Innovation in the Kitchen: Foley Manufacturing Company

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Image from HHM Collections

This Foley food mill in the collection at Hennepin History Museum was one of Foley Manufacturing Company’s most popular products.  Foley was founded in 1926 by Walter M. Ringer. When he introduced the food mill in 1934 it was immediately popular, but that was only the beginning of a long line of innovative kitchen utensils and housewares.  Our collection includes some of those lesser known Foley Mfg. Co. inventions that were patented by Hennepin County residents.

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Image from HHM Collections

This small flour sifter, which could be operated with one hand, was patented by Freeman E. Collier in 1934. Collier was superintendent at Foley for twenty-six years. This flour sifter was an improved an ordinary flour sifter in several ways. In his patent, Collier explains that existing flour sifters at the time were large, heavy, poorly designed, and difficult to use. He goes on to write, “It is an object of this invention to overcome these objections and to provide an improved flour sifter that will be light in weight, yet strong and durable, well balanced and easy to use, capable of being manipulated by one hand, and in all more satisfactory than devices heretofore available.” 

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Image from HHM Archives

Collier’s confidence in his invention may have been misplaced, as it turns out there wasn’t a huge need for flour sifters that could be operated with one hand. However similar products and new versions of it can still be found on the market today. While Foley Mfg. Co. is no longer an active concern, it left behind many patents for inventions by innovative Hennepin County residents like Collier.

 

Written by Alyssa Thiede

Sources:

Collier, Freeman E. Flour Sifter. U.S. Patent 2,326,761 filed October 7, 1940, and issued August 17, 1943.

Hart, Mary. “Foley Wares Awarded Six Design Prizes.” Minneapolis Tribune, June 14, 1966. Star Tribune Archive.

Morris, Margaret. “Lucille Barbery is Key Cog in Company,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 15, 1954. Star Tribune Archive.

http://startribune.newspapers.com/image/183343624

 

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

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Pond-Dakota: Living Through Language

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Image from HHM Archives

The Dakota, like many American Indian communities, passed down information orally over generations, without incident. However, during ever-important treaty negotiations, under the pressure of white settlers to cede territory, the Dakota were forced to rely on the work of white translators, who had reputations for being unreliable and working to sway negotiations in favor of the settlers. Nonetheless, the Dakota held steadfast in their refusal to abandon their language in favor of English, a factor which presented a distinct challenge for missionaries seeking to spread Christianity among Native communities. Consequently, like any effective negotiation the two sides found a compromise. In the archives at the Hennepin History Museum there are three pocket-sized hardcover books. The covers show not only their age but also the fact that they were well-loved by their owners. These booklets tell an important part of Minnesota history.  

Samuel and Gideon Pond moved to Minnesota in the spring of 1834 from Connecticut. The brothers were inspired to pursue religious missionary work after being converted in the Second Great Awakening: a religious revival movement that swept the eastern half of the country in the first decades of the 19th century. Without any financial sponsors or professional schooling, the brothers set out to bring Christianity to the Dakota people of Minnesota. Furthermore, they lacked a government issue permit to enter Native American territory, resulting in them almost being expelled by officials at Fort Snelling. However, they convinced government officials that they would help reduce tensions between the Dakota people and settlers and were granted a permit to build a mission. 

They built a small log cabin and church on the shores of Bde Maka Ska (Lake Calhoun) and immediately set out to interview Dakota community members in order to learn the Dakota language. Samuel Pond returned to Connecticut to be ordained in 1837 and did not come back to Minnesota until late 1839. Meanwhile, Gideon spent two years working with Dr. Thomas Williamson in western Minnesota near Lac qui Parle, before returning to maintain the original mission.  

During these early years, Gideon Pond documented his life on a nearly daily basis from 1837 to 1856 in his journal. These entries reveal Gideon’s strict approach to religious teachings. Dozens of times throughout his diary entries he refers to himself as a “sinner” and deems himself an unworthy failure. This fire and brimstone approach to Christianity was also prevalent in his judgement of native peoples. This is often lead to the Ponds’ disavowing and publicly shaming Dakota cultural practices. In an entry, dated August 10, 1838, Gideon notes that the entire church is fasting for a period of several days as punishment for the misconduct of one of its members. This “misconduct” was carried out by Joseph Renville Jr, the son of a Frenchman and a Dakota woman, reportedly the only members of Pond’s congregation who could read and write in English. Gideon states that Renville had committed adultery, which he deems “the most prevalent sin among the Sioux.” This account captures the different cultural perspectives on marriage. The Dakota, along with most other indigenous communities, had practiced polygamy as part of their culture for centuries, while in Gideon’s eyes, Renville’s behavior was adulterous and a sin worthy of punishment.  

Although we have no direct accounts of the Dakota peoples’ perspective on the Pond Brothers there are hints within the pages of Gideon’s journal. Shortly after his arrival, Gideon began making close connection with Wamdi Okiye, a Dakota man who agreed to help the Pond Brothers by teaching them Dakota words. Gideon recounts a time when he told Wamdi Okiye that “he and all other men are sinners and will all be miserable forever unless they are renewed in the spirit of their minds.” Wamdi Okiye, for his part, seemed hesitant to accept this vengeful depiction of a God. Okiye, who was literate in English, sent a letter, with the signatures of multiple other Dakota members, to Gideon Pond on August 14, 1837. Pond writes, “Today we have had a new exhibition of the ingratitude of these degraded heathens by a letter from the principal chief at this village written by Wamdi Okiye reproaching us not in anger but with savage mildness because we teach that we should love others as ourselves and do not share with them what we ourselves possess.” In order to placate the Dakota’s complaints about the missionaries hypocrisy, Gideon and his fellow missionaries endeavored to negotiate with the Dakota people. Eventually Pond agreed to teach the Dakota various Euro-American agricultural practices, particularly growing and harvesting potato crops, as an incentive for them to help him learn the language.  

By mid 1838, the Pond brothers had finally attained a fair grasp of the Dakota language and set out to begin translating the Bible and delivering sermons in Dakota. Gideon remarks that on June 30 he successfully translated the Ten Commandments and had undertaken beginning to translate several of the hymns to be incorporated into Sunday services. This progressed to the eventual full creation of a written alphabet and the publishing of the Pond-Dakota Dictionary in 1852. In later years, the Pond brothers began publishing a bilingual newspaper called, The Dakota Friend. This newspaper acted as a major channel to spread information throughout the Dakota community. However, the newspaper was discontinued in August of 1852 and brought with it the end of the mission in the face of Indian Removal policy. The Dakota people were removed to four reservations in the state and the community which Gideon and Samuel Pond had immersed themselves in for nearly twenty years was decimated.  

Although the mission ended, the legacy of the cooperative work of the Pond Brothers and the Dakota people lives on. The Pond-Dakota Dictionary is still used as the primary English-Dakota dictionary today. The dictionary was proceeded by the translation of hymns that the Pond Brothers used as part of Sunday mass at the mission. These hymns were printed in small pocket-sized books, which are now part of the collection at the Hennepin History Museum. These three worn copies stand as a testament, not only to the work of the missionaries, but more importantly to the perseverance of the Dakota people in retaining their language.  

Author:  Ashley Fischer is the Undertold Stories Intern at Hennepin History Museum. She is earning a bachelor’s degree in English and History from the University of Minnesota, with a focus on literary criticism and 19th century American history. 

Sources:

Blegen, Theodore C. “The Pond Brothers.” MN History, September 1934, 273-81. Accessed February 13, 2019. http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/15/v15i03p273-281.pdf. 

“The Pond Brothers.” Pond Dakota Heritage Society. Accessed February 13, 2019. http://ponddakota.org/the-story/samuel-and-gideon-pond. 

Pond, Gideon H. “Ruth Chapter 1.” Dakota Tawaxitku Kin/The Dakot Friend (St. Paul), August 1852. 

 

Warm Regards for the Jon-e Handwarmer

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Image from HHM Collections

Residents of Hennepin County are always thinking up new ways to stay warm during our frigid winters. About seventy years ago, John W. Smith of Minneapolis invented a product called the Jon-e (pronounced “Johnny”) handwarmer. Advertisements for the device referred to it as a “personal radiator” and a “pocket furnace.” With marketing like that, it’s easy to see why the product became so popular among those who spent time outdoors in cold temperatures.

Smith was awarded a patent for his invention on December 25, 1951. The design of the Jon-E can be seen below. An article about the handwarmer in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1953 remarked that it looked like an oversized cigarette lighter. The chrome-plated device comes in two parts with an internal burner. It also comes with a red flannel carrying case, and a set of instructions. The handwarmer in the museum’s collection was donated in 1989 by Fred Amram of Minneapolis.

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Image from HHM Archives

To use the Jon-e, the user first separated the perforated top and burner from the base and filled it with lighter fluid. Next, the user reassembled the device and lit the burner. The burner itself never ignited into a flame but did glow softly. The warmer would then be allowed to burn for a few minutes before being placed into its flannel bag. Then the user tucked the Jon-e inside their mittens to enjoy the warmth wherever they went for up to twenty-four hours.

The Jon-e was manufactured at Aladdin Laboratories, Inc. of Minneapolis, where Smith was president. Aladdin was founded in 1930 and originally created cosmetic products until Smith developed the Jon-e. At the height of production in the fifties and sixties, the factory produced 10,000 warmers a day. In the following decade, Aladdin went out of business. Although, vintage Jon-e handwarmers can still be purchased online as the product was durable enough that it developed a reputation for longevity and reliability. The Jon-e was and is mainly used by hunters and fisherman, but Smith himself said, “The handwarmer market includes just about everyone who would rather be warm than cold.” It’s safe to say that includes all of us.

Written by Alyssa Thiede

Sources:

Minnesota’s Famous Trademarks. “Hunter Turns Cold Hands into Hot Profit,” Minneapolis Tribune, October 7, 1956. Star Tribune Archive.

Smith, John W. Hand Warmer. U.S. Patent 2,579,620 filed May 8, 1948, and issued December 25, 1951.

Soderlind, Sterling. “Jon-E Handwarmer Heats the Spot, Turns Cold Hands into Hot Business,” Minneapolis Tribune, December 26, 1954. Star Tribune Archive.

 

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

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Honeywell’s First Computer: The Datamatic-1000

Honeywell is best known for pioneering the field of automated technology. Some may even argue the company essentially created the entire automated control industry. However, the company’s foray into the computer business is less well known. Honeywell was an innovator in early computing technology and even enjoyed some success in the field. By 1970 they had secured five percent of the entire world-wide computer market. Ultimately, Honeywell would abandon computer manufacturing, but for short time in the middle of the Twentieth Century they were at the forefront of computer innovation. 

Honeywell entered the computer market in 1955 when they partnered with Raytheon, an east coast company that developed and manufactured computers. Honeywell had expertise in marketing and research, and Raytheon had contracts for computer development with the U.S. Navy and the National Security Agency. Both sides were optimistic that this joint venture, named the Datamatic Corporation, would be successful.

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Image from HHM Collections

This vacuum tube computer board in Hennepin History Museum’s collection came from the corporation’s first computer known as the Datamatic 1000. The very first D-1000 was sold in 1957 for $1.5 million. The computer weighed over 25 tons and took up 6,000 square feet. It had 3,600 vacuum tubes and 500 transistors. The D-1000’s magnetic tape storage system was an innovation. It was also relatively fast for a first-generation computer. In the first few years, the corporation sold a total of seven D-1000s. Their customers included the First National Bank of Boston, the County of Los Angeles, and the U.S. Treasury. 

In order to stay competitive in the computer market, Honeywell needed to develop a system that was both smaller and less expensive. Honeywell bought out Raytheon and turned the Datamatic Corporation into the company’s Electronic Data Processing division. Then the company created two more generations of systems known as the H-800 and the H-200. Honeywell also merged with and acquired other computer companies. Unfortunately, they never managed to control more than five percent of the market and would ultimately fail to survive in the computer industry. 

Honeywell continued to develop and manufacture computers until 1986 when they officially left the market. Since the company could no longer compete in the development and manufacturing of computers, they chose to focus on integrating digital computer technology into their automated control products. Obviously, this decision proved to be the right one for them. Today, Honeywell is a Fortune 100 company. They may not have dominated the computer market, but they went on to achieve immense success.

Written by Alyssa Thiede

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee. 

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Not a Piece of Cake: The Pillsbury Bake-Off

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Image from HHM Collections

In December 1949, a contest was held in which 100 competitors fought for their honor as well as a $25,000 grand prize. The competition was held in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria, but it was the brainchild of the Pillsbury Company of Minneapolis. At the time, it was called the Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest. It was soon renamed the Pillsbury Bake-Off and became such a success that it is still held seventy years later.  

The Bake-Off was a clever marketing strategy thought up by Pillsbury’s advertising agency. The competition commemorated the 80th birthday of Pillsbury and promoted Pillsbury’s Best flour. In fact, every contestant was required to include the flour in their recipe. Pillsbury reviewed recipe submissions from all over the country and invited the finalists to compete in New York. Additionally, if a contestant submitted the seal from the bag of Pillsbury’s Best flour they used along with their recipe, their cash prize would be doubled if they won. 

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Image from HHM Collections

Participants could compete in one of six categories: breads, cakes, pies, cookies, entrees, and desserts. The recipes were judged for creativity, appearance, taste, consumer appeal, and use of appropriate ingredients. One hundred miniature kitchens were assembled, and the ingredients were provided by Pillsbury. At the first Bake-Off the prizes were presented to winners by Phillip and John Pillsbury, grandson and son of Charles A. Pillsbury, the company’s founder. Some winners were given their awards by the guest of honor, Eleanor Roosevelt. 

Many other well-known figures participated in the competition over the years. Past hosts of the Bake-Off include Bob Barker, Alex Trebek, Dick Clark, Oprah Winfrey, and Martha Stewart. Past locations of the contest include cities from coast to coast. In 1971, they even hosted the Bake-Off in Hawaii. Surprisingly, the competition has never been held in Minneapolis.  

Given that the original Bake-Off was intended to be a one-time event, it is fascinating that it has become an American institution. Today, cooking competitions on television are a dime a dozen, but the Pillsbury Bake-Off has the honor of being one of the first and certainly has the most longevity. If you would like to compete in the Bake-Off, you can find all the rules and regulations for the competition on Pillsbury’s website.

Written by Alyssa Thiede

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee. 

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Our Beloved Doughboy: Poppin’ Fresh

A well-known local figure has modestly enjoyed his fame for over 50 years with a grin and a giggle. Though he may be small, the Pillsbury Doughboy has become larger than life. The beloved brand icon has appeared in over 600 television commercials and on numerous consumer products. 

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Image from HHM Collections

The Pillsbury Doughboy was created by advertising agency Leo Burnett in 1965 for the Pillsbury Company. He was named Poppin’ Fresh because in the original television commercial he popped out of a can of fresh refrigerated dough. In those early ads, the Doughboy was brought to life with stop-action clay animation. Just a few years after Poppin’ Fresh made his debut on American television sets, he became a celebrity. Part of his success was due to his easily recognizable image, which remains the same to this day. Poppin’ Fresh has bright blue eyes and wears nothing but a white chef hat and neckerchief. Besides his appearance, his personality also made the Doughboy popular. He is always cheerful, considerate, and helpful. 

After they realized their tiny brand mascot had developed a large following, the Pillsbury Company began to introduce a line a of Doughboy products. In 1972, they launched a seven-inch vinyl Poppin’ Fresh doll which became highly sought-after.  Hennepin History Museum has three of those dolls in its collection which can be seen above. Eventually other members of the Doughboy’s family were introduced to the public and sold as toys as well. Poppin’ Fresh’s family consisted of a female companion, his grandparents, his two children, his uncle, and his pets. The museum has a stuffed toy version of his dog named Flapjack in its collection, as seen below. 

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Image from HHM Collections

Today, Poppin Fresh is one of America’s most recognized brand icons. In 2009 the Doughboy made his debut in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Poppin’ Fresh also still makes national TV appearances. He even shows up in other marketing campaigns from time to time. The difference is now, his image is computer generated, unlike his early commercials. However, there is one thing that will never change; if poked in the belly, the Doughboy will always giggle.

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Written by Alyssa Thiede

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee. 

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Two Peas in a Pod: The Jolly Green Giant and the Little Green Sprout

The Jolly Green Giant is almost one hundred years old, but he looks great for his age. He still has a handsome smile and his toga made of leaves has never fit him better. The iconic mascot, arguably one of the most recognizable of all time, represents a Minnesota company with an interesting history of innovative food production and marketing. 

Founded in 1903, the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was an industrial vegetable cannery in Le Sueur, Minnesota. In 1928, the company introduced the Green Giant mascot after they began harvesting and selling a new larger variety of peas. However, when the Giant was born, he looked very different. He favored a character from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, wearing bearskin with a scowl on his face. Over the years his look changed. In 1930, his skin turned green. Several years later he took on the larger, friendlier, and leafier look we know today with the help of advertising agency Leo Burnett.

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Image from HHM Collections

That same advertising company also created the Green Giant’s much smaller friend, the Little Green Sprout. As you can see from this image of a figurine Hennepin History Museum has in its collection, the Little Green Sprout looks a lot like the Green Giant, except for his size. In fact, Sprout, a young giant, can fit in the palm of the Green Giant’s hand. In commercials and print ads, the eager and inquisitive Sprout helped demonstrate the importance of children eating their vegetables. The Green Giant taught him about produce, healthy eating, and farming.  

Besides their brand mascots, the Minnesota Valley Canning Company was also focused on innovation and research. By 1932 they had more acres of corn devoted to study than all the universities in the Unites States combined. They eventually developed a new type of corn that grew taller and had kernels that were easier to remove from the cob. In 1934, a company researcher invented new planting technique that allowed them to harvest day and night, and able to predict exactly when crops were ripe. Moreover, they were at the forefront of manufacturing. The company invented a new canning method that utilized vacuum-packing technology. In the sixties, they began selling frozen vegetables. By freezing their crops immediately after harvesting them they were able to maintain all the nutrients found in fresh vegetables. 

In 1950, the company changed their name to Green Giant. Then in 1979 they merged with Pillsbury and became a division within that company. By 2001 they had been acquired by General Mills before finally being sold to B&G Foods in 2015. Today, the Jolly Green Giant and the Little Sprout are still friends. In 2016 they even went on a road trip together which is documented on Sprout’s Instagram account. However, given the Green Giant’s size, the photos really don’t do him justice. If you’d like to get a glimpse of him in person, you only need travel to Blue Earth, Minnesota. The town is home to a 55-foot statue of our the gentle giant. Maybe someday the Little Green Sprout will get a statue too. 

Written by Alyssa Thiede

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee. 

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