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M. Etta Moses, the woman behind Griswold’s advertising campaign.

M. Etta Moses, the woman behind Griswold’s advertising campaign.

I became interested in Griswold’s “Aunt Ellen” a while ago. Aunt Ellen was the cornerstone of the Griswold Manufacturing Company’s advertising campaign from 1922 to the 1940s. From what I could find about her online, at the central Minneapolis library archives and from other collectors, it seems that the woman behind Aunt Ellen was largely unheralded.

Given Aunt Ellen’s prominence both within the company and in Griswold’s advertising campaigns, I thought it was high time to give Griswold’s “Betty Crocker” – Mary Etta Moses – her due; to recognize her contribution to the success of the Griswold Manufacturing Company.  Southern Cast Iron magazine was kind enough to publish my little article about M. Etta Moses, Griswold’s “Aunt Ellen” in its March/April 2019 magazine

Mary Etta Moses

Mary Etta Moses, who was called “Etta,” was born in 1863. In 1896 when she was 23 years old, she began working at the Griswold Manufacturing Company in Erie, Pennsylvania. She worked her way up to become a “Stenographer” (always spelled with a capital “S” by Ms. Moses) in the office of the president of the company.

Etta Moses was the longest-tenured employee of the Griswold Manufacturing Company. She retired in June 1947 after 53 years of service to the company.

Ms. Moses died on May 3, 1948 as a result of injuries incurred in a fall. An obituary touted her as an aluminum cookware “pioneer” as a result of her role in sparking Matthew Griswold – founder of the company – to begin manufacture of cast aluminum teakettles. I wrote a separate blog post about that role, which you can find here

The Birth of “Aunt Ellen”

Etta Moses was given the job of responding to letters from Griswold customers asking for recipes and for advice about Griswold products. As the story is told, Ms. Moses herself came up with the idea.

In 1922, Ms. Moses started signing the letters “Aunt Ellen.”1

Griswold’s Aunt Ellen Campaign

Etta’s job expanded as “Aunt Ellen’s” popularity grew. Aunt Ellen’s photo began appearing in Griswold’s print advertisements. “Aunt Ellen Says” became the cornerstone of Griswold’s marketing campaign.2

aunt ellen etta moses ad advertisement griswold mfg co erie pa cast iron aluminum dutch oven roast camp old antique vintage cook cooking

It is said that thousands of letters from consumers crossed the desk of Ms. Moses each month. Keep in mind that this was back in the day of manual typewriters. Each letter was hand-typed and hand-signed.

Griswold touted Aunt Ellen’s role as consumer advisor in its advertising to dealers. Etta Moses was touted as “a home economics expert who averages over 1000 letters each month from interested housewives all over the country who ask for advice on their cooking problems and for the famous “AUNT ELLEN” recipes . . . .

Scan of original document from the collection and courtesy of Larry and Marg O’Neil.

Etta Moses was touted as “a home economics expert who averages over 1000 letters each month from interested housewives all over the country who ask for advice on their cooking problems and for the famous “AUNT ELLEN” recipes . . . .

griswold advertising ad aunt ellen etta moses dealer hardware cast iron old antique vintage cookware skillet dutch oven pan
Scan from original booklet from the collection and courtesy of Larry and Marg O’Neil.

There was even a kitchen at the Griswold plant dubbed “Aunt Ellen’s kitchen. Letters from Aunt Ellen came with the return address of the Griswold kitchen itself.

griswold manufacturing company erie pennsylvania PA aunt ellen etta moses envelope kitchen recipes letter
Scan of original envelope which contained a hand-signed letter from Aunt Ellen to Mrs. W. C. Weidt. From the collection and courtesy of Larry and Marg O’Neil.
griswold manufacturing company erie pennsylvania PA aunt ellen etta moses envelope kitchen recipes letter
Scan of original envelope which contained a hand-signed letter from Aunt Ellen to Mrs. W. C. Weidt. From the collection and courtesy of Larry and Marg O’Neil.

Testing Out Aunt Ellen’s Recipes – more to come!

Griswold also produced pamphlets with recipes purportedly created by Aunt Ellen. “Aunt Ellen’s Booklet of Waterless Cooking” was one such pamphlet; it is 51 pages.

griswold aunt ellen book booklet waterless cooking 50 famous recipes etta moses cookbook old antique vintage cast iron aluminum skillet Dutch oven book

For some inexplicable reason, I was compelled to test out some of the Aunt Ellen’s recipes: her “Mexican Meat Roll” with Baked Bananas, Delmonico Potatoes, and the piece de resistance – Chicken Mousse. Posts coming soon with the results.

Etta Moses sounds like she was one very talented and hard-working woman. Someone who I would have liked to have met. And while I didn’t “smack my lips” over my version of her dishes, I am sure that for the time they were simply spectacular!

 

  1. Prior, the cook in Griswold’s ads was simply called a “woman who has made cooking her life’s work.”
  2. Much of the background for this post came from Printer’s Ink, August 8, 1947, p. 16 – 20.

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