Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quaker Oats

First of all, I must confess that this post is a bit far fetched. Initially I wanted to show some pictures of Quaker families. I looked for Quaker families and I found them. Didn’t make me laugh. So they wear some strange clothes. Big deal! Don’t we all? Coming from the Netherlands myself, home of Volendamse klederdracht and currently a colony of Hennes & Mauritz, I don’t feel like I have a right to act as fashion police anyway. We’ve sort of lost our credibility in this respect a long time ago, if we actually ever had any to begin with.
        So what can I say about the Religious Society of Friends, more popularly known as the Quakers? Prominent figure of the Quaker religion, George Fox, seemed to have been... an extravagant figure to say the least. In the words of William James, “from the point of view of his nervous constitution, Fox was a psychopath or detraquee of the deepest dye.” (James, p. 15). Nice one, Bill! I love the story too that, in James’ book, is being recounted, where Fox takes his shoes off in the dead of winter, leaves them with some shepherds, goes into the city of Lichfield, runs about the market there crying “Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!”, returns to the shepherds to pick up his shoes again, but doesn’t put them on because “the fire of the Lord was so on my feet.” (ibid). Prophet or “a mere lonely madman?” (James, p. 249). Who is to say? 
        One thing the Quakers are probably most known for is the brand of breakfast cereals it is associated with. Now, the fact that a cereal brand is associated with a religious movement might be less arbitrary than it seems. Kellogg’s corn flakes for example were invented by John Harvey Kellogg, who was a partner in Ellen White’s venture to build “a sanatorium/hospital that was the first of the many Adventist medical facilities that now operate in the United States and around the world.” (Moore, p. 142). In fact, “Kellogg invented granola and also a flaked wheat cereal that he patented and offered to White as a way to finance the church.” (ibid).
        Is there a similar story in the case of Quaker Oats? Actually no. There is a tie with religion, but it runs the other way around. It seems the brand adapted the image of the Quaker because "Quaker Mill partner Henry Seymour found an encyclopedia article on Quakers and decided that the qualities described — integrity, honesty, purity — provided an appropriate identity for his company's oat product”, according to wikipedia. So why am I saying all this then? Just to downplay the fact that the images in this post really have jack all to do with religion. But by Job and Jehovah are the Quaker Oats ads ever fantastic!

Some of these images I got from another website that is absolutely great, http://www.jonwilliamson.com/, that has a vast collection of vintage advertising.

- William James. The Varieties of Religious Experience. A Study in Human Nature. Arc Manor. Rockville, Maryland, 2008. (First published: 1902).
- R. Laurence Moore. Selling God. American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture. Oxford University Press. New York, 1994.


  1. wow your version of a food post. Neat story. the ads are priceless.

  2. won't be ever having my Quaker cruesli without "the fire of the Lord was so on my feet" line!