Royal Baking Powder advertisement, The Morning Post, Dec. 1904, p. 5.

The Revolution in a Can

The item above is an advertisement for one of the leading Baking Powder brands at the time, Royal Baking Powder. Prior to Baking Powder, housewives would dedicate anywhere between twelve hours to an entire day per week in the kitchen solely for making bread. They had to create and maintain their own cache of yeast, allow the yeast to rise and set the oven at the necessary temperature. Until Baking Powder arrived in kitchens, the method for baking bread remained unchanged for three millennia. This single ingredient revolutionized the kitchen. Baking Powder greatly reduced the skill level required and time needed to make baked goods, thus, allotting housewives more time for other responsibilities.[1]

By allowing women to spend less time in the kitchen, they were able to gradually break away from the idea of “separate spheres.”  This idea stood that a woman’s place was in the domestic sphere and a man’s was in the public sphere. For many women, this free time meant that they could get an education, a job, or take part in political groups such as women’s suffrage.

Additionally, the advertisement contains quotes from “estimable women in North Carolina” and frequently, these women mention that Royal Baking Powder is more expensive, but is of higher quality.  During this time, 543 other Baking Powder companies were on the market and differentiated based on “purity” or the ingredients found in the can. The most “pure” would include cream of tartar while other lesser versions contained alum and phosphates.[2] This is significant for the food industry during the early 1900s because people were beginning to criticize food manufacturing and fighting for healthier ingredients and proper labeling all over the country. Even though this advertisement is from a Raleigh newspaper, Chapel Hill is in close enough proximity to have experienced the same revolution brought about by Baking Powder and have the same concerns for adulterated food.


[1] Panko, Ben. “The Great Uprising: How a Powder Revolutionized Baking.”, Smithsonian Institution, 20 June 2017, uprising-how-powder-revolutionized-baking-180963772/.

[2] Faircloth, Kelly. “Who Knew? The History of Baking Powder Is Incredibly Dramatic .”Pictorial, Pictorial, 21 July 2017, -incredibly-dr-1796529550.

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