Aunt Sammy, the wife of Uncle Sam, was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Home Economics and Farm Radio Service. It came to life in the first radio broadcast of “Housekeeper Chat” on October 4, 1926. The program’s goal was to help housewives manage their homes and plan meals. Aunt Sammy even talked about household matters such as clothing, furniture, and appliances. The show was presented in 3 segments of 5 minutes each: “Backyard Gossip,” “Questions Women are Asking,” and “What Shall We Have For Dinner?”.
Many women played the role of by speaking into the microphone at local radio stations. One of them was Ruth Van DeMan. She was a specialist in home economics and prepared the recipes. Other women who played the role of Aunt Sammy included Josephine Hemphill and Fanny Walker Yeatman. Dr. Louise Stanley, head of the Bureau of Home Economics, approved the programs prior to them being aired on the radio. Women would read scripts provided by the USDA and use their own personalities to make the show enjoyable. Many listeners, including women, would write to the show expressing their gratitude for the show and asked if they could receive copies of the recipes and menus. In response, the USDA compiled 70 favorite menus from the show and 300 of its recipes into a book, Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes. More than 100,000 copies were distributed between October 1926 and December 1927. Aunt Sammy began to fade away during the Great Depression and eventually the show was cancelled in 1946.
The Historical File of the Office of Information, Department of Agriculture, 1900-1959 (16-G) contains photographs relating to Aunt Sammy, including several of Ruth Van DeMan. There are no known copyright restrictions. A copy of Aunt Sammy’s Radio Recipes is located in Record Group 287 Government Publications, 1861-1992.