Webster Museum

Happy Dan's Kitchen

LeRoy NY

For more information on Jell-O, visit the Jello Gallery Museum

When LeRoy Jiggled

Jell-O's colorful start in LeRoy, NY

While gelatin has existed for many centuries, it wasn't until French inventor, Denis Papin (1647-1713) used his steam digester (the forerunner of the pressure cooker), to efficiently extract gelatin from boiled bones that the possibily of commercial production of gelatin could be conceived.

The process was still tedious and time consuming, leaving the notion of posh gelatin desserts to the realm of Kings and Park Avenue.

Industrialist, inventor, and philanthropist, Peter Cooper (1791-1883) developed a method of grinding sheets of gelatin into a powder and obtained a patent for what he deemed "portable gelatin" in 1845. While he did attempt to sell his powdered gelatin to the food industry he didn't really put much thought into what could be done with it.

Pearl B. Wait (1873-1915) was a construction worker with a sideline as a cough syrup manufacturer. Pursuing an improved formulation, Wait purchased Cooper's portable gelatin patent in 1897. What emerged was not a new tonic for the throat, but a jiggly gelatin dessert made from powdered gelatin, flavoring, and a lot of sugar. Pearl's wife, May (1874-1956) devised the name, "Jell-O".

The problem that confronted the Wait's was that they lacked the means and the marketing skills to entice the public to buy it.

The Wait's LeRoy neighbor, Orator Woodward (1856-1906) was as it happens a dabbler in the sale of various consumer products, from headache remedies, to corn plasters, to a cereal based drink by the curious name of Grain-O. If a man can successfully sell corn plasters, he could certainly sell jiggly desserts, right? Well, that's what Woodward thought, so he purchased the Wait's Jell-O business for $450 in 1899.

At first Woodward's investment appeared to be an error in judgement. Retailers showed little interest in stocking the product and consumers were even less interested in buying it. The turning point came in 1902, when Woodward began advertising Jell-O in magazines. Three years after purchasing the business for $450, Jell-O's annual sales reached $250,000.

Woodward Ads

Sherman and Lane packages

1901 Grain-O Ad

When things went awry

Much of the blame for the savory gelatin creations that became popular during the 1950s-1970s landed on the kitchen counter of Mrs. John E. Cook, of New Castle, PA. Back in 1904, Mrs. Cook took 3rd place in a Better Homes and Gardens cooking competition with a medley of carrots, cabbage, and peppers encased in a molded tower of clear gelatin known as "Perfection Salad". Despite the present day notoriety of the creation, there is little indication that fame or fortune followed Mrs. Cook. No mention of her 3rd place triumph was made in local newspapers. Not even her first name appears to be known. (We continue to investigate!)

Garden Salad Ring

Use up your Leftovers

Jell-O for Salads

Perfection Salad


  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (12 oz) apple juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup finely shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 can (4 oz) chopped pimiento


  1. In small saucepan, combine gelatine, sugar, and salt; mix well.
  2. Add 1 cup water. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar and gelatine are dissolved. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in apple juice, lemon juice, vinegar, and 1/4 cup cold water. Pour into medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour, or until mixture is consistency of unbeaten egg white.
  4. Add carrot, celery, cabbage, green pepper, and pimiento; stir until well combined.
  5. Turn into decorative, 1 1/2-quart mold. Refrigerate 4 hours,or until firm.
  6. To unmold: Run small spatula around edge of mold; invert onto serving plate. Place hot dishcloth over mold; shake gently to release. Repeat, if necessary. Lift off mold. refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monterey Souffle Salad


  • 1 package┬álemon-flavored gelatin
  • 1 cup hot water and 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-1/2 can tuna
  • 3/4 cup chopped cucumber or celery
  • 1/4 cup sliced stuffed olives
  • 2 tbsps chopped pimento
  • 1/2 tsp grated onion


  1. Dissolve gelatin in hot water. Add cold water, lemon juice, real mayonnaise and 1/4 tsp salt. Blend well with rotary beater.
  2. Pour into refrigerator freezing tray. Quick chill in freezing unit (without changing control) 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm about 1 inch from edge but soft in center.
  3. Turn mixture into bowl and whip with rotary beater until fluffy. Fold in remaining ingredients.
  4. Pour in 1-quart mold or individual molds. Chill until firm in refrigerator (not freezing unit) 30 to 60 minutes. Unmold and garnish with salad greens and serve with additional mayonnaise, if desired.

Barbecue Salad

Tomato Aspic with personality


  • 1 package Lemon or Orange Jell-O
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper


  1. Dissolve Jell-O in hot water.
  2. Add tomato sauce and other ingredients. Blend.
  3. Pour into individual molds. Chill until firm.

Note: For extra spiciness, add any of the following before chilling: onion juice, seasoning of celery salt, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, or horse-radish.

Ring Around the Tuna


  • 1 pkg 3-ounce Jell-O Lime or Lemon-Lime Gelatin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grated onion
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup diced celery*
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimiento*
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, stuffed olives
  • 1 7-oz can tuna, drained and flaked


  1. Dissolve Jell-O Gelatine and salt in boiling water.
  2. Add cold water, vinegar, and onion.
  3. Chill until very thick.
  4. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  5. Pour into individual mold rings or a 1-quart mold ring.
  6. Chill until firm.
  7. Unmold on crisp salad greens.
  8. If desired, serve with additional tuna and top salads with mayonnaise.

Liver Sausage Pineapple

Silhouette Salad


  1. Sprinkle 1 envelope Knox Unflavored gelatine on 1/2 cup cold water to soften.
  2. Place over boiling water and stir until gelatine is thouroughly dissolved.
  3. Blend 1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom Soup with 1/2 cup cold water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and dash of pepper.
  4. Add dissolved gelatine and mix thouroughly. Chill to unbeaten egg white consistency.
  5. Fold 1 can Swanson Boned Chicken or Turkey, diced, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped green peppers, 2 tablespoons chopped pimento, and 2 teaspoons grated onion.
  6. Turn into 3 cups mold or individual molds, and chill until firm.
  7. Unmold on crisp salad greens and serve with salad dressing.
Rose Markward Knox

When Rose stepped in

Rose Markward Knox - The Knox Gelatin Co.

It was Rose Knox's love of cooking and the long hours she spent making gelatin that led her husband, Charles to experiment with ways to simplify the preparation of gelatin. Eventually he developed a granular gelatin that could easily be dissolved in water.

With money thriftily saved up by Rose, the pair set up the Knox Gelatin Co. in Charles' hometown of Johnstown, NY.

When Charles Knox died unexpectedly in 1908, very few people expected his wife Rose to take over the day to day running of the business they co-founded, but run it she did and with great success.

On her first day in charge, she ordered the rear door of the factory closed. She explained, "We are all ladies and gentlemen working together here and we will all come in through the front door".

She initiated a five-day week, provided two-weeks of paid vacation, sick leave, and pensions. As a sign of trust in her employees, the time clocks were removed.

Knox consistently invested in research to improve the company's products and to find new uses for gelatin. She remained president of the company until 1947 when her son James took over the post and Chairman of the Board until her death in 1950 at the age of 92.

Rose's cookbook, Dainty Desserts for Dainty People pdf

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