As far as American breakfast brands and pancakes go, the Aunt Jemima logo is one of the most recognizable in the world. However, few know that she was actually based on the likeness of a real person – Anna Short Harrington. Her family, led by great grandson D.W. Hunter, is now suing PepsiCo, The Quaker Oats Company, Pinnacle Foods Group and The Hillshire Brands Company for a whopping $2 billion.
Harrington’s family alleges the companies denied their great grandmother her due after alleging that she took on the role of the pre-existing Aunt Jemima character in 1935 as an employee of Quaker Oats. Her family says her image was exploited and 64 original formulas, recipes, and 22 menus were taken from Harrington. The catalyst for this new claim is a death certificate that lists Quaker Oats as her employer at the time of death.
Hunter says the company conspired to cover up her employment and lied about there being no employment records available for his Great grandmother. They also claim that in 1989, Quaker sought out Harrington’s youngest daughter, Olivia Hunter, and have been using her image on its products since then.
Adding to the accusations, the lawsuit cites Screen Actors Guild residuals and standard entertainment industry policies regarding revenue statements, which the family has never received. They claim to not have realized, until 2013, they were owed royalties and residuals. Other revelations included proof that Anna Harrington’s likeness and picture were trademarked by Quaker Oats in 1937 for use on Aunt Jemima food brands, before being licensed out to other companies for use on mugs, clothing and other items.