Never mind today’s (partial) release of the J.F.K. Assassination Files. We at box vox have other big news, also dating back to 1963.
I recently purchased this 1963 press photo depicting Senator Philip A. Hart railing against the deceptive illustration on a frozen cherry pie box. I figure it’s historically significant, since it garnered a lot of publicity and eventually led to the passage in 1967 of the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act.
Hundreds of newspapers published this photo. So did Modern Packaging magazine:
How many cherries should there be in a frozen cherry pie?
Sen. Hart, who did the counting, said that the pie in question contains only 40 cherries (in the plate at left), but that the carton illustration shows 34 in one wedge alone. The Senator also counted the cherries in the same-size pie served in the Senate cafeteria and found that they numbered 108. It should be noted in passing that Michigan produces some 60% of the nation’s annual cherry crop.
Modern Packaging, 1963
I first learned of this historic frozen cherry pie packaging while researching an earlier post. (See: Congress & Packaging: Mr. Dickens Goes to Washington)
Looking closer at the photo, however, there was something about it that puzzled me. The brand name appears to have been deliberately obscured, even though other brand names were freely cited during Congressional testimony and in the press.
Nabisco Shredded Wheat, for example
For Senator Philip Hart, the gentlemanly Democrat from Michigan, it started at the breakfast table. The Harts and their eight children all like to eat Nabisco Shredded Wheat in the morning. But in 1961 they discovered that the old, familiar box had changed ; it had become taller, and narrower. Inside, there was still twelve biscuits, each apparently the same size as before. But a close reading of the new label indicated that here, too, something curious had happened. The net weight of the contents had been reduced from twelve ounces to ten and one-quarter. The Harts concluded that they were paying the same price for less cereal and more package.
Jeremy Main, Industry Still Has Something to Learn about Congress
Fortune Magazine, February 1967
If the Senator was willing to publicly call out Nabisco for its package downsizing, why then was it necessary to redact this frozen cherry pie brand? Who was he protecting? We may never know, but I thought that I just might be able to figure out which brand of frozen cherry pie it was that the Senator chose to conceal.
For me, this sort of package design research should have been low hanging fruit. But it turns out that there were an awful lot of different frozen fruit pie brands in those days. The boxes shown above are just a small sampling of brands that I found which did not match the Senator’s frozen cherry pie box.
After almost 2 months of effort, however, I finally found it last night.
Is it newsworthy? I don’t know, but you can read all about it, after the fold.. [Read more…]