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Kidder Labels

The label for Samuel Kidder and Company’s Imperial Yeast Powder demonstrates the new concept of branding processed food. The firm probably chose the name “Imperial” to emphasize their belief in the product’s dominance over other brands of yeast.

The label also includes the motto “Good in Every Climate” to encourage purchase by a national audience. A 1861 broadside for the product (now at the Library of Congress) announced that “it is good in all climates; and at sea, on the plains, at the mines, or in any situation where a yeast always ready and sure is needed, this is invaluable, saving time and labor.”

Samuel Kidder & Co. (Charlestown, MA), Imperial Yeast Powder, c. 1860–1875 (detail). Chromolithographed food label, (2 3/8 x 2 5/8 in). Printed by L. Prang & Co., Boston.

Samuel Kidder & Co., Imperial Yeast Powder, (partial sheet). Chromolithographed food labels, (24 1/8 x 20 1/8 in). Printed by L. Prang & Co., Boston.

The image on the label depicts a black servant bringing a large loaf of bread to her seated mistress, who hands a biscuit across the table to a child. Advertising during the latter half of the nineteenth century often employed a comparison between a white homemaker and a black servant.

This strategy was aimed at constructing a new idealized role for white women—an eager consumer of manufactured products—by juxtaposing her with who was seen as her opposite, a black female laborer.


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