weather icon Clear

Nevada’s Yesteryear: Flavors jelled dessert’s success

Updated August 17, 2022 - 4:20 pm

Here’s a food item that everyone knows by name, from infants to those who are over 80 years of age. Everyone in Nevada knows it too, and it was even known a little bit back in Nevada’s Yesteryear.

Contrary to a widespread notion of some other source, gelatin is a protein obtained from the hides, skins, bones and sinews of animals. We all know it as Jell-O and have enjoyed it for years. It’s really older than you think, going back to the 17th century and the work of Frenchman Denis Papin (1647-1713), and even a few others before him.

Today, gelatin has many industrial uses, even in ice cream to help increase the resistance to heat. How about that? Jell-O in a waffle cone?

But the most popular use that you have known since childhood is as the jelling ingredient in the preparation of gelatin desserts and packaged pudding mixes. Oddly enough, the use of gelatin as a dessert itself was developed by the man who built the first steam locomotive in America: Peter Cooper. (He was later a presidential candidate in the 1876 election, won by Rutherford B. Hayes).

Cooper was a glue manufacturer and had a very lucrative business in the U.S. He founded Cooper Union Institute in Manhattan in 1859, where it still exists today. Glue is similar to gelatin except that the boiling treatment used in making glue is more thorough and results in a complete liquid. Because the heating process for gelatin is less intense, the jelling power is retained.

It was Cooper’s vision that a granulated gelatin would allow American consumers to enjoy this popular dessert without having the boil down the animal skins or bones. Believe it or not, he came up with a marketable product by 1845. But the first responses were not too good. So, it sat idle and unused for nearly 50 years.

Then, in 1895, a carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle B. Wait picked up on the idea. He added flavors to the gelatin granules such as strawberry, raspberry, orange and lemon. His wife May gave it the name Jell-O.

Wait sold the product in 1899 to O.F. Woodward, who began an aggressive advertising campaign in which he proclaimed Jell-O to be America’s most famous dessert. Dozens of ads appeared in newspapers, monthly publications and roadside advertising assuring mothers that Jell-O was easy to fix and good for children.

It then began to be served in the dining cars of passenger trains that crisscrossed the country daily, Nevada included.

Today, Jell-O, owned by the Kraft Heinz Company of Chicago, is sold in a variety of flavors and forms around the world. When was the last time you had some? You don’t have to go very far to find it. It’s right there on the shelves of your favorite grocery store.

Dave Maxwell is a Nevada news reporter with over 35 years in print and broadcast journalism, and greatly interested in early Nevada history. He can be reached at maxwellhe@yahoo.com.

A popular Eagle tradition

The annual Boulder City High School Grad Walk was held this past Friday.

May the Fourth Be With You (a day early)

LEFT: Sophomore Delaney Loeslein gets some assistance during the class challenge of Hungry, Hungry Hippo at Friday’s BCHS year-end assembly.

DIY could be more costly and risky than DIFM

Back in the days of my home-show appearances, attendees would often ask me the same kind of question—“Do you think I could renovate my own bathroom (kitchen, bedroom…)?” To which I would always answer, “Do you know how to replace a light switch?” That would always make them chuckle.

Therapy dogs make testing ‘stress free’ at King Elementary

Test anxiety is a common concern for teachers, parents, and students, especially this time of year for King students as they prepare to take the state test for the first time.

Statehouse daughter heads services to veterans

It’s not out of the ordinary for journalists to sometimes leave the profession and try something new. Especially when they feel a family connection urging them to enter into a divergent field of employment. That’s what happened to one local individual.

Howard turns passion into full-time job

For many self-published authors, the passion to put words on a page ends up being a hobby they do when everyday life frees up a few minutes here and there to do so.

BCHS gearing up for spring play

Spring is in the air and life is abuzz in the Boulder City High School Theatre Department. While residents all over town are packing their winter clothes and embarking on spring cleaning projects; students in the drama department are collaborating on their spring performance of “Yard Sale” by Tim Kelly.

Andrew Mitchell Elementary goes beyond 7 Habits

As a Leader In Me School, Mitchell Elementary frequently refers to the 7 Habits. As a matter of fact, each day at our morning ceremony, students and staff recite our mission statement, which refers specifically to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

LMNRA has deep roots in Boulder City

We at Lake Mead National Recreation Area are constantly amazed and grateful for the support from the Boulder City community. We also strive to provide great service to the people of this great town.