Odd Facts About 7 Iconic American Products
The history of these products you know and love will surprise you.
1. Philadelphia Brand cream cheese was made in New York.
American cream cheese was an attempt to replicate the style of French neufchâtel cheese as it was made in the 1800s. Cream cheese was first made in 1872 in New York State by dairyman William A. Lawrence. Eight years later, the enterprising cheese distributor A. L. Reynolds packaged the cheese in foil wrappers and called it Philadelphia Brand because the public associated the City of Brotherly Love with high-quality food products. To this day, Philadelphia cream cheese has a monopoly on the cream cheese market.
2. Gatorade does have something to do with “Gators”
In 1965, a coach for the Florida Gators college football team and one of the university’s kidney specialists came up with a concoction of water, salt, sugar, and lemon juice to keep the school’s football players hydrated and energized while playing football under the hot Southern sun. Two years later, Gatorade was marketed nationally and has since netted the University of Florida more than $90 million in revenues.
3. SPAM stands for something!
In 1937, in Austin, Minnesota, the Hormel Company developed the first canned meat product that did not require refrigeration. Made of chopped pork shoulder and ham (a cut from the pig’s buttock and thigh), it was marketed simply as “Hormel Spiced Ham.” The public’s response was anticlimactic. Other companies developed their own canned meats, and Hormel’s product was soon at risk of getting lost in the shuffle. To save the day, a decision was made to offer a prize to the person who could think up a catchy new name. The winning entry was “Spam”. Several versions of the name’s meaning are in circulation — the two most credible are: It’s a blend of “spice” and “ham,” and it stands for “Shoulder of Pork and Ham.” What is known for certain is that Kenneth Daigneau, a Broadway actor — and the brother of a Hormel vice president — submitted “Spam.” As the contest winner, he was given a prize of $100.
Today Spam is iconic. It is still an inexpensive source of protein that can stretch a budget; yet it is “famous” enough to have spawned fan clubs and cookbooks. It is known (sometimes by reputation and sometimes by taste) by Americans of all ages. As is fitting an icon, its packaging was accepted into the Smithsonian. And if you travel to Austin, Minnesota, you can visit the Spam Museum, opened in 2001. You will be welcomed by a variety of interactive and educational games, exhibits, and video presentations, all singing the praises of Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam.…
4. What does the Frisbee have to do with pie?
The Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, sold pies. Local college students used the empty tins (embossed with the words “Frisbie’s Pies”) to play catch. In 1948, Walter Morrison and Warren Franscioni found a way to capitalize on this free toy by creating a plastic version called the Flyin’ Saucer and later renamed the Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. (This was after the alleged UFO sightings in Roswell, New Mexico.) When the founders of Wham-O bought rights to the toy and renamed it Frisbee, sales truly went out of this world.
5. What is a chicken noodle in Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup?
“Chicken with Noodles” soup was a variety introduced to the public by Campbell’s in 1934. Despite the fact that it is now considered a mainstay comfort food, sales back then were slow — until the product’s name was misread during an episode of the popular Amos ‘n’ Andy radio show. Once listeners heard the words “chicken noodle soup,” consumer interest was captured. Folks began to call Campbell’s to ask about this “new” soup. Wise to a good thing, the company quickly dropped the “with” and the “s” and renamed the soup to match the blooper that raised its sales.
6. What do Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs have to do with doctors?
In 1916, Nathan Handwerker started his own hot dog stand in Coney Island, using an all-beef recipe developed by his wife, Ida. He charged 5 cents because he wanted his product to be affordable. The public stayed away, reasoning that if it was so cheap maybe it was horse meat! Nathan devised a creative solution: He hired people to stand and eat in front of his place wearing lab coats and stethoscopes. He then posted a sign reading, “If doctors eat our hot dogs, you know they’re good!” It was this type of moxie that enabled him to build his stand into a hot dog empire, and create a brand name that is recognized around the globe.
7. Marshmallows used to soothe sore throats.
Today a marshmallow is a spongy treat cooked over campfires. Up until the mid-1800s, marshmallow candy was used medicinally. Doctors extracted juice from the roots of the marsh-mallow plant and cooked it with egg whites and sugar, then whipped it into a foamy meringue. This hardened and the resulting candy soothed children’s sore throats. Eventually, advanced manufacturing processes replaced the root juice with gelatin, which eliminated any healing properties.