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(Source of image: Florida State Archives)






In 1951, these men proudly displayed Parkay products in one of Jacksonville's Daylight Supermarkets.  This was probably at Christmas time, judging by a similar photo at the Florida State Archives.  The products in this exhibit included colored oleo, also known as margarine and oleomargarine.  It's a butter substitute made chiefly from vegetable oils. 







Well, what can you say about a photo of margarine?  Actually, quite a bit!  Margarine may seem like a low key, unassuming grocery item, yet controversy swirled around it during the mid 1900s.  When this photo was snapped, though, margarine's heyday had finally arrived.  1951 was the year in which the federal government stopped its special taxation of the product.  State taxes and regulations for it also began to fail.  During the next twenty years, consequently, consumption of pre-colored margarine almost doubled.

Powerful dairy interests had led an influential campaign against margarine's use.  In 1932, for example, the U.S. government hamstrung margarine's popularity with taxes and licenses.  Many states also imposed taxes, licenses, restrictions, and prohibitions against the manufacture or sale of colored margarine.  (At one time, margarine makers had sold dye with their product. When mixed in, this would make the white paste a more palatable yellow.)

During the 1940s, nevertheless, margarine manufacturing proved on the upswing.  This was due to production innovations, improved advertising, a rising awareness of margarine's health benefits, and the shortage of butter during World War II.  In 1950, numerous headlines kept the margarine issue before the public, and the federal government began to back down.  The states eventually followed suit, and it isn't surprising that the diary stronghold of Wisconsin proved the last to repeal margarine restrictions in 1967.

Until the the 1950s, the most popular oleo brands included Parkay, Mazola, Cloverbloom, Mayflower, Nucoa, Blue Plate, Mrs. Filbert’s, Imperial, Good Luck, Farmbelle, Shedd’s Safflower, Churngold, Blue Bonnet, Fleischmann’s, Sunnyland, Nu-Maid, and Table Maid.  During the 1960s, American shoppers saw the introduction of tub margarine and vegetable oil spreads.  And so, there's more to the above picture than first meets the eye.


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