Thursday, February 01, 2007

Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow Fluff • this painting is sold

This painting makes up a pair with yesterday's painting: The Fluffernutter.

On May 14, 1920, a small article appeared in the Lynn, Massachusetts, Daily Evening Item announcing that two young men, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, both graduates of Swampscott High and veterans of the United States Infantry in World War I, had formed a partnership in the manufacture of Marshmallow Fluff. The actual date that they started working together is hard to pin down, because they had been making candies together before they started making Fluff. The company numbered two men in those days, and they started out cooking their confections in the kitchen at night and selling them door to door in the daytime.

The origins of Marshmallow Fluff actually go back to 1917. Before WWI, a Sommerville MA man named Archibald Query had been making it in his kitchen and selling it door to door, but wartime shortages had forced him to close down. By the time the war was over, Mr Query had other work and was uninterested in restarting his business, but he was willing to sell the formula. Durkee and Mower pooled their saving and bought it for five hundred dollars. Having just returned from France, they punningly renamed their product "Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff" but "Toot Sweet" didn't stay on the label for long. The situation of "no customers, but plenty of prospects" didn't last long either. An early receipt still in the company's scrap books records the sale in April, 1920 of three one gallon cans to a vacation lodge in New Hampshire. The price at the time was $1.00 a gallon! The door to door trade gained a reputation among local housewives that eventually placed Fluff onto local grocers shelves. Retail trade spread from there to the point where in 1927 they were advertising prominently in Boston newspapers.

In 1929 they moved to a factory on Brookline Street in East Lynn, more than tripling their floor space to 10,000 square feet. At this point, they also hired four new employees, bringing their numbers to ten. They also merged with the Cream of Chocolate Company, makers of Rich's instant Sweet Milk Cocoa, and Durkee-Mower entered the Hot Chocolate business. Rich's Instant Sweet Milk Cocoa was too long a name for shoppers to be expected to remember easily, so in 1937 the name was shortened to simply Sweeco, and made more prominent on the label. The name and label change was backed up by a large newspaper advertising campaign, and the product's sales increased rapidly. Durkee-Mower continued to make Sweeco until 1962.

Durkee-Mower became a pioneer in radio advertising when in 1930 they began to sponsor the weekly "Flufferettes" radio show on the Yankee radio network, which included twenty-one stations broadcasting to all of New England. The fifteen minute show, aired on Sunday evenings just before Jack Benny, included live music and comedy skits, and served as a steppingstone to national recognition for a number of talented performers. The show continued through the late forties.

Marshmallow Fluff

If you would like to purchase this 6" x 6" oil painting on stretched canvas, please email me. This painting is priced at $100.00 plus s/h.

Thank You!


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