I was cruising through the eBay listings for feed and flour sacks a few weeks ago and came across two sacks that were just as cute as a bug’s ear. The sacks are identical, except for the color. One is a greenish-tinged aqua, the other, blue. The bags bear the name Airy Fairy Flour, a brand name packaged by the Larabee Flour Mills Co. in Kansas City, Mo. I bought them both.
There are several things I find intriguing about these bags. The first is that the brand name of the flour was printed directly onto the fabric the length of one of the selvedge edges. It was far enough from the selvedge edge that when the bag was stitched, the brand name would remain prominent. I am reasonably certain that this print was used strictly for Airy Fairy Flour because the pattern incorporates the fairy used in its logo.
The bag was made by the Percy/Kent Bag Co. Percy/Kent made bags for flour and feed mills all over the country, and that may explain why the brand name ran so prominently down the side of the fabric. A worker would have known not to use that print to fill an order for another company. And yet Percy/Kent used that very print in an advertisement that would have targeted the milling companies. (Thanks to Gloria Nixon, author of Feedsack Secrets, for sending the copy of the ad!)
I was surprised to find all the information that would have ordinarily been printed on a paper label stamped directly onto the bag. Paper labels that were glued to the fabric may have been a pain to remove but were preferable to bags that were inked. The ink was very difficult to remove, even though bag companies often printed instructions for removing it on the back of the bag. “-INK EASILY REMOVED-Don’t Soak, but scrub thoroly (sic) with warm water and soap,” read the instructions on the reverse of many of Percy/Kent’s bags. Those instructions were not included on the Airy Fairy bags, however.
They are 25-pound bags, and that tells me they were made after sizes were standardized. In 1943, the War Production Board issued Conservation Order M-221, which said, “Beginning April 1, 1943, manufacturers, processors or packers of feeds, beans, cement, chemicals, fertilizer, flour, meal or cereals, nuts, plaster, potatoes, rice, seeds, starch or sugar may pack their products only in specified sizes. The permitted sizes (based on weight of contents) follow: 2, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 lbs or over.” The rationale behind standardizing the bag sizes seemed to be to save the bag companies from the necessity of maintaining an inventory of a plethora of sizes, thus saving manpower hours that could be used for the war effort.
The Airy Fairy Flour Co. marketed its brand as cake flour, rather than the all-purpose flour we see in stores today. In 1932, the company issued a small cookbook titled, Cake Baking Made Easy With Airy Fairy. The cookbook has six “foundation” recipes. Using the foundation butter cake recipe, one could make a few of the suggested changes and end up with a marble cake or any of the other cake recipes given.
The recipes in the booklet weren’t restricted to cakes. They used the flour for other goodies one could bake, such as cookies, biscuits, buns, rolls, etc.
Airy Fairy also packaged a quick mix for making biscuits called Kwik-Bis-Kit. There may have been some confusion about how to pronounce the name of the mix. The company ran a boxed notice in one of its ads that ran May 6, 1932, in The Milwaukee Journal that read, “CAUTION – Remember the name – Airy Fairy Kwik-Bis-Kit, pronounced ‘quick biscuit’, the very latest and most improved development in quick biscuit flour.” The ad also touted an added incentive to buy the mix. The company offered a limited number of free “Genuine White Metal” scoops. The scoop held one-fourth cup and had “Airy Fairy Cake Flour” in raised print on one side of the handle and “Airy Fairy Kwik-Bis-Kit” on the other.
The bags I bought were never used, and I am unsure of the reason. Perhaps the manufacturers had these left after switching to cheaper, multi-walled paper bags. Or maybe an individual bought these because she intended to use them for sewing and had them squirreled away all these years.
I may not be sure why they were never used, but I know one thing: I sure am happy to have them living at my house.