Humanities › History & Culture The History of Jell-O Share Flipboard Email Print Jay Paull/Getty Images History & Culture Inventions Famous Inventions Famous Inventors Patents & Trademarks Invention Timelines Computers & The Internet American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered inventions and inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years. She is known for her independent films and documentaries, including one about Alexander Graham Bell. our editorial process Mary Bellis Updated October 28, 2019 Jell-O: It’s now as American as apple pie. Once a twice-failed processed food made from a mash-up of animal parts, it managed to become a hit dessert and the go-to food for generations of sick children. Who Invented Jell-O? In 1845, New York industrialist Peter Cooper patented a method for the manufacture of gelatin, a tasteless, odorless gelling agent made of out animal by-products. Cooper’s product failed to catch on, but in 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter turned cough syrup manufacturer in LeRoy, a town in upstate New York was experimenting with gelatin and concocted a fruit-flavored dessert. His wife, May David Wait, dubbed it Jell-O. Woodward Buys Jell-O Wait lacked the funding to market and distribute his new product. In 1899 he sold it to Frank Woodward, a school dropout who by the age of 20 had his own business, Genesee Pure Food Company. Woodward bought the rights to Jell-O for $450 from Wait. Once again, sales lagged. Woodward, who sold a number of patent medicines, Raccoon Corn Plasters, and a roasted coffee substitute called Grain-O, grew impatient with the dessert. Sales were still slow, so Woodward offered to sell the rights to Jell-O® to his plant superintendent for $35. However, before the final sale, Woodward’s intensive advertising efforts, which called for the distribution of recipes and samples and paid off. By 1906, sales reached $1 million. Making Jell-O a National Staple The company doubled down on marketing. They sent out nattily dressed salesmen to demonstrate Jell-O. The also distributed 15 million copies of a Jell-O recipe book containing celebrity favorites and illustrations by beloved American artists, including Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell. The dessert’s popularity rose. Woodward’s Genesee Pure Food Company was renamed Jell-O Company in 1923. Two years later it later merged with Postum Cereal, and eventually, that company became the behemoth known as the General Foods Corporation, which is now called Kraft/General Foods. The gelatinous aspect of the food made it a popular choice among mothers when their children were suffering from diarrhea. In fact, doctors still recommend serving Jell-O water—that is, unhardened Jello-O—to children suffering from loose stools.