EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the current Corn Palace building, which opened in 1921.
How did Mitchell apparently run out of animal crackers in 1926? And what did the Corn Palace have to do with it?
That ties back to Aileen Stanley, one of the most popular singers of the 1920s and her appearance at the Corn Palace Festival in that year. Stanley was one of the featured performers during the week-long festival.
According to a report in the Mitchell Evening Republican on Sept. 29, 1926, Stanley sang a tune called “Animal Crackers” during a show two nights prior. In the song, “she told of her passion for this particular confection.”
“Lions, tigers, camels, polar bears, they’re all the same, Miss Stanley sang,” the newspaper wrote. “She loves them all and eats them all.”
And her audience took Stanley and her lyrics literally. By the next morning, there was a “flood of animal crackers” at the Widmann Hotel, where she was staying during her time in Mitchell, which continued throughout the day.
“By Tuesday evening, there was hardly an animal cracker left in town, except of course in Miss Stanley’s room,” the newspaper wrote.
Stanley said she believed she had every animal cracker in Mitchell at the hotel, which was located at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. A box of animal crackers cost 5 to 10 cents at the time.
Stanley was famous for her comedienne and vaudeville singing and for the number of victrola records she had made, which fit the namesake machine which had a turntable and an amplifying horn tucked away inside a wooden cabinet.
So Stanley likely had fun with the crackers showing up at her door. Regardless, her time in Mitchell was in stark contrast to her previous destination: she had finished a week-long engagement in London.
When she returned to the U.S., Mitchell was the animal cracker stop. It was fitting for the woman known as “The Girl with the Personality.”
“Now this clever entertainer is wondering just what to do with the suddenly acquired menagerie,” the news story said.
This story was published with the research assistance of the Carnegie Resource Center in Mitchell, located at 119 W. Third Ave.