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Adams Flavors, Foods, and Spices, LLC at UTSA Libraries Special Collections

May 5, 2014
Adams Extract Adams Best Vanilla box, undated

Adams Extract Adams Best Vanilla box, undated

I can remember helping my mother and grandmother make Christmas cookies when I was a young child. Integral to these memories is the smell of Adams Vanilla Extract, a key ingredient in most homemade cookie recipes. The robust, sweet smell would well up from the measuring spoon as I poured the deep brown liquid into the cookie dough. John Adams built a successful business on the popularity of this intensely strong elixir, a business that would grow to encompass a multitude of extracts and spices.

Adams Flavors, Foods, and Ingredients, LLC has its origins in the efforts of John Anderson Adams who sold extracts in Michigan beginning in 1888. Adams moved his family to Beeville, Texas in 1905 and was determined to craft a vanilla extract that could be used in baking, a product superior to those already in existence. Adams Best was the outcome of his determination, a product he believed in so firmly that it came with a money back guarantee. In 1922, John Adams moved his operation to Austin, Texas. Fred Adams took the reigns from his father and led the company into years of prosperity and expansion. After the Second World War, Adams Extract diversified its product line with other flavored extracts and food colors. Adams’ four pack of food colors could be found in most kitchens and are still available for purchase. In 1955, when Adams Extract moved to its facility on I-35, the company expanded its offerings once again by adding spices to its line of products. In 2002, Adams moved to a ninety thousand square foot facility located in Gonzales, Texas, the site of its current operations. In 2013, Adams celebrated its 125th birthday, making it one of the oldest continuously operated companies in Texas as well as one of the oldest extract and spice companies in America.(1)

In 2012, Adams Flavors, Foods, and Ingredients, LLC donated some of their records to UTSA Libraries Special txsau_ms00403_000162Collections to celebrate Adams’ 125th anniversary. Included in the collection are print materials including booklets, logos, recipes. Also part of the collections are posters and photographs. The majority of the materials have been digitized and can be viewed by accessing the Adams Flavors, Foods, and Ingredients, LLC records finding aid.

Highlights of the collection are recipes from the 1960s. HemisFair Burgers, Rum Pie, and Prize Winning Pound Cake are just a few of the mid-century tasty treats whipped up by Adams.

HemisFair Burger recipe, 1967

HemisFair Burger recipe, 1967

Adams wanted to make sure future home makers were prepared to make delicious meals for their families. The company sponsored a Teenage Bake-off contest and published the winning recipes in a cookbook. This poster shows one of the proud winners promoting the Teenage Bake-off Award Winning Recipes Cookbook.

Teenage Bake-off cookbook offer poster, 1966

Teenage Bake-off cookbook offer poster, 1966

While print materials make up the bulk of the Adams Flavors, Foods, and Ingredients, LLC records, the collection includes several boxes of actual product. Imitation Black Walnut flavor, Imitation Jamaica Rum, Pure Peppermint Extract, Pure Orange Extract, Imitation Butter Flavor, and of course, Adams Best Vanilla are a few of the Adams flavors preserved in bottles at UTSA Special Collections. ___________________________________________________________________

1. Adams Extract: History, retrieved February 18, 2014 -

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