1917 Pillsbury Flour Advertisement

Source: Good Housekeeping (July, 1917)

A hundred years ago, companies were already branding their products and aggressively competing with one another.  At that time, General Mills advertisements for Gold Medal flour asked, “Eventually, why not now?”

A very successful Pillsbury ad campaign responded, “Because Pillsbury’s best.”

37 thoughts on “1917 Pillsbury Flour Advertisement

      1. I read a book about the flour mills a while back. I don’t remember what it was, but it also discussed the fictional beginnings of a Betty Crocker type character that helped to sell the products.

        1. This reminds me that I have a vague memory of seeing pictures which showed how the drawings of Betty Crocker have been tweaked across the years to make them more modern and appropriate.

  1. I love these old ads! I ran across one for some kind of graham cracker. A lovely ad followed by a dozen sponsored recipes in the book. What I really enjoy is the language! The vocabulary and sentences are complex and rich to convey feeling. Today it’s images and music in ads. Very different means of communication. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Not only was there competition between companies, there was a very clear acknowledgement of social distinctions, and a suggestion that even the humblest housewife could have the same as the family “on the hill.” All her life, my mother would draw the distinction between lace-curtain Irish and shanty Irish — which she felt she was. She would have been a sucker for this ad. 🙂

    1. I hadn’t thought about the class distinctions that this ad addressed until I read your comment. But now that you mention it, it’s very obvious that the advertisers were really aiming this ad at people who were less prosperous (the humblest housewife).

    1. Wow, it really personalizes the ad by placing it in the larger context. I can just picture a young bride-to-be reading magazines like Good Housekeeping and planning what she will cook and the ingredients that she’ll purchase.

  3. The emphasis on the product always being exactly the same is so interesting. That makes a big difference in baking, but it tells me that that was trouble sometimes for bakers.

    1. Your comment makes me wonder if there were mills and stores that sold unbranded flour a hundred years ago that varied a lot in quality. Maybe even some branded flours back then differed depending upon the “lot.”

  4. Never would have guessed that Pillsbury has been around long. I trust Pillsbury or Gold Medal flour for my baking, I rarely buy cheaper generic brands.

    1. You’re so right. I know that I generally find the old ads of companies that I never heard of less interesting than the ads of companies that are still around.

  5. I so appreciate your posts and learning more about the “recent” past.
    I wasn’t aware that both Pillsbury and Gold Medal originated in Minnesota

    1. I have so much fun pulling the posts together, and it’s wonderful to hear that you enjoy them. According the the Mill City Museum (Minneapolis MN) website:

      “Beginning in 1880 and for 50 years thereafter, Minneapolis was known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World” and more informally, as the “Mill City.” The city grew up around the mills. In 1870, the city’s population was 13,000. Twenty years later, it had grown to nearly 165,000. Grain came in via rail lines that stretched across the Northern Plains grain belt into the Dakotas and Canada. Trains also carried the milled flour to Duluth and to eastern U.S. destinations both for export and domestic distribution. After World War I, the milling industry in Minneapolis began to decline.”

    1. Thanks for sharing the link. The “Costs more. Worth it.” line is an advertising gem. It’s interesting to think about how advertisers make decisions about how to market a product.

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