Bring back some good or bad memories


December 1, 2019

Offensive and Fat-Shaming Vintage Weight Loss Ads From Ry-Krisp in the Mid-20th Century

In 1904, immigrant baker Arvid Peterson gave a Swedish-styled cracker a modern American name and introduced the country to Ry-Krisp. For decades, Minneapolis was the one and only location where the product was made.

In its first years, the cracker required little advertising, because Scandinavian immigrants knew it as knäckebröd (“crisp bread”) from their home countries. In Sweden, such crackers were inexpensive and lasted well on the shelf. At the time, crackers were competitive with more conventional breads because baked loaves were inconsistently made. Ry-Krisp first came in large, flat, thin rounds with a hole in the center. This traditional shape was designed for storing the product on a pole or even a broomstick.

Peterson, his brother Erik, and their widowed mother arrived in America in 1893. They lived for several years in Boston. While there, Arvid learned baking skills, and then for two years he was a farmer in South Dakota. By 1904, the brothers had moved to Minneapolis. “Peterson Bros. Bakers” was at 2120-24 Lyndale Avenue South. Arvid and Erik lived just a few blocks away. It was common for bakers to live close to their shops.

The Ry-Krisp recipe and method changed little as production expanded. Rye kernels were milled into flakes and then combined with water and injections of air to create a crunchy texture. The baking period was short. Though new flavors were eventually introduced, including the unsuccessful pizza-flavored Ry-Krisp, the cracker’s core ingredients remained the same.

As a cereal grain, rye offers unique health benefits. When Peterson sold his company to local investors in 1913, vitamins and nutrition were newly appreciated in the United States. New marketing strategies for the product said “Physicians recommend it” and that this “health bread” was a “corrective” for constipation. One ad claimed that the product “exercises the teeth.”

In 1922, Ry-Krisp built a new plant at 824 6th Avenue S.E. There was a convenient rail siding for national distribution, but trucks shipped the crackers all over the country.

In 1926, the Ralston Purina Company of St. Louis bought Ry-Krisp but kept production in Minneapolis. Founded in 1902, Ralston Purina was the result of a successful merger of an animal-feed and health-foods firm (Purina) and a breakfast food company (Ralston).

After 1926, as one brand among many in a large company, Ry-Krisp benefited from broader advertising. Ralston also sold “Ralston 100% Whole Wheat Cereal”—a product whose celebrity spokesman was cowboy star Tom Mix. Ralston experimented with the shape of Ry-Krisp, eventually adopting the rectangular cracker it became known for.

Starting in the 1930s, Rye-Krisp heavily advertised their products as a “reducing” (aka weight loss) product in magazines that were marketed to women and young girls. The marketing geniuses at Ry-Krisp usually focused on timeless and effective themes like, “your husband is going to leave you for a skinny girl,” and “caddie bitches are going to laugh at your fat ass if you don’t buy our product.”

For years they even ran ads like, “Nobody loves a fat girl,” in Seventeen magazine. That must have done wonders for young girls’ self-esteem!

Over the years, advertising and consumer interests shaped the appeal of the old-fashioned food. Some early health food enthusiasts mistakenly felt that “pure food” could ensure good breeding, or even racial purity. Other marketers recognized that the cracker’s vitamins, fiber content, and long shelf life were more important assets. Ry-Krisp ads or testimonials evolved over several decades. They appeared in professional nursing journals, immigrant newspapers, fishing guidebooks, and general-interest national magazines.

Below are some offensive, fat-shaming vintage magazine advertisements from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s for Ry-Krisp crackers.


  1. the Opinion you express in your articles intermixed with History is getting rather old.
    I don't much care what you think, but appreciate the other content

    1. None of these opinions are those of Vintage Everyday. This site does nothing more than simply copy/paste material from elsewhere on the web. There is no original material here.

  2. Personally, I have had enough of this site's PC "don't offend anyone" garbage and am no longer going to come here. There is no such thing as a right not to be offended.

  3. Obviously they weren't considered offensive at the time. I'd blame the owners of this site for the 4th stage terminal presentism in the copy that accompanies the gallery if I wasn't pretty sure it came with the pics from wherever they got them. The English grammar is much too good to have originated here.

    1. Don't defend them. Re-posting social propaganda is just as bad as being the originator, if not worse.
      I'm out of here too. Art is supposed to transcend social issues, not cater to them or serve them (or even reflect them), no matter what modernists tell you.

    2. Not defending them. Just pointing out that they tend to copy everything when they "borrow" material from other websites and that, subsequently, they're not always the original source of the millennial angst that accompanies the pics. That might be more obvious if they actually attributed the source of the material, which they don't most of the time.

  4. I enjoy the site, and the variety of great photos and topics. Shame about the shithead commenters.

    1. Seriously though, it isn't the topics and photos that anyone has a problem with. It is the biased and/or illiterate commentary added and/or cut&pasted by the admins that we have a problem with. And since we are all leaving you to your uneducated socialist safe zone, you should be celebrating instead of grousing.

  5. I remember those ads, and the notion that those fat girls could get thin by eating a ton of rye crackers sounded just as silly then as now. And in the same period, other ads touted ways to gain weight so as not to be left out.

  6. Adding my 2 cents.
    Agree that the site would be better if it just posted the pix and no words. I don't remember who said it, but someone once said that any pic that needed words to go along with it wasn't a pic worth looking at. I tend to think that is true. Hoping the site cans commentary and just takes to posting pix only. Otherwise it really isn't doing anything that Google Image search doesn't do already.

  7. 1 in 5 deaths in the US are associated with obesity.

  8. I just found this site and love it. Keep up the the goodness!




Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10