How Aunt Jemima Changed U.S. Trademark LawBy Gerard
In the late 19th century, R.T. Davis purchased a struggling milling company that put out a ready-made pancake mix branded with an older, matronly black woman in an apron and kerchief. Aunt Jemima's appearance on the package implied long hours in a southern kitchen and an authentic, homey product. The actual pancake mix reportedly did not live up to that image, but Davis bolstered his new brand by bringing Jemima to life: Davis hired Nancy Green, a former slave, to portray Aunt Jemima in ads and at events.
Green made her public debut in character at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where she charmed the crowds and doled out pancakes from a booth. The Jemima brand soon became so popular that Green had a lifetime contract with Davis and the company was renamed the Aunt Jemima Mills Company.
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