What’s missing from our company archives?
The General Mills Archives holds more than 4,000 items from our last 150 years. While that is a whole lot of company history, there are countless items we’re still missing.
The one thing we’d really like to have in our possession is mentioned in this story in The New York Times this past Sunday, from reporter Pat Borzi. He toured our archives and highlighted how it illustrates the evolution of marketing and advertising.
What is this elusive item?
It’s the gold medal awarded to Washburn Crosby at the first Millers’ International Exhibition in 1880.
Our predecessor company won all three medals at that event in Cincinnati. We still have the silver medal in our archives, but the gold (and bronze) vanished.
And that’s a big deal to Jessica Faucher, our corporate archivist, because it’s where the name Gold Medal flour came from.
“We do have evidence that the gold medal was at one time in General Mills’ possession but unfortunately it has escaped,” says Jessica. “While we have the silver medal, we have no evidence of what happened to the bronze.”
Perhaps a former company leader or employee had the gold medal and lost it? Maybe it was placed in a box, or put into storage for someone to find someday?
We may never know.
Other items on the top of our wish list include a known portrait of Betty Crocker in a blue dress and toys from General Mills’ “Fun Group.”
While Betty Crocker is best known for wearing red, at least two portraits exist where she’s not sporting her signature hue.
“We have a portrait in our archives of Betty Crocker wearing a green dress in a 1947 LIFE magazine advertisement. And we have evidence that there’s another portrait of Betty Crocker in blue,” Jessica says. “This is actually a big story for us, because Betty is always wearing red with white around her neck. Getting the blue portrait alongside her green portrait from that 1947 magazine ad would be a huge addition.”
Many people also don’t know that General Mills was one of the largest toy manufacturers in the 1970s, including toys from Kenner, Parker Brothers and Lionel Trains.
“There are a lot of toys out there that are much older, from the 1960s to the 80s, that have the General Mills Fun Group trademark. We would love to see more of the toys from that era in the archives,” says Jessica.
What else is missing from our archives?
- Original newspaper with the 1921 Gold Medal flour promotional jigsaw puzzle (which led to the creation of Betty Crocker)
- Historic packaging of Wheaties from the 1920s to the 50s
- Historic Sperry, Washburn Crosby Company, Pillsbury, or General Mills flour sacks or items made out of these flour sacks
- Historic ads and packaging from Yoplait, specifically in the 1960s and early 70s
- Any historic packaging or ads from Old El Paso
- Any historic packaging or ads Progresso
- Early Ralston cereal packaging especially those created with licensed characters (Cabbage Patch Kids, Ghostbusters, Donkey Kong, Gizmo, Rainbow Bright, etc.
- Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven with all items and original box, in good condition
- The original Parker Brothers Nerf ball from 1970
- Kenner Blythe doll from 1972
- Kenner Baby Alive from 1973
- Kenner Stretch Armstrong from 1976
- Kenner Star Wars toys and action figures from 1977
- Items pertaining to the creation of Olive Garden in 1982
“In 150 years of company history, there are General Mills items out there that we may not even know exist,” Jessica says. “So, an actual number is really difficult to get, but I do know that there are items out there that someone has in their attic or sitting in their basement that tells a real historical story about our company.”
The General Mills Archives depend on donations, items are typically not purchased from collectors. Most items come from former or current employees.
If you’re interested in donating an item to the archives, email email@example.com or call the number printed on any General Mills product and our Consumer Relations team will get you in contact with Jessica.
Ask the archives
Our archives team works to make General Mills’ rich history concise and accessible to employees, media and consumers. While the collection is closed to the public, we have taken you inside, here on “A Taste of General Mills.”
And in honor of our 150th anniversary this year – as we just did with The New York Times – we’ve also opened up the General Mills Archives to several reporters to take a closer look. In March, artifacts were featured on CBS Sunday Morning and KARE-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul, among others.
We welcome questions about products and promotions from our past, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“One of our most commonly asked questions is about packaging. People want to see the first boxes of our products,” Jessica says. “Packaging is actually really important to us and it’s something that we can digitize and get online so the public can see it.”
Another asset we’re often asked about is our collection of cookbooks.
“Many people have Betty Crocker cookbooks that were handed down to them and they want to know about their book’s history,” she says.
Now if only we could find that missing gold medal.
Editor’s note: In 2016, General Mills is celebrating its 150th anniversary. This story is part of a year-long series on “A Taste of General Mills” to highlight the people, products and projects that have contributed to the company’s legacy.
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