The Invention of Jell-O:
Because Everybody Enjoys a Little Wiggle Room
By: Katerina Parent
Due Date: May 2nd, 2011
Jell-O gelatin is a dessert that everybody knows. It has been around for over 100 years and is the most successful gelatin company. After a rocky start of virtually no sales, the worthless company bounced from businessman to businessman, each man losing hundreds of dollars each time. But, after intense advertising, people began to like Jell-O gelatin, because of its fun color and unique taste, and business starting booming.
In 1845, a philanthropist and inventor named Peter Cooper was given the patent for a gelatin dessert. His gelatin was very different than the Jell-O we eat today. It was not as well prepared as chefs would have liked, so they relied on using already made gelatin. After years of attempting to sell his very unpopular gelatin, Cooper looked for relief from the mess he had created. He looked to Pearle B. Wait, who was working on his own type of gelatin based on Cooper’s that would be so much better, and sold him the patent.
In 1897, Pearle B. Wait created a fruit-flavored version of Cooper’s bland gelatin. There were only four flavors at the time: strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon. The naming of gelatin as Jell-O is accredited to Wait’s wife, May Davis Wait. Once the Wait’s began their Jell-O business, Pearle realized that he was clueless about the business world and sold his company to his neighbor, Orator Francis Woodward in 1899 for $450. Business did not pick up, and Woodward began to loose hope. No one wanted to buy Jell-O gelatin. After months of losing time and money of gelatin, Woodward had reached his boiling point, and sold the company for just $35.
The man who would take over the company was the previous superintendent. The very first advertisement for Jell-O debuted in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1902, which showed happy, fashionable women in aprons who said that Jell-O gelatin was “America’s Most Famous Dessert.” Then in 1904, an advertisement ran with a little girl playing with Jell-O in her nursery. The slogan this time was “You can’t be a kid without it.” As Jell-O became increasingly popular, the first Jell-O cookbook was released with two new flavors: chocolate and cherry. After both advertisements ran for about six month, the Jell-O business finally picked up. Busy moms were grateful for an easy desert they can make in minutes, and kids loved the taste. Jell-O became the dessert to beat!
III. Biography of Inventor
Not much information is known about Pearl B. Wait. He was a carpenter and a cough medicine manufacturer before he became the inventor of Jell-O gelatin. He lived in LeRoy, New York with his wife May Davis Wait. After inventing Jell-O he was excited to start his own business, but soon got nervous at the thought of running it without any experience. He knew it would be best to sell it to his experienced neighbor and returned to his quiet life, and his modest job.
IV. Impact on the World
During the early 1900’s, as immigrants were arriving on Ellis Island in New York City, they were served Jell-O gelatin as a “Welcome to America.” Jell-O was helpful again with feeding those who had nothing during WWII, when most ingredients such as shortening and sugar were scarce. People relied on one-crust pies filled with Jell-O gelatin or pudding to fill their talkative tummies.
Now, Jell-O has over 14 flavors: strawberry, raspberry, orange, lemon, peach, vanilla, chocolate, and orange-coconut tapioca pudding, apple, grape, black cherry, black raspberry, Americana Rice and Pistachio pudding, and more!
In 1974, Bill Cosby joined the Jell-O team as a spokesperson and appealed to women and children with his kind, funny nature. He helped sales increase and supported a great cause.
Today, Jell-O is known throughout the world. About 400 million packages of Jell-O are produced every year, and more than one million packages are purchased every day. It has definitely impacted the world in a positive way, in that it is helpful to busy moms, and a fun dessert for playful kids. Whether creamy chocolate pudding, or bouncy apple gelatin, Jell-O is a delicious treat people love to eat!
V. Journal Article Review
My journal article was very helpful in that it gave me detailed information about Jell-O and the Jell-O company. But, it did not provide me with any information of the inventor of Jell-O, Pearle B. Wait, or even the creator of gelatin, Peter Cooper. It talked a lot about the shape and the design of Jell-O, which I thoroughly was not interested in, but it did discuss how and why the business boomed and the effects of advertising.
VI. Bibliography (APA)
Belluscio, Lynne (2006) The JELL-O Gallery. Retrieved 4/30/11 from http://www.jellogallery.org/jellohistory.html
Great Idea Finder, The (2007) JELL-O. Retrieved 4/29/11 from http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/jello.htm
Heckbert, Paul (1988) JELL-O Brand Gelatin. Retrieved 4/30/11.
Kraft Foods (2010) The History of the Wiggle. Retrieved 4/29/11 from http://www.kraftbrands.com/jello/explore/history/