From the Factory to the Table: Advertising Cookbooks and the Changing Face of American Domestic Cookery 1880-1941

1. Marketing to Women

Birds Eye Cook Book - P. 5 Detail

Free from work, but still in the kitchen.

"At an exclusive cafe have you ever eaten a salad, sighing with envy, while your husband praised it, and asked why you didn't make something like that once in a while?" (Yacht Club Manual of Salads, p. 3)

The interplay between the three forces discussed in the previous secion was complex. Women's increasing move into the workforce and therefore growing role as a primary consumer meant that large companies were marketing directly to women. Technology, meanwhile, introduced new kitchen appliances and the ability for corporations to offer foods traditionally unavailable or traditionally bought fresh at market. Advertisers met this shifting social landscape by responding to real concerns in the target audience, in this case women, by creating new worries for which their product was a solution, and by implying that their product was, in fact the only answer.

Even while responding to current social trends and shaping the future by pushing emergent technologies, advertisers looked backwards, evoking tradition both for the quick sale and to reinforce the gender roles that defined the customer base they were targeting. This was a hard balance that they needed to strike between addressing real needs in the female consumer, creating new needs, and maintaining women's place in the kitchen. Women using products to lighten their load was one thing, women moving beyond the kitchen meant, at the very least, a declining customer base.

In the objects that follow, certain advertising themes have been highlighted. However, each object engages with many of these themes. Each hopes to play upon a different combination of hopes and fears in the potential consumer. An attempt has been made to note this where possible, but the viewer is encouraged to look for patterns of advertising themselves.

One particular method that has not been specifically addressed but which runs through many of these pieces is the careful and often subtle insinuation of inadequacy on the part of the consumer. A great deal of rhetoric is employed in these books to convince the domestic cook that she should not, or even could not, cook without the advertised product. Those who do are objects of ridicule or pity.