JF Ptak Science Books Post 1777 [Part of the Bad Ideas series.]
"Gelatin is a protein substance derived from collagen, a natural protein present in the tendons, ligaments, and tissues of mammals. It is produced by boiling the connective tissues, bones and skins of animals, usually cows and pigs."
Gelatin of course is still around, present in all sorts of things, the Old School equivalent of the coming New School use of cellulose filler in everything--except of course that cellulose isn't the leftover stuff on the slaughterhouse floor. Lots of kid foods are made with it--gummy bears are just about all gelatin, all the time, with the exception of the shelf-life lengtheners and coloring.
The first lively hard-sell pamphlet, The Use of Gelatin in Ice Cream, and Buttermilk and other Dairy Products (1935) was assembled by the "Gelatin Department" of Swift & Company. Swift (purchased in 2008 by JBS S.A.) used to be the world's largest processor of cows and pigs and other things with eyeballs and veins and brains, making them into food for human beings. The company (started in 1855) expanded into other things in the mid-19th century, getting into the insurance and petroleum fields. It used to own Peter Pan peanut butter, too. And Playtex, makers of bras and etc.
I have to give Swift credit though for stating exactly what gelatin is, right there on the first page, in no-nonsense language. The short (12-page) pamphlet is then given over to a quick sales talk on the uses of gelatin--in chocolate milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, ice cream, sorbet and buttermilk--and how to prepare it. At first a reader might think that the use of gelatin in the pre-WWII days was not so widespread, until they remembered that this pamphlet was directed at just dairy products. There was a whole other world of gelatin use besides this one.
And that’s been the story of Jell-O, a product of extraordinarily modest and not-pretty means, morphing itself and the Postum Company over a relatively short period of time (from 1895 to 1925) into the megamonolth: the General Foods Corporation. “America’s Most Famous Dessert” got its third (or better) start on life in Le Roy, New York, under the creative hands of Mr. & Mrs. Pearle B. & May Wait (true!), who took sugar, powdered gelatin and artificial fruit flavors to make a concoction May called “Jell-O”. But her reach was none-too-grand compared to that of Frank Woodward, who bought the company from her and created the demand for this ‘food” and who ultimately created General Foods with it. (Its an old story: consumable and saleable product with no consumers: Marlboro cigarettes started out as a specialized cig for “ladies” and failed; the same cigarette was then re-marketed as a testosterone-laden product and then succeeded beyond all wild expectation, killing millions of its consumers in the process.) In any event Ms. Wait trumped another New York state resident, Charles Knox, in the race to develop a pretty and tasty granulated/[powdered gelatin desert mix. "Knox’s Gelatine", originally made with calves’-foot jelly, was a little earlier to the table than Mrs. Wait, but failed to properly develop his product. It also suffered its own "purity" by not having any sugar in it.