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Betty Crocker is a cultural icon, as well as brand name and trademark of American Fortune 500 corporation General Mills. The name was first developed by the Washburn Crosby Company in 1921 as a way to give a personalized response to consumer product questions. The name Betty was selected because it was viewed as a cheery, all-American name. It was paired with the last name Crocker, in honor of William Crocker, a Washburn Crosby Company director.
Marjorie Husted was the creator of Betty Crocker. She was a home economist and businesswoman under whose supervision the image of Betty Crocker became an icon for General Mills. In 1921, Washburn Crosby merged with five or more other milling companies to form General Mills.
In 1924, Betty acquired a voice with the debut of “The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air” on one station in Minneapolis. It was the country’s first radio cooking show, and Agnes White was selected to portray Betty Crocker. The show proved popular, and eventually was carried nationally on NBC Radio, with Agnes as Betty. Over the next two decades, Agnes would anonymously portray Betty Crocker on the air and at cooking schools.
In 1929, Betty Crocker coupons were introduced. Inserted in bags of flour, they could be used to reduce the cost of Oneida Limited flatware. By 1932, this scheme had become so popular that General Mills began to offer an entire set of flatware; the pattern was called "Friendship" (later renamed "Medality"). In 1937 the coupons were printed on the outside of packages, copy on which told purchasers to "save and redeem for big savings on fine kitchen and home accessories in our catalog".
From 1930, General Mills issued softbound recipe books, including in 1933 Betty Crocker's 101 Delicious Bisquick Creations, As Made and Served by Well-Known Gracious Hostesses, Famous Chefs, Distinguished Epicures and Smart Luminaries of Movieland.
1941-1945: Betty Crocker Cook Book of All-Purpose Baking. (published as an aid to war-time considerations in cooking).
In 1949, Granger Crocker sent a post card to J. W. Schucak about Betty being crowned "best cook" in her town.
In 1949, actress Adelaide Hawley Cumming became Betty Crocker for many years. She appeared for several years on the Burns and Allen Show, and even had her own TV show. She also appeared in the CBS network's first color commercial, in which she baked a "mystery fruit cake". Hawley continued to portray Betty Crocker until 1964.
A portrait of Betty Crocker first appeared in 1936. It subtly changed over the years, but always accommodated General Mills' cultural perception of the American homemaker: knowledgeable and caring. The current image of Betty Crocker, according to the corporation, is actually a combination of 75 real-life women of diverse backgrounds and ages. These portraits were always painted, with no real person ever having posed as a model.
In 2005, the 10th edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook was published, as well as a Spanish/English bilingual book that collects some of the more common recipes for Spanish-speaking readers looking to cook American-style food. There are also a number of Betty Crocker-branded products, such as hand mixers, which support General Mills product line of foodstuffs.
In 2006, the Betty Crocker Catalog went out of business with all of its inventory on sale. Points were redeemable until December 15, 2006. A new online store was launched in April 2007; BettyCrockerStore.com will be part of the BettyCrocker.com web site in conjunction with Cooking.com.