African American Food History

Why I Do What I Do: Mr. Cream of Wheat: The Happy, Handsome Cooking Darky

I don’t really need to say much about the quotes here other than; this is why I do what I do–because I want to correct some of the damage done by words and thoughts like these.  You wanted “discomfort food” for thought, well here it tis….Thanks again to Jim Chevalier for his skillfull sleuthing and generous sharing.

THE human face is always attractive, and most attractive when beautiful or pleasant. The “Cream of Wheat” people wisely selected a handsome darky for its chef, and he is always bright and has a jolly smile. In every issue of the magazine that same colored chef appears, wearing the same smile and offering the same good food.

The advertisement is pleasing to the eye. A happy face and broad smile provoke good feeling in every observer, and as the darky knows what he is talking about, his contented and happy look let all people know that his good feeling is caused by the constant use of “Cream of Wheat.”

This advertisement just hits the nail on the head—says just enough—and anyone seeing it will read just to find out what that darky can possibly be thinking about to allow five fine Thanksgiving turkeys march by him in single file, and not drop the steaming dish of cream of wheat, and stew pan, and grab the whole lot. But you see the “Cream of Wheat” people have secured an honest chef who attends to his business—proclaims the merits of an honest food, no matter what the inducement or temptation may be to shirk his duty…..

It pleases the eye on account of the neatness, not only of the whole advertisement, but also of the good-natured darky chef bringing forward the steaming cereal, and whose row of “grinning ivories” provokes one to mirth.

It is also remembered because the Cream of Wheat people believe that advertising pays and that a continual repetition of the same picture forces itself upon the most careless observer. Is there one of Everybody’s readers who ever thinks of Cream of Wheat, or sees it before him on the table, or tastes its wholesome substance, who does not see the happy-go-ucky darky, and knows that Cream of Wheat has a perfect advertisement?


Who could glance at those “tombstones shining in the night” and not (mentally at least) smile?

The central figure in the advertisement is a familiar and attractive trademark. Who has not smiled with the jolly Cream of Wheat darky? His trim figure, neat cap and clothes and tidy appearance in general, make one feel like saying, “Here, boy, bring me some of that.”

Effective Magazine Advertising, 1909, comments from readers edited by Francis Bellamy


1 comment on “Why I Do What I Do: Mr. Cream of Wheat: The Happy, Handsome Cooking Darky

  1. All I know is IF someone served Cream of Wheat for a “delicious dessert” especially on Thanksgiving as this ad prompts, it’d be the LAST time I was a guest at that table! LOL.

    BTW I was looking at a Cream of Wheat ad yesterday in the coupon section, it is the same fellow, but now trimmed down to his head basically just his “smile.”


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