Hand coloring the oleo-margarine in the early 1950s

by James K. Sayre

When the new spread, margarine, was first introduced in 19th century, the butter and dairy foods lobby was very strong and they managed to put a tax on oleo-margarine make it illegal to sell pre-colored margarine. So in the 1950s in Pennsylvania, the margarine manufacturers sold their their pound of uncolored margarine (it was sort of a pasty white) in a sturdy heavy plastic bag with a small attached button of red food coloring. My mother pressed in the little red button and the red food coloring slowly spread into the white margarine. After squishing around the margarine for awhile, it finally turned a butter-like yellow color. I got to do the squishing and mixture of the margarine several times myself. It was not an unpleasant task, just a little odd.

This farce went on for a couple of years in Pennsylvania in the 1950s until the margarine manufacturers, distributors and grocery store became strong enough to end this little ploy by the butter industry, and then all the margarine was sold pre-colored yellow.




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