Aunt Jemima (1943)
5 minute episodes
Sponsored by Quaker Oats
Cast: Tess Gardella, Harriette Widmer, Marvin Miller
The Aunt Jemima radio show was a five minute musical interlude interspersed with advertisements for Aunt Jemima pancake mix and some down home advice and tips for around the house. The character of Aunt Jemima was played by Caucasian singer and actress Tess Gardella.
The character of Aunt Jemima was born in the late 1800s as part of an old vaudeville act. One of the more popular stories of the origin of the Aunt Jemima that we still know today is that Chris L. Rutt of Missouri and his friend, Charles G. Underwood, bought a flour mill in 1888. There was a glut of flour on the market and so the duo came up with the idea of adding a couple of ingredients and selling their flour as ready-made pancake mix. Reportedly, Aunt Jemima was introduced to the pancake business when Rutt saw a vaudeville performer sing the song Aunt Jemima on stage. If this is indeed where the inspiration for Aunt Jemima as a spokesperson for pancakes came from, it is ironic that the original Aunt Jemima was most likely a white man in blackface.
The character of Aunt Jemima was solidified in the minds of many Americans at the turn of the century by former slave Nancy Green, who portrayed Aunt Jemima at a pancake cooking demonstration at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL. Nancy Green portrayed Aunt Jemima for 33 years, from 1890 until her death in 1923.