Betty Crocker

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Betty Crocker
Betty Crocker logo
OwnerGeneral Mills
CountryUnited States
Introduced1921; 103 years ago (1921)

Betty Crocker is a brand and fictional character used in advertising campaigns for food and recipes. The character was originally created by the Washburn-Crosby Company in 1921 as a way to give a personalized response to consumer product questions. In 1954, General Mills introduced the red spoon logo with her signature, placing it on Gold Medal flour, Bisquick, and cake-mix packages.[1] A portrait of Betty Crocker appears on printed advertisements, product packaging, and cookbooks.

The character was developed in 1921 following a unique Gold Medal Flour promotion featured in the Saturday Evening Post. The ad asked consumers to complete a jigsaw puzzle and mail it to the then Washburn-Crosby Company, later to become General Mills, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In return, they would receive a pincushion in the shape of a bag of flour. Along with 30,000 completed puzzles came several hundred letters with cooking-related questions.

Realizing that especially housewives would want advice from a fellow woman, the company’s Advertising Department convinced its board of directors to create a personality that the women answering the letters could all use in their replies. The name Betty was selected because it was viewed as a cheery, all-American name. It was paired with the last name Crocker, in honor of William Crocker, a Washburn Crosby Company director.[2]

The portrait of Betty Crocker was first commissioned in 1936. It has been updated seven times since her creation, reflecting changes in fashions and hairstyles.[3]

Described as an American cultural icon, the image of Betty Crocker has endured several generations, adapting to changing social, political and economic currents.[4][5] Apart from advertising campaigns in printed, broadcast and digital media, she received a number of cultural references in film, literature, music and comics.


Image of Betty Crocker on the back of a box of pineapple cake mix, New Zealand, 1940-70s

Betty Crocker was created in 1921 by Washburn-Crosby and advertising executive Bruce Barton.[6] Crocker was based on a sous-chef from Franklin College — where Barton attended school — who made the delicious, if somewhat dry, baked goods for the cafeteria. Under Marjorie Husted's supervision, the image of Betty Crocker became the "Zeus" of General Mills. In 1928, Washburn Crosby merged with other milling companies to form General Mills.[4]

In 1924, Crocker acquired a voice with the debut of "The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air" on one station in Minneapolis. It was the country's first radio cooking program. Blanche Ingersoll followed by Husted were selected to portray Betty Crocker. The show proved popular, and eventually was carried nationally on NBC Radio, with Agnes White Tizard as Betty. Over the next three decades, the women would anonymously portray Betty Crocker on the air and at cooking schools.[7]

In 1929, Betty Crocker coupons were introduced. Inserted in bags of flour, they could be used to reduce the cost of Oneida Limited flatware.[8] By 1932, this scheme had become so popular that General Mills began to offer an entire set of flatware;[8] the pattern was called "Friendship" (later renamed "Medality").[9] In 1937, the coupons were printed on the outside of packages, copy on which told purchasers to "save and redeem for huge savings on fine kitchen and home accessories in our catalog".

The character made its packaging debut in 1937, appearing on Softasilk cake flour. The name appeared in various Gold Medal products but its first brand name appearance came in 1941 on soup mixes.[9]


From 1930, General Mills issued softbound recipe books, including, in 1933, Betty Crocker's 101 Delicious Bisquick Creations, as Made and Served by Well-Known Gracious Hostesses, Famous Chefs, Distinguished Epicures and Smart Luminaries of Movieland.[10]

The Betty Crocker Cook Book of All-Purpose Baking was published as an aid to wartime considerations in cooking.[11]

In 1950, the first hardcover recipe cookbook was published, entitled Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.[9] It was written by nutritionist Agnes White Tizard.[12]

In 2005, the 10th edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook was published,[13] as well as a Spanish/English bilingual book that collects some of the more common recipes for Spanish-speaking readers looking to cook American-style food.[14] An 11th edition, in ring-binder format, appeared in 2011. At least 17 other Betty Crocker recipe collections were also in print in 2015.


Betty Crocker programs first appeared on radio on local stations in 1924. The first network Betty Crocker broadcast was on NBC in 1926. The show remained on network radio until 1953; most of the time the program was on NBC or CBS, but it was on ABC from 1947 to 1953.[15]

Betty Crocker was portrayed by several actresses, including Marjorie Husted on radio for twenty years, and Adelaide Hawley Cumming on television between 1949 and 1964.

In 1949, the actress Adelaide Hawley Cumming became Betty Crocker for many years. She appeared for several years on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show,[16] and even had her TV show, Betty Crocker Star Matinee.[9] She also appeared in the CBS network's first color commercial, in which she baked a "mystery fruit cake". Hawley continued to portray Betty Crocker until 1964.[17]

A portrait of Betty Crocker was first commissioned in 1936,[18] a "motherly image" that "blended the features of several Home Service Department members" that was painted by Neysa McMein.[19] It subtly changed over the years, but always accommodated General Mills' cultural perception of the American homemaker — knowledgeable and caring.[18] The 1996 portrait of Betty Crocker, according to General Mills, was partially inspired by a "computerized composite" of "75 women of diverse backgrounds and ages."[20] These portraits were always painted, with no real person ever having posed as a model.[citation needed]

In 1945, Fortune magazine named Betty Crocker the second most popular woman in America; Eleanor Roosevelt was named first.[21] In the same year, Fortune "outed" Betty Crocker as a fictitious creation, calling her a "fake" and a "fraud."[specify][16]


Betty Crocker Drive, Minnesota

The Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, Minnesota, where General Mills is headquartered, has a street named Betty Crocker Drive.[22]

There are a number of Betty Crocker–branded products, including plastic food containers and measuring cups, and a line of small appliances such as popcorn poppers and sandwich makers.[citation needed]

In 2006, the Betty Crocker catalog operation went out of business with all of its inventory on sale.[23] Points were redeemable until December 15, 2006. Afterwards, unused points were available to be converted into discounts for a small period of time thereafter on a short-lived website.[24]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hunt, Kevin (October 20, 2021). "How Betty Crocker Got Its Start". General Mills. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  2. ^ "The Story of Betty Crocker". Betty Crocker. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  3. ^ Cross, Mary (2002). A Century of American Icons: 100 Products and Slogans from the 20th-Century Consumer Culture. Greenwood Press. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-0313314810. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b Adema, Pauline (2006). Dennis Hall; Susan G. Hall (eds.). American Icons: An Encyclopedia of the People, Places, and Things that Have Shaped Our Culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 73–. ISBN 978-0-313-02767-3.
  5. ^ Patrick, Jeanette (2017), Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker: American Cultural Icons that Never Existed, National Women's History Museum
  6. ^ Charles H. Lippy (2005). Do Real Men Pray?: Images of the Christian Man and Male Spirituality in White Protestant America. Univ. of Tennessee Press. pp. 133–. ISBN 978-1-57233-358-1.
  7. ^ "Agnes White Tizard: Betty Crocker". Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  8. ^ a b Cravens, Hamilton, ed. (2009). Great Depression: People and Perspectives. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 250. ISBN 9781598840940.
  9. ^ a b c d McDonough, John; Egolf, Karen (2015). The Advertising Age Encyclopedia of Advertising. Routledge. p. 650-651. ISBN 9781135949068.
  10. ^ Smith, Andrew (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 24. ISBN 9780199734962.
  11. ^ Jarvits, Janet. "Betty Crocker Edition History". General Mills.
  12. ^ "Accomplished Alpha Delta Pi Members in Education and Science". Archived from the original on 5 September 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  13. ^ "Bestsellers of 2005". Bowker Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac, Volume 51. Information Today Inc. 2006. p. 587. ISBN 9781573872508.
  14. ^ "Betty Crocker cookbook bilingual". Associated Press. 28 December 2005.
  15. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  16. ^ a b Dakss, Brian (May 6, 2005). "Betty Crocker Unveiled". CBS News Sunday Morning. CBS.
  17. ^ "Adelaide Hawley Cumming, 93, Television's First Betty Crocker". The New York Times. 25 December 1998. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  18. ^ a b "New Betty Crocker dressed for success". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. May 23, 1986. p. 17.
  19. ^ "From Bold Suffragette to Betty Crocker - 150 Years of SAIC". Archived from the original on 26 September 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  20. ^ "The Betty Crocker Portraits". General Mills. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  21. ^ Marks, Susan (2005). Finding Betty Crocker : the secret life of America's first lady of food. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 4. ISBN 0743265017. LCCN 2004061566. OCLC 56880048.
  22. ^ "City Streets, Sidewalks, & Trails Map" (PDF). City of Golden Valley Minnesota. City of Golden Valley, Minnesota. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  23. ^ Wilcoxen, William (14 December 2006). "Betty Crocker retires her catalog". MPR News.
  24. ^ "Betty Crocker exclusives".
  25. ^ Betty Crocker product list Archived 2013-04-11 at the Wayback Machine, General Mills
  26. ^ "Products". Retrieved 23 March 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Avey, Tori (February 15, 2013). "Who Was Betty Crocker?". PBS Food.
  • Crocker, Betty. Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book. New York: McGraw-Hill and General Mills, 1950 (first edition of the "Big Red" cookbook).
  • Dunning, John. On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-19-507678-8.
  • Gray, James. Business without Boundary: The Story of General Mills. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1954 (scholarly history of General Mills, including the invention of Crocker).
  • Marks, Susan (2007). Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-5018-7. (Popular book.)
  • Shapiro, Laura. "Is She Real?" In Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, 169–209. New York: Viking, 2004. (Chapter on Betty Crocker in a popular book with footnotes.)

External links[edit]