In the late 19th century and until the mid-20th century, name logos were widespread in America and were “tied” to personalities. Companies grew by leaps and bounds and took their names from literature or folklore, opting for representatives of other nationalities or indigenous populations. During this period – from 1888-89 – the Pearl Milling Company, the first company to offer a ready-made pancake mix, whose trademark was Aunt Jemima, appeared in the American foodservice offerings. The advertising poster, brochures, and packaging depicted a smiling, burly black woman, “Aunt Jemima,” who embodied the archetype of all older black slave women called “Mammy.” The character herself resulted from a collaborative effort by the mix makers, Chris L. Rattom and Charles J. Underwood.
During its 133 years of existence, the company has changed its name several times, has been involved in disputes and lawsuits under U.S. trademark law and has defended the advertising face of its company against claims that try to accuse it of displaying racism. But all the while, it remains faithful to its historical past, constantly using Aunt Jemima as its trademark. In the process of the development of advertising technology, printing, changes related to the peculiarities of the psychology of the visual impact on the consumer, the company has modified the logo, always keeping the image of an African-American woman – a housewife.
Meaning and History
In 1888, Pearl Milling was founded when Chris L. Rutt and Charles J. Underwood teamed up to buy a flour mill. However, this decision proved reckless, as the sales market was oversaturated with similar offerings. To justify their costs, the owners began an intensive search for options, of which only a bagged pancake mix called “Self-Rising Pancake Flour” sparked consumer interest. To create an image for his product and ensure its distinction from similar offerings on the market in late 1889, L. Ratt decided to use the face of Aunt Jemima, a popular vaudeville character at the time, to promote his mix, the posters for the production of which were hung all over St. Joseph.
But a lack of additional funding prevented the owners from developing their production. In 1890 the company was sold under the hammer to the Randolph Truett Davis Milling Company, the largest flour mill in St. Joseph. The new owner took the recipe of “Teti Jemima” as a basis and brought its taste to perfection, which subsequently became the reason for the huge and longstanding popularity of the pancake mix. He introduced an additional innovation – the introduction of powdered milk, which simplified the process of making pancakes only to the need to introduce a mixture of water to create the desired consistency before frying.
The popularity of pancake flour became so high that the company decided in 1914 to change its name to Aunt Jemima Mills. But the trademark received official registration only in 1937, 11 years after the company was sold to Quaker Oats, producer of pancake syrups. TM Aunt Jemima.
Both the company itself and its brand name have undergone several changes over the years. The face of the brand, its models at different times was – Nancy Green – the face on the packaging from 1893 to 1925, Lillian Richard – the face of the brand from 1925 to 1948, Anna Robinson – episodically appeared in brand commercials from 1933 to 1951, Rose Washington Riles (on packaging 1930-1948), Anna Short Harrington (from 1935 to 1954), Edith Wilson – from 1948 to 1966 performed the role of Jemima in TV commercials, on radio and several others.
After the events of 2020, the murder of African American George Floyd by police officers, the company announced a complete name change and rebranding that left no room for the historical image of Aunt Jemima for the sake of racial equality. In February 2021, the company became the Pearl Milling Company, launching a new brand name in June.
1888 – 1893
A vaudeville image taken from a vaudeville advertising poster of “Old Aunt Jemima,” made by the lithographic application, became the company’s first trademark. A cartoon image of an “auntie” in a scarf with a tie-on her head at the top of the poster for packaging was the inscription “For the Restaurant Family.” Above the head was the brand name, Aunt Jemima. To the left and right of the image was the address of the manufacturer’s main office. At the bottom were the name of the product and its application. Underneath this text was the inscription “For the table.” Considering the technology of that time, the advertising on the package was created by a lithographic method using two colors – black and yellow.
1893 – 1957
The renaming of the company, its success in the market for the sale of convenience foods, and the desire to slightly improve the visual perception of the brand by abandoning cartoonishness led to a change in the previously accepted image of Aunt Jemima. She became Nancy Greene. She made her debut in 1893 at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As a former servant slave, she delighted her masters with various delicious pancakes, which she baked to her recipes. Her appearance best matched the spirit and style of the company.
1957 – 1969
The updated version of Aunt Jemima’s logo was colorful and attractive. Haddon Sandblom, a famous American artist, was the first to image only the model’s head and shoulders, which would become permanent in subsequent logo revisions. This redesign was needed to demonstrate the changes taking place within the company and its ability to keep up with the times.
1968 – 1989
Updated in 1968, the company logo took on a different color scheme. It used blue and white colors that reflected Saul Bass’s vision, the famous graphic designer, director, and creator of corporate logos. His “auntie” changed his image according to the demands of the times. The logo depicted an older, middle-aged African-American woman, visibly thin, with a white collar and a modern headband. The designer kept it as a tribute to the historical image, recalling the constant presence on Jemima’s head of a headscarf tied at the top of the head.
1989 – 2020
The company celebrated its centenary with a rebranding. The image of Jemima lost its headdress completely. The brown hair became wavy. Her earlobes were gold earrings with large pearls. A white lace collar framed the neck.
Font and Colors of the Emblem
The latest rendition of the Aunt Jemima brand mark was one of the particularly attractive ones. Jemima’s appearance had undergone significant changes. She was no longer a maidservant, meekly enduring humiliation. Even her gaze had lost its sadness. Now she was a free and even wealthy woman, as evidenced by her carefully traced earrings with expensive, large pearls. The color shade used in the depiction of the earrings suggests that they are made of gold. The change in the status of the brand’s face is evidenced by the abandonment of headgear, which reveals her meticulously executed hairstyle. The wavy hair is created using a brown color, slightly darker than the shade chosen for the face. A light application of gray on the side of the light’s incidence informs the luster of the hair. The face is drawn in an element – a stretched circle with a light yellow background. The circle’s outline is brown, with its inner and outer border edged with a darker shade of yellow. All colors of the silhouette image are in a gradient pattern that gives shadows and highlights.
This part of the logo is located on a bright red attractive background. To the right of the image, the inscription, Aunt Jemima, is done in white to create the volume of each letter using shadows. The two words are below each other and centered relative to each other. The letter J, the upper part, extends slightly beyond the lower right edge of the image, not reaching the middle of the outline. The typeface is left-slanted.