“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Fleischmann’s Yeast, Shanghai and Mrs Julia Stafford (and her son Billy), 1923

Posted: May 12th, 2017 | No Comments »

Fleischmann’s Yeast was once a very well known and heavily advertised American brand of yeast. Since its heyday in before the war it’s gone through many changes of ownership though still exists. The company was founded and originally based in Cincinnati. Interestingly it used Shanghai in its advertising in the 1920s….This ad from 1923…..

and here’s our lovely yeast-enhanced Shanghailander couple….

Here is the testimonial from Mrs  Julia W. Stafford of Shanghai regarding her eight-year-old son Billy – have to say the picture looks a little flapper-age photo-shopped (which was possible – just flick through Cecil Beaton’s work). The picture may be a bit doctored but Julia is real enough…Julia (nee Wright) Stafford was the wife of the Treasurer for the East China Mission (American Baptist missionaries) based in Shanghai, Roy Davis Stafford. He had met Julia, a Vasser graduate, when she was editor of the Helping Hand magazine (a Baptist missionary publication). They apparently had a large centrally located house in the Settlement and had arrived in the city since in 1909.

However, Julia’s testimonial has been around for some time – this ad/endorsement appeared in the American newspapers in 1923 claiming Billy as eight – meaning he was born in 1915. However, there are references in Shanghai to Billy Stafford back in 1912 as a baby – he was actually born in 1911 in Shanghai. Seems Fleischmann’s had been ‘recycling’ Julia’s testimonial for some time. Incidentally Billy had a brother, Mial Davis Stafford, born in Shanghai in December 1918 and a sister. At the end of the 1920s the family left Shanghai to live in Berea, Kentucky, where Julia’s husband was the Treasurer of Berea College. Billy died in New York in 1983 at 72 years of age: Mial died in Georgia in 2008 at 90.

The use of Mrs Stafford is not accidental – In the 1920s Shanghai, and all China potentially, was becoming a major new market for yeast and for Fleischmann’s brand. This news hot off the press in 1924 (and with more than China Rhyming moment for this old China retail market analyst!) – growth in popularity in fresh bread, yeast plants near Shanghai, the move from rice to flour….remember this was 1924 – as they say ‘don’t hold your breath’!!

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