This is the final installment of the Five Things You Didn't Know about Thanksgiving project that I created as a big thank you for my TpT and blog followers.
Have a happy, restful Thanksgiving break!
Five Things You Didn’t Know about Thanksgiving
#5. A Thanksgiving Blunder Got Americans Hooked on Frozen TV Dinners .
By Margaret Whisnant
In 1923 Clarence Birdseye developed a way to flash-freeze and package fresh food. By 1949 people could buy frozen dinners, and airlines served them to their passengers, but it took an oversupply goof and a brilliant marketing campaign by C.A. Swanson & Sons to get Americans hooked on frozen TV Dinners.
Too much turkey! That’s what started it.
In the fall of 1953 someone at Swanson, a frozen-food business in Nebraska, grossly overestimated the number of turkeys Americans would buy for Thanksgiving. They got stuck with 260 tons—almost half a million pounds—of frozen bird and nowhere to store it. They loaded the overstock foul up onto 10 refrigerated railroad cars that rumbled along to keep the electricity going while someone figured out what to do. Most people say that Swanson salesman Gerry Thomas came up with the solution during a airplane flight.
Thomas sat looking at the aluminum tray that held his meal and had an “Ah-ha!” moment. He convinced his company to order 5,000 of them. An assembly line of women quickly filled them with a festive concoction of turkey, corn-bread dressing with gravy, peas crowned with a pat of butter, and sweet potatoes. The selling price was 98¢. The next step was to explain to American consumers why they needed to buy them. Thomas knew how to do that, too
In 1953 millions of Americans were already addicted to TV, and he took
full advantage of the situation. In his magazine ads and TV commercials, Swanson’s “TV Brand Frozen Dinner” made it possible for a busy mother to prepare individual meals for her family in 23 minutes. Pop the aluminum tray into an oven and soon everyone would be sitting in front of the TV, eating a delicious meal from its own container, and enjoying their favorite program. Thomas didn’t miss a single detail. The frozen dinner was packaged in a box designed to look like a 1950s television, complete with tuning and volume knobs. The food appeared on the screen.
Yes! People had to have it. What a shame it would be to deprive a homemaker and her family of such bliss. Surplus turkey flew out of supermarket freezers.
By the end of 1954 Swanson had sold 20 million TV dinners. America was hooked. Dessert, by the way was added in 1960. About eight years later, microwave ovens sealed the deal.
So far, all subsequent rehabilitation attempts have failed.
Download this series installment with 5 CCSS-aligned questions and answer keys HERE.
This product is copyrighted by Margaret Whisnant. It may not be edited, copied, or reproduced for any reason other than classroom use.