In 1889, Chris L. Rutt, a newspaperman in St. Joseph, Missouri, began working on creating a self-rising pancake mix. Within a year, he and two associates developed the first pancake mix ever made.
While seeking a name and package design for the world's first self-rising pancake mix, creator Chris L. Rutt saw a vaudeville team known as Baker and Farrell whose act included Baker singing the catchy song "Aunt Jemima" dressed as a Southern mammy. Inspired by the wholesome name and image, Rutt appropriated them both to market his new pancake mix.
Unable to raise the money to promote Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Rutt and his associates sold their company to R.T. Davis Mill and Manufacturing Company, which promoted the new product at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The company hired Nancy Green, a famous African-American cook born in Montgomery County, Kentucky, to play the part of Aunt Jemima and demonstrate the pancake mix. As Aunt Jemima, Nancy Green made and served over one million pancakes by the time the fair closed, prompting buyers to place over 50,000 orders for Aunt Jemima pancake mix. For the next thirty years, Green played the part of Aunt Jemima at expositions all over the country.
A caricature of Nancy Green as a black mammy was pictured on packages of Aunt Jemima Pancake mix. In 1917, Aunt Jemima was redrawn as a smiling, heavy-set black housekeeper with a bandanna wrapped around her head. In 1989, the company modernized Aunt Jemima, making her thinner, eliminating her bandanna, and giving her a perm and a pair of pearl earrings.
In 1923, Nancy Green died in an automobile accident at the age of 89.
Before Aunt Jemima pancake mix was invented, pancakes were strictly a breakfast food. The appeal and convenience of Aunt Jemima pancake mix made pancakes a standard for lunch and dinner.
The Boys Club of Rockford, Illinois, was built and is operated solely from funds raised annually by Rockford Kiwanians and Aunt Jemima.
Frank Zappa recorded a song entitled "Electric Aunt Jemima" on his 1969 album Uncle Meat.
In 1994, pop singer Gladys Knight became a spokesperson for Aunt Jemima Lite syrup.