July 6th, 2011

Baking Powder and the Prices

On the most recent Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, there were questions about Vincent Price for Vince Gill. R. and M. both relayed to me a slightly garbled version of how the Price fortune was made by the actor's grandfather. The wikipedia entry has the statement as well.

"His grandfather, Vincent Clarence Price, invented "Dr. Price's Baking Powder," the first cream of tartar baking powder, and secured the family's fortune."

This statement in wikipedia (Wait Wait obviously does not provide sourcing) is sourced to "Victoria Price (1999). Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-26789-4.", and various Price genealogies provide a variant on the claim as well.

Vincent Clarence Price, "Dr. Price", was born in 1832 and he did indeed sell "Dr. Price's Baking Powder" and made a lot of money off of it. It did indeed contain "cream of tartar" along with bicarbonate of soda, and it did so in a time frame when many baking powders contained other acids that had less desirable flavors. These other baking powders used alternative acids because at various points in time, cream of tartar had erratic availability.

But I do not believe that Vincent Clarence Price could possibly have invented "the first cream of tartar baking powder", because I'm pretty damn sure that "cream of tartar baking powders" were in use around or slightly before 1850.