What's become of the also ran...SPRY?

If I say Spry what do you think of? I'll give you a few moments to sort things out in your private filing cabinet.................I'm waiting...

If you're under 35 you might be thinking Spry is some sort of JavaScript software used for creating web pages. Uh huh, yeah...whatever.

Okay, most likely if you're under 40 something and literate you might be thinking:
spry |sprī|
adjective (spryer, spryest or sprier, spriest)
(esp. of an old person) active; lively: he continued to look spry and active well into his eighties.
If you're in your late 50s, or older, you might be thinking Crisco. Indeed that's what always crosses my mind. When I was growing up I thought Spry meant Crisco. It's the word both my mother and grandmother used. "Get the spry out, I'm making a pie." So of course I'd get out the can of Crisco. It wasn't until a short time ago that I found out they were two separate products.
Spry Vegetable Shortening
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spry was a brand of vegetable shortening produced by Lever Brothers starting in 1936. It was a competitor for Proctor & Gamble's Crisco, and through aggressive marketing through its mascot Aunt Jenny had reached 75 percent of Crisco's market share. The marketing efforts were phased out in the 1950s, but Aunt Jenny and her quotes like With Spry, we can afford to have cake oftener! have been reprinted. Though the product is discontinued there are anecdotal reports of it being used through the 1970s.
Dave Dube, MrCachet at the wonderful Old Paper Art, gave me the cookbook shown below. Though I can't find a copyright date, I'm guessing it's from the late 30s to early 40s. The whole thing is just plain fun. There are a lot of good old recipes inside and the color reproductions of the food are actually palatable, which is so often NOT the case. But really what sparks my interest is the cover. The comic book style cover with the speech bubbles. As soon as I saw this I thought "Whoa, why was this style of advertising so popular way back when?" Over the next week I'll have examples to prove my point.

Spry booklet_frnt_tatteredandlost
Spry booklet_bk_tatteredandlost
Click on images to see them larger.

Now think about it, there was no television for advertisers, but radio and newspapers were popular. The funnies, comics, were very popular. So why not combine radio with the funnies and you get...really bad comics selling stuff. Advertisers tried to be chatty with their customers, often times with really hysterical results. In this case...ummmm...do the men look like maybe they've just spread Spry all over their faces? Do they look a little too smiley? A little greasy? A little toooo friendly? "Wonderful Lemon Pie! Such flaky tender crust" Notice, no period following "crust". Me thinks this guy had more to say.

As to a color spread, this one isn't half bad. These cakes look edible, as do the brownies. Okay, sure everything looks a little too yellow, which considering the selling point of Spry was that it was "...so white. I just know it's purer." Side by side with Crisco, Spry was whiter, thus better. Who comes up with this stuff?

Click on image to see it larger.

Now here's something I've never heard of. Making up a pie crust mix ahead of time. Does anybody do this? I would think if it worked with Spry way back when it would work now with Crisco. But 4 pounds of flour? Who makes that many pies? What's the shelf life of this stuff?

Spry Pastry Mix_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

Well, Spry is long gone and soon those of us who think of Crisco when we hear Spry will be gone. Okay, not that soon. I should be around, if I'm lucky, for a few more decades. But, Crisco won. Spry is dead. Alas Spry I hardly knew ye.

Thanks Dave for adding such a wonderfully odd piece of ephemera to my collection!

New book available on Amazon.
Tattered and Lost: Forgotten Dolls

This one is for those who love dolls!

Snapshots from the last 100+ years of children and adults with dolls. Okay, there are a couple of dogs too.

Perfect stocking stuffer!


  1. I don't remember Spry as a child. I'm not sure they sold it where we lived. When I was little mom used lard for pie crusts, because that's all we had. Then when I was older, she started using Crisco and that's what I use today. It doesn't have quite the same properties since it doesn't have trans fats (per serving), so I find I have to adjust the recipe to allow for the difference.


    I took one look at the whole shebang and it had your particularly fine brand of humor written all over it. And trust me on the 'pastry mix'. You don't need a large bowl for this concoction, you need a tub.

    I made two pies over the holidays - my first. My wife walked me through it - she has the patience of a saint. They were actually flaky crusts, so my wife called it a major success. I'm now in charge of the Crisco.

  3. I think that is the exact old Spry cookbook that I have out in my kitchen somewhere! It was from that booklet that I always made my pie crusts "light and flaky!!" Seriously, the recipe for the double crust pie dough was really good and when I did make it, I usually made a double batch and froze part of it. Alas, I have not made crust from scratch in a long, long time but I used to be able to do a nice job of it. Do you also remember Aunt Jenny? She was the "Betty Crocker" for Spry. Love you blog. May get out my old booklets and do a post on them one day on Pieces of the Past. Carol

  4. Too bad, because Spry seems much more appealing than Crisco. Great graphics and I love those wonderful pieces of ephemera. I spent a long time examining the ladies' hats, thinking it's a shame we don't really wear hats anymore either.
    Thanks for this great post.

  5. Yeah, I don't have any memories of a can of spry in either house. I'd never seen the can until I saw it on this booklet from Dave. I do remember the cans of lard, and yeah, it made better tasting pie crust. Alas I use Crisco and it works okay. I use the butter flavor one now in the little cubes. Haven't had a can of Crisco in the house in ages.

  6. Dave, good for you! Pies are so easy to make. It's the one thing I do enjoy baking. I always make crust from scratch. Especially with a Cuisinart it only takes a few minutes to make.

    When I lived in L. A. I used to go into my roommates room around 9 pm and say "If I made a chocolate pie would you want some?" All I'd get back was a stare saying "Are you crazy...OF COURSE!" So I'd get the Cusinart out, whip up some crust, put it in the pie shell, bake it, then mix up instant chocolate pudding and pour it into the crust that had been briefly cooled in the freezer. By 10:30 we'd have eaten the whole pie and had everything washed and put away. There were never any leftovers. I'm glad I have enough sense to not do this anymore.

  7. Funoldhag, yes, I like the recipes in the book. I might just try some of them. I'm even thinking of mixing up a small batch of the pie crust mix in the summer to have it on hand when the orchard is giving up its crop. I usually try and make too much dough when I'm making a pie and then just wrap up the rest in plastic wrap and a ziploc bag and keep it in the freezer.

  8. Christine, they did say it was whiter than Crisco. I'm not sure why that would make it better. I mean, butter isn't white and it's better than Crisco too. Though I have to admit I'm not really successful in baking all butter crusts. They turn out okay, but not as flaky as the Crisco.

    Yeah, I'd love to find an old Spry can. I'll keep my eyes open. Like the little man running. Hmmm...eating fat and has to run. Perhaps that wasn't the best image.

    The little dancing man is from inside the book.

  9. This is really interesting. I've never heard of Crisco, but Spry is a very familiar name. Both from my childhood in terms of white vegetable shortening but later the name was used for vegetable oil and what comes to mind is 'Spry, Crisp & Dry'. I've just looked it up and Spry Crisp & Dry is still around as a veg oil and, what they call, a 'solid cooking oil' available in supermarkets in UK.

    Love the comic strip, especially the ladies with the hats.

  10. Janice, I just looked Crisp & Dry up and lo and behold it IS Spry! So though Spry is just a memory in the States it lives on where the crown still resides.

    Crisp 'n Dry (From Wikipedia)
    Crisp 'n Dry is a brand of vegetable oil manufactured by Edible Oils Limited and marketed by Princes Limited. The manufacturer claims this vegetable oil leaves food dry after frying (hence its name Crisp 'n Dry), compared to other vegetable oils which require the fried food to be dried with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

    Crisp 'n Dry was previously marketed by Spry, then Unilever, before being acquired by Princes Limited.

    Crisp 'n Dry contains no cholesterol and the block of Crisp 'n Dry no longer contains trans fat.

  11. Now we want to see your pies!

  12. Oh, I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

    Kidding! Best to just imagine my pies. For Thanksgiving there was a pumpkin and a Mincemeat. I really worked so so hard on these...NOT. The mincemeat came poured out of a jar. I'd have been happy to just eat it out of the jar.

  13. I think Janice is right. We had Spry in Scotland in a blue and white cardboard box...or something similar. Probably explains why any Scot over fifty has soaring blood pressure.

  14. I've looked at this several times over the last couple days.

    Correct me if I'm wrong... was everything like pie crust and cakes so much better in the 50's because they were made with lard or by gramma?

  15. Oh, it has to be the grandma touch. My grandma understood lard. I know there were grandma's that abused lard.

  16. Interestingly SPRY is still alive and well only in my country (Cyprus). My mother insisted i was getting it wrong when she realized I have been using regular cooking butter instead of SPRY for cakes. I do remember this product from growing up but it never crossed my mind that it would still be around, so I looked it up, to find out it's only still around in Cyprus. Then again, mothers around here do seem fixated and like to pile up on products that to me seem obsolete, like Maggie cubes of chicken stock or cans of Nescafe.

  17. Margarita,

    That is fascinating that it's available in Cyprus. I wonder if a company there bought the name or if it's made by the original company but only sold there. And Nescafe. Boy, I haven't heard of that in a long time.

  18. Exactly it's being manufactured by a local foods company. It doesn't look like the cans in those ads from the '50s, but it seems they are still using the some packaging I remember in my mom's kitchen in the '80s. You can see it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spry_Vegetable_Shortening

  19. Margarita, I'm so glad you found my post. It's amazing that Spry is still made with Lever Brothers still attached. Thanks for the link!

  20. Just ran across a family recipe, hand printed from my Grandfather, and it calls for Spry! I was so glad to find your post, now I know what I'm looking for!

    1. Good luck with the recipe. Can I ask what it's for?

  21. Spry apparently isn't dead, they still sell it in Cyprus: http://marina.alphamega.com.cy/baking/spry-pure-vegetable-shortening-350g.html

  22. Just found a copy of the cookbook hidden inbetween the pages of my [now passed] grandmother's old Betty Crocker cookbook.