This past weekend I took my girls to a place you have probably never would believed existed: the Jell-O
Gallery in Leroy, NY. Yes. I'm telling the truth. There is a museum devoted to the history of Jell-O.
That lovely quivery dessert was created in 1897 in the town of Leroy by Pearle Waite, a carpenter who was searching for a source of income for the winter months. When he and his wife May unlocked the secret to this delicacy, they were ecstatic. At that time, it took multiple days and (usually) a servant or two to make a jellied dessert. This, though – this flavored powder was going to change all of that.
Except Waite couldn't sell it.
After some time of trying to generate interest in his product, Waite sold the recipe to Orator Woodward for the price of a new house: $400. Woodward, a canny businessman who already owned the Genesee Pure Food Company, soon found himself in a similar position. He believed in his product but people had no idea what it was. He couldn't sell it either.
But Woodward had what was, at that time, a radical idea. In 1904 he hired massive numbers of young men, told them to dress nicely, and sent them out to towns and cities with the instructions that they were to knock on every door and give every housewife a box of Jell-O. Then the men were to advise the local grocers to stock up, because there would soon be a demand for this product.
If you've walked through any North American grocery store, you know just how well his experiment worked. Jell-O in its many incarnations is part of the culture. Try to imagine a potluck without at least one Jell-O brand product (remember, that includes instant vanilla pudding) used in the dishes. Boggles the mind, doesn't it?
Now readers, do tell – what prompts you to pick up an unknown book or other product? I have a lovely purple and silver book thong to give away to one lucky commenter, so tell, tell!