Jell-O Girl Adventures Overview
The adventures of the Jell-O Girl appropriate imagined ethnic and national symbols for playful advertising. Just as a child can play dress-up and be transported to another place, so too can Jell-O transport, even transform, the consumer, with adventures of the imagination and of the palate. Jell-O advertising reuses and reinforces elements of the symbolic vocabulary of the larger culture, choosing and emphasizing particular aspects to entice and guide the consumer.
If fairy tales created an imagined genealogy for Jell-O, then the adventures of the Jell-O Girl appropriate imagined ethnic and national symbols for playful advertising. There were four series, each consisting of twelve pamphlets: the Jell-O Girl Calendar, Jell-O Girl Visits in North America, Jell-O Girl Visits Foreign Lands and Jell-O Girl Visits Countries. Just as a child can play dress-up and be transported to another place, so too can Jell-O transport, even transform, the consumer, with adventures of the imagination and of the palate. That is, Jell-O advertising reuses and reinforces particular elements of the symbolic vocabulary of the larger culture, choosing and emphasizing aspects that will, they hope, guide the viewer’s thoughts in the desired direction.
Jell-O Girl Adventures
1924: A Jell-O Year follows the activities of the Jell-O Girl through the twelve months of the year, matching her activities with recipes. For the month of September, Jell-O Girl is back-to-school with an oversized geography book. Below her are two recipes with geographic themes: Imperial Salad, and New Manhattan Salad. A New Manhattan Salad is a Jell-O salad with Waldorf features - apple, celery and walnuts are mixed into Lemon Jell-O, seasoned with salt and pepper, set in individual molds, and then served with mayonnaise or French dressing. Oscar Tschirky, the maître d’hôtel from the Waldorf reputed to have invented the famous salad (circa 1896), cannot have been flattered.
The Jell-O Girl visits Greece and the Parthenon in Athens, which she learns was damaged by gunpowder and had its statues stolen. According to the text: “not very long ago all the wonderful frieze of carved figures which ran all around the building was taken down and sent to England.” This rather sanitized description of the removal of the Parthenon marbles (c 1801-1812) by Earl Elgin provides the context for a Jell-O recipe inspired by British Plum Pudding; a mixture of Lemon Jell-O, browned bread crumbs, raisins, walnuts, prunes, citron, cinnamon and cloves, to be served with cream or pudding sauce. The story ends with Jell-O Girl’s guide remarking that “the pride of Athens has had much trouble.” The tone of this piece is educational, with the Jell-O Girl acting as guide.
Art for both the Jell-O Girl and the similar Miss Jell-O were modeled on Elizabeth King. Her father, artist Franklin King, produced much of the early Jell-O advertising. Used extensively in various advertising, the figure wears her hair in a bob and appears in a variety of puffy frocks. In Miss Jell-O Visits China, however, she appears on the front cover in costume. In fact, China is only a costume -- when the pamphlet is opened, the costume is peeled away and Miss Jell-O appears in a Western outfit of dress and jacket (the jacket to allow continuity with the collar of the Chinese suit) with apron. She is standing by two enormous Apple Snow desserts. Unlike in The Jell-O Girl in Greece, not even minimal information about China is presented. Instead, China consists of a small set of symbols suitable for a game of dress-up: slippers, a silk suit and a shadowy drawing of a teapot and cup.
Dressed in green pants, holding a green hat and with a three-leafed (not four) clover next to her, the Jell-O Girl plays leprechaun in Miss Jell-O visits Ireland. As with her visit to China, the journey is symbolic and sartorial. As the reader turns the page the white ruffles are re-inscribed as the collar of a light blue dress, disrupted, perhaps, by the giant Raspberry Jell-O suspended from her neck, and decorated with raspberries the size of her face. Of course, Jell-O itself transforms – from powder, to liquid, to gel – and is yet still so fun and simple that even a child could make it.
Exotic Tales Overview
Imagining the Other Overview