Rich’s Tryphosa

An early competitor to Jell-O gets patriotic.

Front side of a pamphlet for Rich's Tryphosa, which is described later in further detail

Uncle Sam implores you to sample Rich’s Tryphosa, a jelly dessert known for its “daintiness, purity, and excellence.”

This single-sheet, tri-folded pamphlet was published in the 1910s. Likely this came from the latter part of the decade, when America had entered WWI; the presence of Uncle Sam is a bit of a tell. Unfolding the pamphlet reveals a pretty charming (and idealistic) illustration: men and women from around the world have gathered to gaze with delight at a variety of gelatin dishes. Beneath this scene reads a hopeful caption: “In peace we gather round this dish / What more could any nation wish.”

On the pamphlet’s opposite side are details about the product (10c a package) and a selection of recipes, which includes the likes of Oriental Fluff (whipped strawberry jelly with beaten egg white and fruits), Tryphosa Choc-o-nut (chocolate jelly with beaten egg white and coconut), and Tryphosa Nomel (lemon jelly with blanched almonds and maraschino cherries).

I have my heart set on recreating that Choc-o-nut dish. I searched high and low online for a similar mold, because it would be pretty incredible to match the illustration, but came up empty. I might make it anyway, though.

Back side of a pamphlet for Rich's Tryphosa

See more photos of this patriotic Rich’s Tryphosa brochure in the gallery.

This is a fascinating piece of American history: the subtle references to the Great War, the yearning for peace, and the capitalist dream that it would be Rich’s Tryphosa to bring the world’s nations together in harmony. For me, there’s one more interesting thing about it⁠: I have this same box of Tryphosa in my collection.

Front side of a sample box of Rich's Tryphosa

Back side of the sample box of Rich's Tryphosa

This box is a promotional free sample, one quarter of the size of a standard box, and so it is accordingly tiny⁠—just two inches wide. Still, there’s a lot of information crammed on here, from the available flavors (raspberry, strawberry, lemon, orange, wild cherry, peach, pineapple, chocolate, vanilla, and mint) to the health benefits (“Rich’s Raspberry Tryphosa is a mixture or compound of pure and wholesome materials…Highly recommended as a nutritious and refreshing food…”) to humble statements about its general quality (“This tempting delicacy is perfect in every respect”).

See more photos of the sample box of Rich’s Tryphosa in the gallery.

I had never heard of Rich’s Tryphosa before, so I did some research. Named after the Biblical baby name meaning “thrice shining,” Tryphosa originated just before the turn of the century⁠—around the same time that Jell-O was invented. E.C. Rich, the company that produced Tryphosa, launched a nationwide promotional effort consisting of newspaper advertisements and product demonstrations, but by the mid-1910s, it seemed that the focus had shrunk to the Northeast—mainly New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.

New York Times advertisement for a free box of Tryphosa

Perhaps Tryphosa wasn’t as “perfect” as its packaging claimed, or it was simply eclipsed by Jell-O’s success, but either way, it was clear the product was struggling. By the end of the decade, E.C. Rich was sending away full-sized samples to customers for free (see above). And by 1922, newspaper advertisements for Tryphosa had disappeared entirely.

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