Tuesday, July 19, 2016

LeRoy NY and Jell-O

I was on my way to Penfield, NY to visit some friends of my son Ron, and to pick up mail that was being forwarded.
On the way I drove through the minuscule town of LeRoy and found two worthy mentions...

The LeRoy House was not open while I was there but its claim to fame was as the home of Rev. Samuel Hansen Cox in the mid 1850s prior to the Civil War.

Cox was a known and active abolitionist and this home was reputed to be one of the stops on the Underground Railroad.

As I walked through the garden and to the rear of the LeRoy House I found, tucked away out of sight,  The Jell-O Museum!

Who Knew?

Yes!  It is the birthplace of Jell-O

Aunt Louise, this one is for you.

 The first 'Red' Jell-O came out in 1897.

Gelatin has been around and used for cooking since the 15th century but was popularized during the Victorian era when someone thought of using fancy molds.

In 1897 a carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer from LeRoy named Pearle Wait trademarked a flavored gelatin dessert he called Jell-O.

"His company struggled until it was eventually sold to a PR genius who used advertising through magazines and banners.  The PR huckster' finally enlisted a small army of traveling salesmen who traveled door-to-door and gave away free boxes and cookbooks to housewives and rural grocers."--LeRoy Historical Society

Excerpts from "On the Wagon" by Sid Ward

 "As I recall, I was with the Jell-o company in 1915, and rode on a wagon with a salesman who was an ex circus man.  
We covered Ohio south of Columbus, hitting towns of 2500 and under.  Most of them were under.  We started in Xenia on Thanksgiving and worked through the winter, which was probably the ghastliest, coldest job that ever existed outside the trenches...  "  

"While driving through the country, we were supposed to tack up big canvas signs.  This was a sporting proposition, as the farmers were never much in favor of the idea.  We were shot at several times by outraged natives but only once with any effectiveness.  The bird shot was removed from the salesman at the next town, and the operation charged it up as a veterinary fee--repairs on horses were legitimate expenses--but not repairs on salesmen." 


Jell-O was manufactured in LeRoy until 1964 when General Mills bought the company and moved it to Delaware.    

Not every flavor caught on but the company has survived through the years.

Probably the best 'huckster' this company ever hired, however, I was surprised to see his picture on the wall.


  1. J E Ell-ell Oh!
    What fun. How I'd love to travel around with you. What laughs we would have!

  2. I am always open to company. I agree, we would have fun.