During the Roaring Twenties, radio became a worldwide sensation. However, not everyone was drinking counterfeit liquor while listening to jazz. Millions of housewives tuned into Aunt Sammy’s show for homemaking suggestions, tactics, and recipes. She became their favorite radio personality. But do you know who Aunt Sammy is?
Aunt Sammy is Uncle Sam’s wife. She was a character for a radio show for housewives created by the US Department of Agriculture in the 1920s. She would “gossip” about social activities and gardening, answer inquiries, and supply recipes. Aunt Sammy was voiced by local women with accents that matched the broadcast areas.
The Tailor-Made Program for Housewives Made by Women
Aunt Sammy was a fictional character established by the Bureau of Home Economics, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to deliver information to rural women that they couldn’t get anywhere else.
Aunt Sammy’s personality was created by Morse Salisbury, a USDA announcer who assured her she had a cheerful disposition that appealed to listeners. He did this by having her remark on current events in addition to the show’s housewife-centric stuff.
Aunt Sammy’s Housekeeper’s Chat was written by three women who collaborated to compose scripts and test recipes, which were then authorized by Louise Stanley, the head of the Bureau of Home Economics. The radio show premiered on October 3, 1926, with new episodes broadcasting five days a week.
The menus and recipes were devised by Ruth van Deman, a home economics specialist. At the same time, Josephine Hemphill penned the show’s dialogue, and Fanny Walker Yeatman worked in the kitchen, testing each recipe. To reflect regional accents, Aunt Sammy was voiced by 30 different ladies at radio stations across the country. (Source: The Vintage News)
The Blockbuster Auntie
Aunt Sammy’s viewership had swelled to over one million housewives by 1927. The radio show not only assisted listeners but also solicited comments from them. Sixty thousand letters were written to Aunt Sammy between October 1926 and May 1927, requesting assistance on housekeeping problems that were weaved into subsequent episodes.
Deman, Hemphill, and Yeatman also hand-wrote recipe cards to ship to anyone who requested them, significantly if radio interference hampered the broadcasts. The Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes cookbook, first published in 1927, was based on these cards. Each year, revised volumes were released, including the first-ever braille cookbook. (Source: The Vintage News)
Aunt Sammy Feeding the American Nation
The recipes and meal plans enthralled housewives. They took the work out of meal preparation, and the meals were frequently produced with common household ingredients.
In fact, during the 1930s, President Herbert Hoover requested a group of Girl Scouts to plan a frugal supper, and they chose Aunt Sammy’s menu for dinner for eight! Split pea soup, meatloaf, baked potatoes, graham muffins, cabbage carrot salad with dressing, lemon bread pudding, and tea were all included in the $1.89 lunch. (Source: The Vintage News)
Was Aunt Sammy the First Gossip Girl?
Backyard Gossip, What Women Are Asking, and What Shall We Have for Dinner? were the three five-minute pieces of the Housekeeper’s Chat program that appealed to the audience.
Backyard Gossip featured candid conversations between friends about diet, housekeeping, health, apparel, and gardening.
Aunt Sammy answered general interest questions submitted by listeners in Questions Women Are Asking, encouraging audience participation. What Shall We Eat for Dinner? is the final segment, which gave housewives the aforementioned recipes for well-balanced and inexpensive meals. (Source: The Vintage News)