- Martha Facts
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In 1899, Richard Lindsey Sr. founded Nashville's Royal Flour Mill with his wife, Katherine. They were known in the area for producing some of the highest-quality flour, perfect for Southern cooking. When it came time to name his finest flour, Richard thought of his finest accomplishment, his daughter, Martha White Lindsey.
In 1944, businessman Cohen E. Williams acquired Nashville's Royal Flour Mill, and the first thing he did was change the mill's name to match its best-selling flour—Martha White. Then, he coined the slogan, Goodness Gracious, It's Good!, which helped make Martha White a household name for many years to come.
Martha White aired its first advertising in the 1940s with sponsorship of the 5:45 a.m. radio show "Martha White Biscuit and Cornbread Time" on Nashville's WSM radio. The show featured a band called Milton Estes, the Old Flour Peddlers and His Musical Millers.
With an advertising budget of only $25 per week, Martha White broadened its advertising by sponsoring Nashville's famous Grand Ole Opry—the country's longest-running live radio broadcast. Today, the historic Martha White logo backdrop—once used on the Opry stage—is in the permanent collection at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
The 1950s were a big decade for Martha White. It changed home baking forever by introducing a new self-rising secret ingredient called Hot Rize®, which made baking quicker.
In 1953, the company hired the then unknown band of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs to barnstorm the South with the Martha White Bluegrass Express—a music show that toured local festivals while promoting Martha White flour and corn meal. Lester and Earl became known as the "World's Greatest Flour Peddlers" through local concerts, performances on Nashville's early-morning radio show, and their television program—all sponsored by Martha White.
As Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs toured with the Martha White Bluegrass Express, they played towns across the U.S., as well as the stages of the Grand Ole Opry and Carnegie Hall. Scruggs' unique banjo style is credited with influencing generations of banjo pickers to "learn to play like Earl." Everywhere they went, they were asked to "play that Martha Song"—a jingle they wrote for "that one all-purpose flour" with Hot Rize. The lyrics have changed over the years, but it's still a classic bluegrass song to this day.
No meal is complete in the South without a plate of pipin' hot homemade biscuits! Martha White followed the introduction of Hot Rize with its first real convenience mix—Bix Mix—in the 1960s. This new product invited homemakers to make "the world's best biscuits" by just adding water.
In 1970, country music star Tennessee Ernie Ford became the Martha White spokesperson. He made guest appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, and performed private concerts for Martha White customers. Known for a number of chart-topping hits, he's perhaps more famous for coining the phrase, "Bless your pea-pickin' heart!" as a TV host, which earned him a place in people's hearts as "America’s Favorite Pea Picker."
After biscuits, Martha White was ready to introduce a new line of easy-to-bake favorites. In the 1970s, Martha White introduced fruit muffins to homes all across the South, with a whole range of delicious flavors, including blueberry, strawberry, and lemon poppy seed.
One of Ford's last performances was in 1988 in honor of the Martha White brand's 40th anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry sponsor. When Ford was introduced to the Grand Ole Opry audience by country legend and friend Roy Acuff, the crowd rose to its feet and gave a rousing standing ovation.
In the 1990s, Linda Carman, Director of the Martha White Test Kitchen, began traveling across the South to hold baking demonstrations and host cooking schools for Martha White. As a native of Cullman, Alabama, she credits her mother's Southern cooking as the inspiration for her own recipe for success. She's published several books: Martha White Kitchens, The Southern Baking Book and The Southern Sampler. Today, she continues to lend her cooking know-how as a Southern baking expert and Martha White spokesperson through her blog.
Once a year, since 1996, the best cornbread recipes have been found in the foothills of southeastern Tennessee at the National Cornbread Cook-Off Finals. For one weekend, the best of the best enter their main-dish cornbread recipe that use least one package of Martha White Cornbread Mix and that are cooked in Lodge® Cast Iron cookware. New friends are made and loads of award-winning cornbread recipes are tasted by all.
In 2000, the Martha White Bluegrass Express took to the road again with a new artist on board, Rhonda Vincent, along with her band, The Rage. Crowned "the new queen of bluegrass" by the Wall Street Journal, Rhonda is the only artist to receive seven consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year titles from the International Bluegrass Music Association and, in 2010, she was the recipient of the prestigious "Star Award" from the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation. Blending soul, intensity and tenderness, her unique brand of bluegrass is rich in tradition while remaining unmistakably modern. Plus, she's known to make a mean Ragin' Cornbread.
Each year since 2008, bakers have set their timers and started bakin' for the Martha White Muffin Mix Challenge—a chance to show off their creativity using Martha White Muffin Mixes as the inspiration for their recipe entries. And while a new set of winners takes home the prizes each year, their winning recipes live on for others to enjoy!
Martha White has always been proud to be a part of the history of bluegrass. In 1957, while still traveling the country as part of the Martha White Bluegrass Express, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs recorded Foggy Mountain Jamboree. In 2012, The Recording Academy selected the Columbia Records' 1957 album for induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
After 100 years of innovation, Martha White will continue to stay true to its roots. We'll keep bringing you easy-to-make ideas for good ole Southern-inspired classics to help make moments special during the holidays, before a big game, or whenever you need a quick pinch of inspiration.