Business and Commerce


Who was the first living trademark?

Nancy Green (1831–1998), a former slave from Montgomery County, Kentucky, was the first Aunt Jemima and the world’s first living trademark. In 1893, she made her debut at age fifty-nine at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where she dressed in costume and served pancakes in a booth. The Aunt Jemima Mills Company distributed a souvenir lapel button that bore her image and the caption, “I’se in town, honey.” The caption later became the slogan on the company’s promotional campaign. Green was the official trademark for three decades, touring the country and promoting Aunt Jemima products. The Aunt Jemima character, a variant of the mammy image, has perpetuated racial and gender stereotyping. Characteristically, the mammy icon in American culture is that of a plump black woman—a soft-witted, comical, and headstrong household servant who nurtures the children of her white master. Many people see these mammy characteristics in Aunt Jemima, a polite, indulgent, plump African-American cook who is closely associated with pancakes and kitchen products. Her image has been used on products that bore the Aunt Jemima label while the mammy and Jemima images have been seen in housewares, dolls and other toys, household decorations, in literature, films, radio, and elsewhere. Both images are now generally considered derogatory.


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