Was there ever a real Betty Crocker?
Betty Crocker has been a trusted kitchen friend for over seventy years. Her face has adorned flour and cake mix products for decades and has become associated with quality baking. Betty's familiar persona was, however, created as a public relations aid by a 1920's milling company. A forerunner of General Mills, Inc., the Washburn Crosby Company ran a sales promotion for Gold Medal Flour in 1921. They offered consumers a pincushion shaped like a sack of flour if they could complete a jigsaw of a flour milling scene. Thousands of entries poured in, and many of them with questions concerning baking problems.
A man named Sam Gabe, the company's advertising manager, thought it would be appropriate for a woman to answer the letters. Taking the last name of the recently retired company executive, William G. Crocker, and a friendly sounding first name, Betty, a fictitious name was created to sign the responses to the inquiries.
A woman from the company with nice handwriting was chosen to sign the letters with "Betty Crocker," and received two dollars extra per week for doing so. A reprint of her signature is still the one used today, even though the original woman is long passed away. In 1924, "Betty Crocker" started doing foodservice programs on the radio. By 1936, Betty was so popular that a face was needed to go with the created persona. A portrait was commissioned from the prominent New York artist Neysa McMein. In the portrait, McMein blended the facial characteristics of several of the woman working in the company's Home Service Department in a motherly image, which was used for nearly twenty years.
Betty has changed over the years. In 1955, she was repainted into a softer, smiling version of the original image. She was modernized again in 1965 and 1968. In 1972, to placate the growing feminist movements, Betty became more businesslike and stiff looking, more like an accountant than someone you would expect to find in the kitchen baking brownies. Her image was softened again in 1980 to someone all women could identify with.
While she was changed dramatically over the years, a few things have stayed the same: Betty has always had dark hair, blue eyes, and a red dress (though the shade of red varied). Apparently men don't buy these products, or Betty would have been a buxom blond in a skimpy red bikini!