The first person to hold the patent for what would become Jell-O was Peter Cooper (not pictured) in 1845. He stupidly sold it to Pearle B. Wait — a cough syrup manufacturer — in 1897. Wait then stupidly sold it in 1899 to his neighbor, Orator Frank Woodward (a high school dropout), who bought it for $450 (about $12,000 today). Then Woodward became so rich, it’s stupid.
There were four original flavors of Jell-O — lemon, orange, strawberry, and raspberry — as detailed in this 1904 advertisement.
Jell-O began to take off in the early 1900s thanks to clever marketing and promotion. They would even give out free Jell-O molds to immigrants as they arrived at Ellis Island.
Jell-O commissioned art for ads by several famous artists, including Norman Rockwell.
As Jell-O increased in popularity, so too did a desire for gelatin salads (ew!) and so Jell-O began making savory versions in celery, seasoned tomato, and mixed vegetable flavors.
There are some pretty weird alternative uses for Jell-O. It can be sprinkled over cat litter, used as a hair or clothing dye, made into a finger paint, or used as an aid for ridding bathrooms of soap scum. Oh, and wrestling.
In Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 silent film, The Ten Commandments, Jell-O was used to aid in the parting of the sea effect.
In the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz, the colorful horses in the Emerald City got their hues from Jell-O powders.
Bill Cosby has been a Jell-O spokesperson since 1974 — that’s 39 years!
“March 17, 1993, technicians at St. Jerome hospital in Batavia test a bowl of lime Jell-O with an EEG machine and confirm the earlier testing by Dr. Adrian Upton that a bowl of wiggly Jell-O has brain waves identical to those of adult men and women.” Uhhhh. What???
Jell-O has often been associated with Mormon culture. Kraft’s sales figures from 1997 show that Salt Lake City residents consume more Jell-O than anywhere else in the U.S.
Scandal! When Elizabeth McNabb found out she was adopted and decided to search for her birth mother, she came up with Barbara Woodward (direct heir to the Jell-O fortune). Woodward had become pregnant with a married man and subsequently gave up the child for adoption. After Woodward’s death in 2003, McNabb sued for a piece of the inheritance, which she finally got — $3.5 million — in 2007.
Some notable discontinued of both Jell-O classic and Jell-O puddings include:
- Bubble gum
- Cotton candy
- Green apple
- Passion fruit
- Maple syrup
- Triple chocolate
- Plain (huh?)