The Real and Problematic History Behind Aunt Jemima
The Real and Problematic History Behind Aunt Jemima

The Real and Problematic History Behind Aunt Jemima

Larry Holzwarth - February 13, 2021

The Real and Problematic History Behind Aunt Jemima
A racist advertisement for Pears Soap from 1890. Wikimedia

2. Soon paper dolls emerged, and Aunt Jemima acquired a family

In 1894, in what was likely an advertising first, Aunt Jemima pancake mix appeared in a box with a paper doll, easily removed with scissor’s once the contents of the box were consumed. Sales increased, in part because children were eager to empty the box so as to get their hands on the doll. To increase sales, Aunt Jemima introduced a companion for their icon, a male named Uncle Rastus, later changed to Uncle Mose. When Cream of Wheat came onto the market it used the image of American chef Emery Mapes on the packaging, describing him as Rastus. Aunt Jemima wanted to avoid confusion with the competing breakfast product. Later a line of children for the pair also appeared as paper dolls. Still later, cutout clothes for the family adorned the boxes of pancake mix.

As may be perceived, the advertising for Aunt Jemima was blatantly racist from the start, though no more or less than numerous other products of the day. All exploited the stereotypes which emerged during the Lost Cause. For many products, but especially consumer products for use in the home by housewives, racial images and slogans dominated. The image of the happy slaves cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and supervising children appeared on food products, soaps, cleaning tools, scrub brushes, and other products. All were meant to guide the housewife in best products to use to create a happy home. One product, Pears Soap, even presented images in which it made dark skin white.

The Real and Problematic History Behind Aunt Jemima

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