There’s Always Room for Jell-O: Local Culinary Heritage, Economic Loss, and Public Commemoration in the Birthplace of “America’s Most Famous Dessert”

James B. Seaver (Indiana University Institute for Advanced Study)

From 1900 to 1964, Jell-O was manufactured in Le Roy, New York. When the plant closed for business reasons, the company relinquished its ability to mold public memory of the product in Le Roy as well as local celebrations of it. As such, commemorations of Jell-O’s culinary heritage there today are shaped by a small coterie of volunteers and civic leaders who must navigate the local politics of memory at the town’s historical society and summer festival. This paper examines that process of negotiation, testifying to the complexity of vernacular memory at the grassroots level.

Part of 51-01 Popular Culture and Folklore in the United States, Friday, October 22, 8:30 am–10:00 am