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Category:  Did You Know?
Published:  February, 2010

Did You Know?
Last week I wrote about the surprisingly large number of products we use today, that were used by our ancestor - and in their present forms.

For instance, Western Pennsylvanians were able to get a growing number of condiments from the H.J. Heinz Co. as early as the 1890’s.

In Uniontown, Isaac Newton Hagan was also setting the stage for his ice cream business in the 1870’s. He began as a restaurateur and caterer, and in 1902 he moved into his brand new manufacturing facility in downtown Uniontown.

Before that, though, he’d begun building the lines of distribution as early as the late 1880’s.

The Connellsville Courier carried an item under its regular “The County Capital” banner that mentioned that, “I.N. Hagan has purchased a new delivery wagon,” on July 27th, 1888.

The distribution network was obviously working. An ad in the May 18th, 1900 edition of the Connellsville Courier claimed that Hagan’s had become “the largest manufacturer and wholesale dealer in Pure Ice Cream, made strictly of Jersey cream. Can deliver cream a distance of 200 miles in good condition.”

Those distribution networks were valuable keys to the growth of regional and national brands in the early 20th century.

That meant that when local grocery stores, such as Wright-Metzler’s in Uniontown, placed their weekly newspaper ads, they could lure shoppers with exciting new products – some of which still exist.

Procter & Gamble developed its new all-vegetable cooking oil in 1911. In 1912, Wright-Metzler’s ran a local newspaper ad that featured “resultful” Crisco.

It asked shoppers to consider buying Crisco because “it’s cheaper than butter or lard.”

That year, you could have bought boxes of Jell-O, containers of Arbuckle’s Coffee and Argo Starch – all of which are readily available today.

The following year, in 1913, you could go down to People’s Furniture Store on West Main Street in Uniontown, and walk out with an “Ice-Box” or refrigerator for a as low as a mere $6.50.

In April of 1913, Frank Rankin’s store out at 34 North Gallatin Avenue was running a six day sale, where you could find nearly two dozen kinds of cleansers and soaps.

You could have gotten either six cakes of Ivory Soap or six cakes of Lava Soap for a quarter. Most of the brands listed, however, have long since gone the way of the horseless carriage.

But In July of 1914, Auslander’s (“back of street car station”) store they ran an ad in the Uniontown Morning Herald that had three boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flake on sale for a quarter and two packages of Knox Gelatin for the same price.

Chances are you have some product on your pantry shelf that has the brand name Del Monte on it. Del Monte’s products have been part of American households since the 1890’s.

By the 1920’s, Del Monte peaches were an American staple. That’s why in just about every grocery store ad, you could find a sale on them. The February 11th, 1922 ad for the Wright-Metzler Company in Uniontown had Del Monte peaches going for 45 cents for a single can.

That year, Morton’s Salt, Tetleys Teas, Domino Sugar, Northern Tissue and Nabisco Wafers could be found on sale at Uniontown’s grocery stores.
But there were also a lot of items that have long since disappeared. And you can certainly understand why the rather oddly named Plymouth Rock Toilet Tissue wouldn’t have attracted many buyers.

Some brand names seemed to fly onto grocery store shelves as soon as they were created - and they’ve been here ever since. Ritz Crackers is one of those examples.

They’d been given the name “Ritz” when they were first introduced in November of 1934 as a nod to the glamour and elegance of the Ritz-Carleton Hotels in Boston and New York City. They made their “glamorous” debut at Fayette County’s supermarkets as early as four months later. You could’ve gotten a box of them for a mere 20 cents back in March of 1935.

It’s also interesting that some trademarked characters have been around for over a hundred years.

For instance, the “Michelin Man” was first introduced at a French Exposition back in 1894.

Planters Peanut’s “Mr. Peanut” was born in 1916, when a 14 year-old school student won a drawing contest that made him the symbol of the company, which was headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. back in 1906.

“Speedy” Alka-Seltzer first debuted in 1951. But did you know that “Speedy’s” first nickname was “Sparky?”

Pillsbury’s doughboy – “Poppin’ Fresh” – was introduced in 1965.

And perhaps one of the most enduring trademarked characters, Reddy Kilowatt, doesn’t belong to any single company. He’s the licensed symbol for 300 electrical companies in the U.S. and abroad.