Author Archives: Hennepin History Museum

About Hennepin History Museum

Hennepin History Museum preserves and shares the story of Hennepin County, Minnesota. Located in the historic Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis, we offer exhibitions, a research library, and public programs and events for visitors of all ages. Your history. Your museum.

Warm Regards for the Jon-e Handwarmer

2018.0520.057

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.

us2579620_page_1.jpg

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.

Print

Advertisements

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.

2018.0520.247

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. 

Print

Not a Piece of Cake: The Pillsbury Bake-Off

2018.0520.225

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. 

2018.0520.352

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. 

Print

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. 

2018.0520.036a-c

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. 

2018.0520.034

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.

2018.0520.045a-b

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. 

Print

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.

2018.0520.321.JPG

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. 

Print

A Businesswoman and a Homemaker: Marjorie Child Husted and Betty Crocker

2018.0520.324

Image from HHM Collections

Many Americans used to believe Betty Crocker was a real person. This is because her likeness and voice were well publicized throughout the Twentieth Century. Even today, her trademarked signature can be found on products sold by General Mills. Betty Crocker, now a cultural icon, was the perfect housewife. However, the person responsible for popularizing her image was actually a businesswoman. 

Marjorie Child Husted was born in 1892 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1913 she graduated from the University of Minnesota after studying home economics. In 1924, Husted started working for the Washburn-Crosby Company, which would become General Mills in 1928. During her time at the company, she went from field representative, to department director, to consultant to company executives and the advertising and public relations departments. Additionally, it was under Husted’s guidance that Betty Crocker rose to national fame while appearing in print ads, radio shows, commercials, cookbooks, and a variety of consumer products. 

The fictionalized character we know as Betty Crocker was created in 1921 in an innovative marketing strategy. After receiving an onslaught of written cooking-related inquiries, the Washburn-Crosby Company, started using the name Betty Crocker to respond to these letters. They even created a standardized signature for the character, which can be seen below on these measuring cups in Hennepin History Museum’s collection. Eventually, the character’s likeness was created in 1936. While it has varied over the years, Betty Crocker generally wears a red jacket with a white shirt, has short brown hair, and a gentle expression on her face. 

2018.0520.326

Image from HHM Collections

By 1929, Husted had become director of the Betty Crocker Homemaking Service at General Mills. In the following decades, she worked hard to ensure that Betty Crocker became emblematic of the ideal American housewife, ultimately making the character a celebrity of sorts.  Husted even helped give a voice to the icon. The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air was a popular national radio show that ran for over 27 years, one of the longest in history. Husted not only wrote the scripts for each show, she provided the voice of Betty Crocker for many years. Husted also researched and organized a series of Betty Crocker cookbooks. Furthermore, Husted facilitated Betty Crocker’s appearance in numerous advertising campaigns. Her image was used to sell a variety of products, most of which were related to cooking and bakingIt was even used to sell home appliances, like this iron in the museum’s collection that dates to 1946.

2018.0520.001

Image from HHM Collections

Today Husted is not as wellknown as the brand icon she helped develop, but she did receive recognition and accolades in her lifetime. In 1948, Husted was named Woman of the Year, which was presented by President Harry S. Truman. This marked the first time that award was given to a businesswoman. The following year, Husted was named Advertising Woman of the Year by the Advertising Federation of America. Husted passed away in 1986, leaving behind a legacy of many contributions in the field of home economics, public relations, and advertising. She helped pave the way for women to enter the workplace in the United States, all while popularizing the most idealized and beloved American housewife ever (or never) to exist.

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. 

Print

Breakfast of the 1987 World Series Champions

2018.0520.097.JPG

Image from HMM Collections

In 1987 the Minnesota Twins must have been eating their Wheaties. It is the breakfast of champions after all. That year the Twins won their first World Series, which is why they were featured on the front of the Wheaties box. This also marked the first time an entire team of athletes was featured on the iconic orange package. Wheaties boxes have featured legendary American athletes for several decades. The first athlete depicted was baseball player Lou Gehrig in 1934. Many more athletes have made an appearance over the years, none more than Michael Jordan who graced the front of the box a record 18 times. However, the history of Wheaties is more than sponsorship deals with our favorite athletes. The Wheaties story is one of innovation and has its roots here in Hennepin County.  

Wheaties were invented by accident. In 1921 a clinician in Minneapolis spilled a mixture of boiled bran on a hot stove top which baked it into crunchy flake. This Hennepin County resident presented his creation to the Washburn Crosby Company, which later became General Mills, who perfected the recipe and introduced it to the public in 1924. Originally known as “Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes”, the cereal was soon marketed as “Wheaties”, the winning entry of a companywide naming contest.  

Unfortunately, by 1929 sales of the cereal were so low the product was almost discontinued. However, a shrewd advertising manager realized that most Wheaties sales were in regions where customers could listen to the Wheaties Quartet. The Wheaties Quartet singers had been introduced to the Minneapolis radio audience in 1926, marking the first time a singing advertisement was used to promote a product. This jingle was called “Have You Tried Wheaties?” and helped to boost sales within the listening area. When the company decided to take the radio advertisement to a national audience, sales of Wheaties skyrocketed across the country. This secured the brand’s rightful place in the cereal aisle at the supermarket where it can still be found today. The orange box has become common at the American breakfast table and is beloved by many whether they are sports fans or not.  

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. 

Print