February 08, 2008

Jenny Wren Flour

Jenny Wren Recipes (1926, 16 pages) is a cute little pamphlet with recipes for biscuits, shortcake, dumplings, pancakes and waffles, quick breads, doughnuts, pies and cakes, cookies and other desserts.

Here are a couple of the color illustrations from inside. The first is for biscuits.

This one is for griddle cakes.

These illustrations look sort of familiar to me. Have I seen them somewhere before? Even the recipes seem vaguely familiar.

Look at that cute logo on the front of their package. A birdhouse with a little brown wren. I like birds so I think this is pretty cool packaging. But even the packaging seems familiar.

What's in the box? Jenny Wren Ready-Mixed Flour.

What does all of this remind me of? Why, Bisquick Baking Mix, of course! The illustrations and recipes are very similar to those found in a booklet we've looked at before. Except Bisquick wasn't introduced until 1931. And Bisquick claims to be the first packaged dry baking mix.

What's up with that?

The Jenny Wren brand originated in Lawrence, Kansas, though I'm not sure of the exact date. This booklet says it was published by the Jenny Wren Company. There were several booklets published in the mid-1930s by the Jenny Wren Products Company. Here's a photo showing the Bowersock Mills and Power Co. on the Kaw River and the Jenny Wren name on the side of one of the buildings.

This source says that the Lawrence, Kansas WREN radio station was created in 1926 by R. C. Jackman for the specific purpose of advertising Jenny Wren Flour. You can find out a bit more about WREN here.

This is the information found in the front of the booklet. Many of the same selling points as Bisquick:

Jenny Wren Flour is a scientific blend of hard and soft wheat flour of the highest quality, in which the "hard-to-mix" ingredients are already included in absolutely correct proportions.

Everything Baked with JENNY WREN has an appetizing goodness all its own. There's a flavor, a savor, and a beautiful golden brown color to JENNY WREN bakings not obtainable with other flours. It enables the novice, with no previous baking experience, to equal the work of experts, and it gives experts better results that ever before with less time and effort. Success is guaranteed!

JENNY WREN costs less, goes farther, is more healthful and has more uses than other prepared flours. It is--
A Cake Flour
A Biscuit Flour
A Pancake Flour
A Pie Crust Flour
A Flour for all Quick Breads and Pastries


Here's one of the Important Reminders found on the next page, which tells us a little more about the ingredients found in Jenny Wren Ready-Mixed Flour:

In using your own recipes, remember that Jenny Wren Flour requires more liquid than other flours. Never add salt, baking powder, soda, yeast or any other leavening ingredient to Jenny Wren Flour, as it all ready contains phosphate soda and salt.
Here lies what appears to be the main difference between Bisquick and Jenny Wren. Bisquick contains shortening in the mixture and Jenny Wren did not. Most of the Jenny Wren recipes required the addition of shortening.

Perhaps this was why Bisquick was the product that endured the test of time and became the more successful of the two in the long run. They took their formula a step further. They cut out another step required of the cook who used Bisquick. The addition of the shortening also might have allowed them to market their product as a baking mix rather than just a flour.

From an advertising point of view, which of the two sounds like it would be more helpful to the homemaker--a baking mix or flour?

I'm not saying that Bisquick copied Jenny Wren, but I think it's interesting that the two products and their advertising are so much alike.


At 9:48 PM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Kathy _ I am thrilled to have stumbled upon this post! My grandparents worked for R.C. Jackman and lived on the Jenny Wren farm when my uncles and mother were young children. I would be over the moon to find my own copy of this booklet and hope you can help me.

At 8:45 PM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Where can I get a copy of the Jenny Wren pamphlet. I live in Lawrence, KS and would like to add this to my collection. Thank you.


At 11:06 AM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 1 3/4" jennie wren biscuit cutter. Her name is on the handle.

Sally Krage


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