1920 Osborn Cake Making System Advertisement

Advertisement for Osborn Cake Making System
Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1920)

It’s fun to read the small advertisements in the back of old magazines. They often are quirky – and sometimes I scratch my head when I read them. This 1920 advertisement by Mrs. Grace Osborn about the Osborn Cake Making System is one of those ads.

Does the square angel food cake in the picture look nice enough to make someone want to learn Mrs. Osborn’s cake making system? (Personally, round angel food cakes work just fine for me.)

And, exactly what is Mrs. Osborn selling? . . . a book for directions? . . . recipes? . . . cake pans and baking supplies? It apparently was a two-step process for her to sell anything. First, she would have to send people who responded to the ad free information about the particulars, and she would have to pay postage to send the materials (in addition to the cost of the ad ). Then some of them might actually buy the product she was selling. I’m no marketing expert, but somehow this doesn’t feel like a good model for financial success.

43 thoughts on “1920 Osborn Cake Making System Advertisement

    1. I also wondered how much she paid for the ad. Back in that era, I think that Good Housekeeping had a circulation of more than a million subscribers, so even a small ad was probably fairly pricey.

  1. This makes me want to look Mrs. Grace Osborn up in genealogy records and see if she was living a prosperous life and if her occupation was “cake maker”.

      1. Yes, please do it! She has a little bit of an aura of a carny hustler, to me. Or fortune teller. (The old past-up/mechanical artist in me wants to straighten out all those lines and odd typeset spacing 🙂 )

        1. I think you may be right – this ad has a bit of a carny hustler sense. It reminds me of all the gadgets people are always trying to sell at the fair. I also find the problems with the paste-up fascinating – and in some ways understandable. I can remember how might trouble I had with paste-up during my very short stint on the high school newspaper.

  2. Never saw a square angel food pan, and it is odd indeed. I had to look her up, and apparently she published at least one cookbook, “Cakes of Quality: How to make them,” and they go for between $30-$60 on eBay and Etsy! It appears to have had more than one printing. What I find most interesting, both in the ad and the title of the book, is that she talks about “making” cakes not “baking” them!

    1. Wow- I’m amazed that there were several printings of her book. $30 – $60 seems like a lot for an old cookbook. I wonder if it’s a good cookbook. Maybe she really did have a unique cake making system. It does seem odd that she doesn’t refer to baking.

    1. Thanks for researching this. It’s really interesting to read about the company. It’s fascinating how the next generation used her name for the company. It must have been at least a moderately successful company since it sounds like there were multiple editions of this cookbook published over several decades.

  3. I was always intrigued by the ads on the back of our comic books. I tried to convince my mom that we could make money selling “Grit.” Of course I had no idea that it was a farm magazine and that we lived in a city.

  4. 😀definitely an interesting ad,I went to the one link about her … my theres a lot of don’ts . Really like the one about not adding to her recipe. I would so fail at that point.🤓

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