring out behind her. The slogan read: "Even in rainy weather, it flows freely." Nice idea, but not good enough. Finally, they came up with "When it Rains, It Pours" and one of America's most familiar advertising logos was born.

            "America's Most Famous Dessert" did not take shape quickly. It's patent goes back to 1845 and Peter Cooper, an industrialist and philanthropist. But it wasn't until 1897-- when Pearl B. Wait, a successful building contractor-- entered the packaged-food business, did the dessert go into production. Wait's wife, May, coined the name Jell-O. The company was a bust, so Wait sold it to his neighbor, Orator F. Woodward for $450.00. At first, Woodward fared no better, and in despair he tried to sell the whole kit and kaboodle to his plant superintendent for $35. The superintendent refused. Luckily, by 1906 sales had soared to just under the $1 million dollar level and Jell-O, after a very shaky start, was well on it's way to being a molder of American cuisine.

           From it's beginning in Jamestown, the tobacco industry flourished despite fierce opposition. King James I called smoking, " a custome loathsome to the Eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmfull to the braine and dangerous to the Lungs", and did all he could to stop it. But, men smoked on, and Virginia grew wealthy on their addiction. Tobacco was even legal tender in the colony; until the 1750s the salaries of clergymen were paid in it.  In 1760, a Huguenot named Pierre Lorillard began selling highly flavored pipe and chewing tobacco and snuff concocted in his New York City plant. His success brought tobacco new popularity, and new condemnation. For a century P.Lorillard and Sons dominated the market with imaginative sales devices, such as the wooden cigar-store Indian. On it's 100th anniversary, the company stuffed $100 bills into random packages of Century cigarette tobacco. Ready-made cigarettes were hand-rolled and costly until 1881, when James Duke introduced machines that could roll 200 a minute. At five cents a pack, sales skyrocketed. In 1890, Duke merged America's five largest cigarette companies into the American Tobacco Co.

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