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The History of Jello
By Mary Bellis

Return Food History

In 1845, industrialist, inventor, and philanthropist Peter Cooper, of Tom Thumb engine and Cooper Union fame, obtained the first patent for a gelatin dessert. Coopernever promoted the product.

In 1895, Pearl B. Wait, a cough syrup manufacturer from Le Roy, New York who dealt in patent medicines, bought the patent from Peter Cooper and turned Cooper's gelatin dessert into a prepackaged commercial product. His wife, May David Wait, renamed the dessert "Jell-O." However, they were also unsuccessful in selling the product.

Frank Woodward, a school dropout and, who by the age of 20 had his own business, bought the rights to Jell-O for $450. Among the products Woodward marketed were several patent medicines, Raccoon Corn Plasters, and a roasted coffee substitute called Grain-O. Sales were still slow, so Woodward offered to sell the rights to Jell-O® to his plant superintendent for $35. However, before the final sale, intensive advertising paid off. By 1906, sales reached $1 million. By sending out nattily dressed salesmen to demonstrate Jell-O and distributing 15 million copies of a Jell-O recipe book containing celebrity favorites, popularity rose. Woodward’s Genesee Pure Food Company was renamed Jell-O Company in 1923, and later merged with Postum Cereal to become the General Foods Corporation.

History of Jell-O
Glue and Gelatin
Jell-O Patent
Jell-O Images 1
Jell-O Images 2

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