The hydropower of Niagara Falls has long provided advertisers and marketers with an all-purpose symbolic vehicle for representing various products. For example, the Shredded Wheat Company once used such an image on boxes of its famous biscuits produced at the company's model factory in Niagara Falls, N.Y. The combination of factory and falls visually communicates a utopian synthesis of nature and technology.
Similar nationally advertised brands and mass consumption in general functioned in the late 19th/early 20th century as mundane instruments for making Americans out of recent European immigrants. The historian Andrew Heinze, in his book Adapting to Abundance, recounts a story from the 1916 memoir of Elizabeth Stern, whose family came to New York City from Poland in 1891. Stern recalled the embarrassing moment when, as a new high school student, she first opened her lunch: a mass of fried potatoes and a crushed tomato wrapped in newspaper. By contrast, "the American students had precisely packaged meals--neat, regular-sized sandwiches, square paper napkins and lunch boxes." The fearful symmetry of these lunches, along with the criticism of her peers, shamed Stern into throwing her lunches away. Heinze adds that many of these students were probably using as lunch boxes the distinctive packages of "Uneeda Biscuits"--lowly soda crackers heavily and successfully advertised by a chain of bakeries stretching from Maine to Louisiana and Colorado and incorporated in 1898 as the National Biscuit Company. Thus, an unfamiliar way of presenting lunches in public initially made Elizabeth Stern feel that she did not belong, but eventually provided her with the practical means for shared participation in an emerging American identity.