Crocker, Betty (U.S.)

In 1921, the Washburn Crosby Company, a forerunner of General Mills, introduced the fictitious “Betty Crocker” as a signature for the advice and information produced by its Home Service Department. This idealized American housewife was the result of the thousands of baking and cooking inquiries that the company received after organizing a competition. “Betty” sounded friendly and homely, while “Crocker” was the surname of a recently retired company executive.

By 1940, Betty Crocker had become a household name, so it was not surprising that General Mills mechanical engineering division used the name when planning to diversify into domestic electrical goods in 1945. The Betty Crocker cake mixes followed in 1947. Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book was first published in 1950. Written for the growing number of suburban kitchens, it was the first cookbook to have photographs and became a best-seller.

General Mills produced the Tru-Heat electric iron, a toaster, a food mixer, an automatic fry-cooker, a waffle iron, a coffeemaker, and a steam ironer under the name Betty Crocker. Ironically this move to peacetime production was limited by the demands of the Korean War, and General Mills sold the business to McGraw Electric Company in 1954.

The Betty Crocker food brand remains strong, and the name is still used for recipe books and nutritional information. As for the fictional Betty, a series of models and actresses has ensured that her clothes and image keep up to date.