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Betty Crocker


Have you ever heard a speaker or boss quote some profound saying from Sun Tzus The Art of War? Did you know theres a good chance that the wise philosopher who wrote that book never actually existed?

Hes hardly alone -- lots of figures from history and pop culture are the product of either some marketing campaign or just bad record keeping. Either way, centuries from now, people will probably still think that at one time there was a person named ...

When you buy Betty Crocker cake mix, or one of the dozens of other products bearing that name, you obviously dont assume that the company is still run by her, any more than Wendys is still owned by Wendy. But its logical to assume that, way back when the company got started, there was some actual lady named Betty Crocker just selling her cookies or whatever, in the same way that at one time Ferrari was just Enzo Ferrari making cars in his garage.

And in fact, Betty Crocker first became famous in the 1920s when she started personally responding to customer questions for the Washburn Crosby Company (which later became General Mills). Her popularity grew so much that in 1924 she got her own radio show and cooking school, and by 1945, she was the second best known woman in America, after the first lady. She also loved sitting for portraits, apparently:

Betty Crocker is a crock of shit. Its not that she no longer exists, as some of you may assume -- its that she never did. The name was created in 1921 to "personalize responses to consumer inquiries," and her famous signature was chosen from samples submitted by female employees. She was invented by Sam Gale, Washburn Crosbys advertising director, because he didnt think women would take cooking advice from a man.

The made-up name gained so much respect and credibility that the company just went along with it. For the radio show, each station had a different woman to be the voice of "Betty," but all read from a script developed by the home office. As for the portraits, well, this explains how she could look like a 30-something housewife in the 40s and a still-30-something yuppie in the 80s, short of her being Doctor Who.

And people of all ages still believe in her today. The writer of Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of Americas First Lady of Food did a little survey and says that about half the people she talked to believed that Betty Crocker was a real person, or that she existed at some point. Hell, just do a Google search and youll find plenty of disheartening evidence.

Hey, speaking of great female entrepreneurs who are actually just fictional characters created by some dudes in an office ...

So shes a great lady, all in all. Hopefully we wont find out shes fake in the next paragraph.

The best typing teacher ever really was too good to be true. Mavis Beacon started out as little more than a random face on the box of the program, but she became an instant success: The guy who created her says that in the year the program launched, competitors were asking him how he got the Mavis Beacon to endorse his product and telling him theyd "been after her endorsement for years."

Beacons original face was discovered working at a department store (shes since been replaced with computer-generated images, as will we all eventually), while her voice was provided by an assistant at the company. As her popularity grew, Beacon went from a glorified logo to an interactive onscreen instructor who is known for telling students to "call it a day" when she senses theyre screwing around.

When the story broke, people were shocked to learn of Mavis origins. Apparently, the news hasnt reached everyone, because people are still finding out about this. "Ms. Beacons" public relations representative (yep, thats a thing) says she gets inquiries about speaking engagements and fields questions about where, exactly, the woman is teaching currently. Some fans find Beacons non-existence difficult to stomach: "There was one man who kept calling back. He could not believe it. He kept asking questions, and saying Are you sure?"

Shes one of the most popular authors in history, having sold more than 100 million copies of her Nancy Drew books. In fact, a whole bunch of you out there only started reading books at all because somewhere around middle school you stumbled across some Nancy Drew paperbacks.

Each of the over 300 books in the series starring the titular teenage Sherlock Holmes was written by Carolyn Keene. When the series first started, Keene was profiled by magazines and invited to join the Authors Guild, and she continues to crank out bestsellers despite the fact that she has to be, what, over 100 years old now?

Obviously, at some point Nancy Drew fans started getting curious about all the mystery surrounding the author, so in the 70s the publisher put out publicity materials hinting that Keene was Harriet Stratemeyer all along (she did write many of the books, but not all).