Margarine Wars

Here at the Archives, we often find documents from Salt Lake County agencies that reveal a long-forgotten issue that was decided at the national level.  One example was found in the County’s Health, Welfare, and Charity Correspondence from 1948.

SLCO margarine letter001 Health, Welfare, Charity Correspondence

Salt Lake County Health, Welfare, and Charity Correspondence, series HE-334

A bit of background on “oleomargarine” is required.  Margarine is naturally a white color, but manufacturers dyed it a golden yellow to imitate butter.  As a result, the dairy industry feared that margarine would replace butter.  Since oleomargarine’s creation in the 1800s, the powerful dairy industry spread propaganda about its supposed dangers, including saying that margarine was being made out of soap, paint, stray cats, animal intestines, and arsenic.  When that didn’t work, taxes on margarine were instituted, and margarine laws were enacted that banned yellow colored margarine sales in many states. The sale of bootleg margarine was wide spread. Finally in 1950, under considerable pressure from many groups, Congress repealed the taxes and laws and citizens could legally buy butter-colored margarine.

So the next time that you reach for a tub of margarine, think about whether it would be as appealing if it was white, or maybe even pink.

Health, Welfare, and Charity Correspondence, series

Health, Welfare, and Charity Correspondence, series HE-334.

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