Vintage Aunt Sally's Brand Pasadena California Jar ~ What It Isn't

Seems everyone has a dear old Aunt Sally! But...

I can't find my Aunt Sally!

Here's a great little embossed product jar that we picked up recently. The Redbook #10 Fruit Jar guide lists it as #175 -- in a 16 oz/pint size. Ours is an 8-1/4 oz/ 1/2pt size, 4-1/2" tall, small 2-1/4" mouth. Several fruit jar collectors saw my jar at the 2013 Muncie fruit jar get together, and commented that they hadn't ever seen this jar.

Naturally, I went online and tried to find out more about Aunt Sally's Brand / Pasadena California. Who was she? What was sold in this jar?

Alas, there was no information to be found, anywhere. Not even an old ebay sale of another jar. I could try local city directories, which would just confirm time/place. I'm hoping for a little company history and to find out who Sally was. It seems I shall have to wait until someone posts something someday.

And there's more mystery about the maker of the jar itself. The glass company mark, on the heel, is an embossed 'Co' monogram, with a small o inside a C. We showed it to the knowledgeable collectors at Muncie, and I researched that mark online, and again, not found. The base just has an embossed number 8.

She Contains Multitudes

My apologies to Walt Whitman... a google search on the name Aunt Sally certainly had multitudes of responses. For example:
    1. Aunt Sally / noun, Chiefly British / a person who is a ready target for criticism or focus for disputation.
    2. "The term 'Aunt Sally' is used as a political idiom, indicating a false adversary or straw man, set up for the sole purpose of attracting negative attention and wasting an opponent's energy."
    3. "an object of criticism or contention; especially : one that is set up to invite criticism or be easily refuted"
    4. Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales introduction as translated by David Wright---"In the fourteenth century the institution of marriage was an accepted Aunt Sally:..."

    British word historian Michael Quinion writes on World Wide Words:
    "The aunt part of the name may refer to an old black woman, a term employed both by blacks and whites in the USA from the eighteenth century onwards but also known in London; aunt could also be applied familiarly to any elderly woman. 
    The direct influence, according to J Redding Ware’s Passing English of the Victorian Era of 1909, may have been an 1820s black-face doll that derived from a low-life character named Black Sal who had been created by Pierce Egan in his series Life In London of 1821."

    Mathematically Speaking

    "My Dear Aunt Sally" is also part of the mnemonic PEMDAS, used to help remember the order of operations in algebraic equations.   
    • PEMDAS = Please Excuse MDear Aunt Sally = Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction

    And then there's those gooey yummy Southern pralines:

    My Aunt Sally of Pasadena is NOT the Aunt Sally's of New Orleans, maker of world famous pecan pralines. 

    Countless Other Aunt Sally's

    Oh boy, did I find lots and lots of other Aunt Sally's. Here's a small accounting of just some of the myriad Aunt Sally's who aren't mine!

    She isn't a game:

    Aunt Sally rose to general popularity in Victorian times as a vulgar misogynist/racist fairground pursuit.

    The game of Aunt Sally goes back at least as far as the 17th Century. It may have been introduced by Royalist soldiers during the English Civil War when Charles set up court in Oxford.

    The game [is still] played in British pubs and fairgrounds [with competitive leagues]. An Aunt Sally was originally a figurine head of an old woman with a clay pipe in her mouth, or subsequently a ball on a stick. The object was for players to throw sticks at the head in order to break the pipe. The game bears some resemblance to skittles. 

    Aunt Sally ring toss game and modern fantasy sign. Available on ebay, etc.

    She isn't a vintage household product:

    Late 1800's Antique trade card for Aunt Sally Starch, Baking Powder, and Blueing.

    1930s-1940s era food and cleaning products labeled Aunt Sally from the Portage Wholesale Co., Wisconsin.

    She's not Tom Sawyer's Aunt, or other book, movie, or TV show character.

    She wasn't from Detroit...

    Milk bottle collectors will want to click on the above photo to enlarge it. 

    While ''Aunt Sally'' is a slang term (according to the Urban Dictionary  ) and has a wikipedia page, that's still not our Auntie.

    Hoo Doo that Voo Doo? Aunt Sally do, that's who do!

    The Numbers Have It

    According to Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by Catherine Yronwode, Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book was published by Wehman Bros. in 1889. 

    Policy was an illegal lottery / numbers game, first introduced in Chicago in 1885.
    "A curiosity of hoodoo magic for gambling luck, Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book consists of nine separate alphabetical lists of objects and situations found in dreams with interpretations and lucky numbers for playing policy, an illegal (and now obsolete) lottery once popular in the black community.
    "Dream books -- of which Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book is by far the best-known -- are part of the African-American hoodoo tradition. They link dream images (e.g. dream of a cook or dream of a locomotive) to divinatory meanings (e.g. "you will receive a letter" or "beware a strange man") and they also give numbers for betting (e.g. 5-14-50 or 65-41-55)." 
    "POLICY soon spread around the country despite anti-policy laws. Eventually the use of the term 'policy' came to imply an African-American clientele, while Italian-Americans called it "the numbers"."
    "The name 'policy' may have come from a verbal code that the numbers runners (ticket sellers) used when collecting bets on the street: "Would you like to take out an insurance policy?" they asked. One could also play at a policy shop or policy office, where the bets were taken and the stakes held by policy writers."

    I dreamed of Aunt Sally with the... 

    By the 1930s several brands of "lucky dream" incense were being manufactured for the use of policy players. Burned in the bedroom before sleeping, they were designed to increase a person's chance of dreaming lucky and remembering the dream long enough to get it interpreted in numerical form. In addition, they often contained their own sets of lucky numbers, intended to be taken up by sifting through the incense ash upon awakening.

    1960's Rock'n'roll posters used Aunt Sally, too.

    I got the Aunt Sally's Blues

    From the 1920s through the 1950s, both the subject of policy gaming itself and the numerical combinations found in the dream books made their way into a number of blues songs. 

    In the most clever of these compositions, a series of dream book numbers would be substituted for crucial key words. Jim Jackson and Bumble Bee Slim (Amos Easton) both wrote songs of this type called Policy Dream Blues, which you can listen to here on the very cool website Uncensored History of the Blues.

    She's heavy, but she's not my Auntie 

    Collectors of psychedelic-era rock art posters may recognize Aunt Sally's Policy Book as the source for a 1967 poster by Rick Griffin for a concert by Big Brother & the Holding Co. and Canned Heat. 

    In the 1930s-40s a major hoodoo supplier, the King Novelty Company, not only sold reproductions of the "Dream Book" but also manufactured a line of Aunt Sally's incense and other hoodoo potions. 

    You can now buy a variety of new Aunt Sally HooDoo items at Lucky Mojo (

    Well, I may not have found out anything about Aunt Sally's Brand Pasadena California -- you do remember that little jar that started this crazy quilt of an article, don't you? -- but it sure was fun.  

    Do you know anything about MY aunt Sally?


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