From the Archives: Jello and the Saga of the Restoration

I don’t really believe in coincidences since my last visit to Palmyra, New York, where I learned of the deep relationship between jello and Mormonism

As we all know, Palmyra, New York is the location of the Sacred Grove, the Hill Cumorah, and the Joseph Smith, Sr. homestead where the Prophet Joseph lived during the dramatic opening days of the restoration.

It is little know by Latter-day Saints, however, that just a short way down the road from Palmyra sits the town of LeRoy, New York, a place that if not freighted with the eternal significance of Palmyra is still a spot picked by Destiny (or Providence!) for a truely significant event. For it was in the town of LeRoy that true jello was first made.

LeRoy is not the site of the invention of gelatin itself, as some local boosters will tell you. Gelatin, however, was invented by a New Yorker. Peter Cooper (pictured to the right) was an entrepreur and the owner of a glue factory. It seems to have been his wife (I was, alas, unable to locate a picture of the mysterious Mrs. Cooper) who first came up with the idea of eating the by products of the glue factory. In 1845, Mr. Cooper recorded the first ever patent for jello. However, this miracle food remained largely unappreciated until 1897, when a genius in the town of Le Roy hit upon the idea of adding flavoring to gelatin. Thus, true jello was born.

Now the cynics among you may chalk this up to coincidence. But I can’t help but feeling that there is some great cosmic significance in the fact that both the Restoration and jello arose within short distance of one another.

(This is a slightly modified version of this post, which appeared at T&S on 2/23/2004)

10 comments for “From the Archives: Jello and the Saga of the Restoration

  1. May 24, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    You know, I once heard that every technology ever revealed has been for the purpose of furthering the gospel (Airplanes? Why, to shuttle the brethren around the world of course.)

    Our responsibility then, is not to simply abuse the revealed technology for our own purposes, but to search and discover how Jell-o in all it’s colors and flavors, can help the spread of the gospel across the world….

    Pass-a-long cards in your jello? anybody?

  2. DHofmann
    May 24, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    Brother Farnsworth and Brother Joseph each received at age 14 their respective inspirations that helped introduce the Gospel to the world. Now tell me that’s a coincidence.

  3. manaen
    May 24, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Your comments indubitably being true, what are we to do with Spam? Any technology that inspires more than 19k haiku verses surely has a power we should harness in saving souls.

    Key coincidence: Spam was invented in 1937, 100 years after Joseph Smith turned 17 !

  4. May 24, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    “What are we to do with Spam?”

    Simply this: Pass-a-long cards in your Spam

    (even more coincidentally, Spam will stay fresh on your shelf for 17, 100 and 1937 years. Jell-O can perform the same feat as long as it is refrigerated in a casserole dish with saran-wrap over it.)

  5. manaen
    May 24, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    Ryan, LOL

  6. May 24, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    The pedant in me (perhaps that is most of me) cannot resist:

    Peter Cooper may have invented gelatin as the dessert we know or the process by which industry could make granulized gelatin, but he certainly didn’t invent gelatin, the collagen substance that is a by-product of (almost?) all meat cooking. If you make a soup with meat and bones and then cool the leftovers in the refrigerator, you will find it thicker when you take it out to reheat the next day, sometimes it will even have the consistency of Jell-O. That thickening is the resuslt of the gelatin in it, collagen dissolved in the liquid of the soup.

    And gelatin was used to make desserts as early as the 17th century, though I don’t know who first did so.

    So, the birthplace of the latter-day Church and that of gelatin are not very close, though the birthplace of the Church and of the brand Jell-O are. (Where does Knox brand gelatin fit into our history?)

  7. May 24, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    May I suggest a visit to the Jell-O Museum–or at least to their site? When I visited, the tour guide had bright red hair–exactly the color of raspberry Jell-O.

  8. May 25, 2006 at 1:44 am

    Regardless of the stories we hear about the origins of flavored gelatin desserts, what matterns now is that Mormon civilization and Jell-O have become so intertwined that it is impossible to imagine one without the other. ;-)

  9. Melinda
    May 25, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    During the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, there was a HUGE Jello display in the mall in downtown SLC chronicling the history of Jello, and displaying facts about Jello consumption in Utah as compared to Jello consumption elsewhere. It was so special to see Jello proudly display its connection to Mormondom. Has Mr. Cooper’s temple work been done?

  10. Kimball L. Hunt
    May 26, 2006 at 12:39 am

    I’m fishetarian. Vegetarian ‘cept fer fish. But I had some geletin the other day — Which was (A) kosher (B) made from carrageenan. Which I think’s, like, from seaweed? Delish. Took me back to lots of phenomenal “carrots ‘n’ whatnot added to Jell-O” dishes eaten in childhood! Hey, is this the kind they sell in Israel? Unless, come to think, Israel manufactures glue, et “cee,” from its halachically slaughtered cattle?

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