Last week I was walking through Farmhouse Market, taking in all the oldies but goodies when I spied some old cookbooks. There tucked on a shelf was an old cookbook from McNess, circa 1937, titled “Recipes from ‘Round the World'”.

McNess got its start in 1908 with Frank Furst and Frederick McNess in Freeport, Il. Furst and McNess worked for W.T. Rawleigh(think Watkins). Furst and McNess approached W.T. Rawleigh with an innovative idea of selling products with a product safety seal and trial size bottles. Emphasizing the safety seal would boost consumer confidence in the product and the trial size bottles could be sold right on the spot.

Safety First

Watkins allowed customers to “try before they buy”. Each customer was allowed to try the product from a full-size bottle. Each bottle had a trial line built into the glass bottle. The customer used the product up to that line and then if they were not pleased with the product, they simply returned the bottle to the salesman next time he stopped by. The salesman, not wanting to waste a returned partially sampled bottle, would then pour an item of the same color back into the bottle to resell it.

This practice held many safety concerns for the consumer and the salesmen. Seeking to remedy this problem, Furst and McNess wanted to sell trial size bottles as well as a safety seal on all the bottled products. Unfortunately, this innovative idea was not at all interesting to W. T. Rawleigh and told them he wasn’t interested. Undaunted by this rebuffing, Furst and McNess set out together and created the Furst McNess Company.

They began their adventure by instituting new sanitary practices in manufacturing- safety seals on all the bottles and trial size samples bottles for their salesmen to sell on the spot.

From horse and buggy to automobile

Image by Michael Treu from Pixabay

The Furst- McNess company began with horse and buggy. Salesmen had two styles of a McNess wagon to choose from or a McNess buggy. If you already had a Ford Roadster you could order a custom-fit box. You’d then fill your wagon, buggy, or automobile with products, samples, and supplies and set off from town to town selling products. As time and automobile innovation arrived salesmen and saleswomen fit their cars or trucks to carry and sell McNess products.

Furst and McNess struck gold with consumers who were very impressed with the safety seal and trial size bottles. With tremendous sales pouring into the company, by 1919 they were able to build the “Sunlight Laboratory”. This was a state-of-the-art facility for its time and its product line continue to expand.

Fame and fortune

Furst-McNess company used a variety of celebrity endorsements as well as their “Champion Cake Bakers” along with other famous 4-H cake bakers. Mrs. Edith Moore delights you with her “Cake Baking Secrets” for 5 pages. I love her helpful hints and suggestions and hope to bring you some of Mrs. Moore’s suggestions in a few weeks.

Sincerely, if you have time and love nostalgia please drop by their beautiful website. Be sure to click on each category and enjoy the pictures as well as the wonderfully laid out stories. It was fun to read and look.

The recipes from around the world were in that nationalities language first and then English. I will leave with a recipe:

French Chocolate Cake- Mrs. Edith Moore

Mrs. Moore would like you to know that her recipe below won 29 first prizes! GAME ON GIRLS and BOYS!


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sour milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoonful Vanilla
  • 3 eggs


Dissolve two-thirds cup chocolate and half cup sugar in a little hot water. Add this to the sugar, butter, milk and eggs which have been well mixed, then add the flour and soda and bake.

-You must have noticed I did not leave you and baking time and temperature directions. It also doesn’t mention what size pan. But if you are reading this column your no “mamma’s baby” to baking. The picture eludes to a round pan, three layers worth.

Writing this weeks article has been so fun wading through all this history and nostalgia. I sure hope you enjoyed our little trip. Till next time friends, here is to good food, good friends and a good life.


About Michele Bruxvoort

Michele Bruxvoort is sure to draw you in with her delightful sense of humor and love for living life.   She enjoys reading, repurposing,  as well as remodeling the family home with her husband. Drawing from her life experience as wife, mom, and follower of Jesus, Michele brings you a very honest and real perspective on life.  When you don't find her writing, you can find her mowing lawns, stocking shelves, taking care of her grandbaby and tackling her latest life adventure. Wisconsin native and empty-nester, she now makes her home with her husband of 27 years in the South West Prairie plains of Minnesota.

View all posts by Michele Bruxvoort

One Comment on “McNess”

  1. Wow, thank you for the link to the McNess webite! I didn’t know they were still in business–it was so fun looking over their history. I have a collection of old cookbooks from my and my husband’s families, dating back to the early 1900’s, and I found my 1929 McNess booklet on their website. What treasured memories. Thank you for sharing this today.

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