Uneeda Bakers

. Monday, September 25, 2006
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HERE is the young man who took crackers out of the cracker barrel, put them into neat, sanitary packages, and sold, what is still after sixty years of competition, the most famous "biscuit" in the world! Actually, of course, the story is far more significant than that. A. W. Green, Chairman of the Board of the National Biscuit Company just before and after the turn of the century, was the prime mover in an idea that was probably the forerunner of the packaged food business in this country. For this was the day of bulk selling. Crackers - and almost every other item in the grocery stores of that day - were sold from barrels or boxes. You bought your groceries and you took your chances; sometimes you got them clean and fresh, and sometimes you got them stale, fly-specked and smelling of kerosene.
Mr. Green recommended to his Board a home PACKAGE of crackers-a package containing a quantity that would be quickly consumed by the average family, that would be packed in a container free from contamination and protected from moisture, dust, germs and odors. Mr. Green also recommended a mass price of 5¢ (this was 1899, remember) and some novel method of advertising and merchandising this absolutely revolutionary scheme.
The Board was unenthusiastic. Its mind was still in the cracker barrel. With rare foresight, it pessimistically predicted failure. But fortunately
it wasn't boss. And also, fortunately, the National Biscuit Company had appointed N. W. Ayer & Son as its advertising agency.
Serving the National Biscuit account was one of Ayer's strongest men: H. N. McKinney. Mr. McKinney was just as foresighted in his field as Mr. Green in his, and the result of that combination was the name UNEEDA and a coordinated plan for reaching the public through newspapers, magazines, street car cards, posters and painted signs.
The campaign was an over-night sensation and new bakeries were built in different parts of the country to supply the fantastic demand, but neither National Biscuit nor N. W. Ayer probably realized the extent to which they were remolding our daily lives. Today's brightly illuminated markets with their neatly arranged rows of packaged foods, each with its own trade mark, had its origin in this first bold step taken but fifty years ago.
The famous boy in boots, sou.'wester and slicker, with a package of Uneeda Biscuits in his arm, was the work of Joseph J. Geisinger, an associate of Mr. McKinney's at N. W. Ayer & Son. It was Mr. Geisinger's job to illustrate the original Uneeda campaign - to give it novelty and freshness and human appeal. He did. He did it so well that the slickered lad (Mr. Geisinger's nephew, Gordon Stille, by the way) is still one of the bestknown advertisements in the world.