The politics of yellow: Butter vs. margarine.

(Mound of Butterby painter Antoine Vollon.)

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Grass fed cows tend to produce milk that, when made into butter, has a slightly yellow color. When margarine was invented as a butter substitute and they began producing it for U.S. consumption in the late 1880s, one marketing problem was its color. The vegetable-based product has a clear, white-ish color and looks something like lard; many people found it unappetizing. So the margarine people wanted to dye margarine yellow.

The dairy industry rightly saw margarine as a threat and they lobbied politicians both to outright ban margarine or to ban dying it to look like butter. The federal government imposed a two cent per pound tax on the product in The Margarine Act of 1886 (the tax was quintupled in 1902). Many states, especially dairy states, made dying margarine illegal (e.g., New York, New Jersey, and Maryland). By 1902, “32 states and 80% of the U.S. population lived under margarine color bans.”

The ad below is for “Golden Yellow” margarine and specifies that it is “ready to spread” in 26 states (more text transcribed below):

It also speaks to the laws under which Kraft was allowed to sell margarine. The text reads:

Yellow Parkay is now sold in these states:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C.

In other markets, the same delicious Parkay is sold in the time-saving Color-Kwik bag…

…and uncolored in the regular economy package.

Now, wherever state laws permit, millions are enjoying Parkay packaged in quarter-pound sticks… golden yellow, golden good, ready for the table.  (If legislation in Congress as we go to press were approved, the present tax on yellow margarine would be removed and we could offer yellow Parkay at no extra costs).

In some states, margarine manufacturers would sell margarine in plastic bags with a small bead of dye that the buyer had to knead into the spread (“Color-Kwik bags”). This practice continued through World War II. If you judge by this ad, it was quite a good time:

Over time, as supply and demand for butter and margarine ebbed and flowed alongside federal rules and penalizing taxes on margarine, the popularity of each ebbed and flowed too. Then, in 1950, margarine was apparently the “the talk of the country” and President Truman put an end to the oppression of margarine, in part because the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers had begun to build enough power to compete with dairy associations. Wisconsin, the cheese state, was the last anti-margarine state hold out (till 1967), but it continued to forbid margarine in public places (unless requested; as of Sept. 2011).

By 1957, sales of margarine exceeded those of butter. Margarine still outsells butter today. And, in a bizarre reversal, butter manufacturers now regularly dye butter yellow.

(Imperial Margarine, by painter Robert Kimball.)

Sources: Vintage AdsFound in Mom’s, and FoodReference.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Shady For-Profit Company Poised To Take Over DC Prison Healthcare (Updated)

The DC City Council was scheduled to voted Wednesday on a three to five-year contract for the notorious prison healthcare company Corizon to operate at the DC Jail and Correctional Treatment Facility. The contract would give the company jurisdiction over the medical care of the more than 10,000 DC residents that cycle through the jail every year.

Several former prisoners, including DC native Victor Carter, have been organizing against Corizon’s bid, phone-banking and lobbying City Council to reject the contract. Carter, who was incarcerated for 18 months at the DC jail, told ThinkProgress he was moved to speak out based on his own experience with inadequate care.

“On several occasions, I told them I was having stomach pains, and they kept sending me back to my room,” he said. “It got to the point where I was bent over and I couldn’t walk. I had blood in my urine and throwing up blood. After like the fifth day, when they finally saw me, I ended up in surgery and had my gall bladder removed.”

Though he described the current healthcare system, which is run by the non-profit clinic operator Unity, as “not up to par,” he and other advocates say Corizon would be much worse for DC. “For them, it’s all about revenue, it’s not about helping people,” Carter said. “I mean, it’s on the stock market! They make money off of us being incarcerated! So, I can’t sit back and let this go on. Some justice has to be done. Even though you’re an inmate, you still have rights.”

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anonymous asked:

I'm thinking seriously of dropping out of school and giving "compulsory secondary education" the middle finger, I simply hate it and where it's put me in my life. I have really bad anxiety and am depressed which I'm taking medication for, but basically school for me is nothing but a bucket of crap to dump on my head each morning. Could you give me any advice on this subject, maybe in terms of legal and other issues you faced? Thanks and btw your artwork gives me life :)

I don’t know about legal implications because I didn’t officially leave school until after the age you are allowed to (16 in the UK) but I wrote about the emotional implications/backlash and how to work on resolving it on my writing blog a few weeks’s the post. Best of luck, take care