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The History of Wheaties

Wheaties were created by accident in 1921 when a health clinician accidentally dropped bran gruel on a stove, where it bubbled up into a crispy flake. The Washburn Crosby Company (which later became General Mills) took inspiration from the accident and created Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes, which were first introduced in 1924. An internal competition was held to come up with a better name, and Jane Bausman, the wife of a company export manager, won the contest with the name Wheaties. However, even with the name change, Wheaties did not catch on, so the company came up with a fictional character — Jack Armstrong, who was billed as an “All-American” athlete and a “good guy” — to help promote the product. He was featured on the box and starred on a national radio program. But things didn’t truly take off until Washburn Crosby executives commissioned a jingle. Wheaties became the most popular cereal in America after a barbershop quartet sang the world’s first radio commercial jingle: “Have you tried Wheaties? They're whole wheat with all of the bran. Won't you try Wheaties?” Additionally, the company convinced Major League Baseball teams to broadcast their games on the air and Wheaties advertised heavily during those games, creating their association with sports. In 1934, Lou Gehrig became the first athlete to be featured on a Wheaties cereal box. That same year, American aviator Elinor Smith became the first woman to grace a box.  In 1958, American Olympian Bob Richards became the first athlete to be featured on the front of a Wheaties box (previous athletes were featured only on the back). Since then, various athletes have been featured on Wheaties boxes. Notable features include football legend Walter Payton, who was first Black athlete to be featured on the front of the box in 1986 and gold medalist Jennifer Finzel, who was the first Special Olympian featured on the box in 1997. Today, Wheaties are still heavily associated with sports and remain a highly recognizable product on grocery store shelves everywhere.

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