Monday, February 9, 2015


Electric Aunt Jemima - Mothers Of Invention from The Uncle Meat LP

The inspiration for Aunt Jemima was Billy Kersands' American-style minstrelsy/vaudeville song "Old Aunt Jemima", written in 1875. The Aunt Jemima character was prominent in minstrel shows in the late 19th century and was later adopted by commercial interests to represent the Aunt Jemima brand.

Rutt reportedly saw a minstrel show featuring the "Old Aunt Jemima" song in the fall of 1889, presented by blackface performers identified by Marquette as "Baker & Farrell". However, Doris Witt was unable to confirm Marquette's account. Witt suggests that Rutt might have witnessed a performance by the vaudeville performer Pete F. Baker, who played a character described in newspapers of that era as "Aunt Jemima". If this is correct, the original inspiration for the Aunt Jemima character was a white male in blackface, whom some have described as a German immigrant.

Ad showing the Aunt Jemima character with apron and kerchief as described, 1909.
Marquette recounts that the actor playing Aunt Jemima wore an apron and kerchief, and Rutt appropriated this Aunt Jemima character to market the Pearl Milling Company pancake mix in late 1889 after viewing a minstrel show. However, Rutt and Underwood were unable to make the project work, so they sold their company to the Randolph Truett Davis Milling Company in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1890.

The R. T. Davis Milling Company hired former slave Nancy Green as a spokesperson for the Aunt Jemima pancake mix in 1890. Nancy Green was born in Montgomery County, Kentucky, and played the Jemima character from 1890 until her death on September 23, 1923. As Jemima, Green operated a pancake-cooking display at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, USA in 1893, appearing beside the "world's largest flour barrel". From this point on, marketing materials for the line of products centered around the stereotypical mammy archetype, including the Aunt Jemima marketing slogan first used at the World Fair: "I's in Town, Honey". Anna Julia Cooper used the World's Columbian Exposition as an opportunity to address how young African American women were being exploited by white men. She predicted the appeal of Aunt Jemima and the southern domestic ideal and went on to describe the north's fascination with southern traditions as part of America’s “unwritten history”. Progressive African American women post emancipation saw Aunt Jemima’s image as a setback that inspired a regression in race relations.

The Davis Milling Company was renamed Aunt Jemima Mills in 1913. The Quaker Oats Company bought the brand in 1926.

No one portrayed Aunt Jemima for ten years following the death of Nancy Green.

In 1933, Quaker Oats hired Anna Robinson to play Aunt Jemima as part of their promotion at the Chicago World Fair in 1933. She was sent to New York City by Lord and Thomas to have her picture taken. "Never to be forgotten was the day they loaded 350 pounds of Anna Robinson on the Twentieth Century Limited." Other photos showing Robinson making pancakes for celebrities and used in advertising "ranked among the highest read of their time".

The company first registered the Aunt Jemima trademark in 1937

And the Frank Zappa statement about his Aunt Jemima.............

"I get kind of laugh out of the fact that other people are going to try to interpret that stuff and come up with some grotesque, interpretations of it. It gives me a certain amount of satisfaction. You can imagine how insane that must get on a song 'Electric Aunt Jemima' which was written about an amplifier. Yes, it's Standall amplifier, about this big, that I used on a couple of sessions" (Zappa: 1969)

Electric aunt jemima
Goddess of love
Khaki maple buckwheats
Frizzle on the stove
Queen of my heart
Please hear my plea
Electric aunt jemima
Cook a bunch for me

Tried to find a reason
Not to quit my job
Beat me till I'm hungry
Found a punk to rob
Love me aunt jemima
Love me now & ever more

Love me aunt jemima

Tried to find a raisin
Brownies in the basin
Monza by the street light
Aunt jemima all night
Holiday & salad days
And days of mouldy mayonaise
Caress me
Caress me
Caress me aunt jemima


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