Theodore Marks, former president of the local food company known for its steaming, Northwest Baltimore billboard that advertised chili sauce, died in his sleep Wednesday at his Park Heights Avenue home. He was 91.
Mr. Marks was the chief of Recipe Foods, which advertised Bennett's Chili Sauce using real steam rerouted from company caldrons cooking batches of salad dressings. The idea was Mr. Marks'.
Said Mr. Marks' son, Marvin Marks of Baltimore: "It was a three-dimensional street-level sign that featured a lady stirring a bowl of chili."
In 1936, Mr. Marks founded Marks Prize Recipe Foods, which later merged with Bennett's to form Recipe Foods. The new company, in the 4800 block of Garrison Blvd., was the nation's largest private manufacturer of mayonnaise, salad dressings and other food products, such as powdered soft drinks.
"Bennett's Mayonnaise was very well-known and it was also the private-label mayonnaise for Giant, Food Fair and Publix Markets," said Marvin Marks. "The old advertising slogan was that Bennett's was 'Butter Firm.' You could turn a jar upside down and it wouldn't move."
In addition to supplying sauces for Burger King, the company made and supplied Ameche 35, the sauce named for football great Alan "The Horse" Ameche and the number on the jersey he wore when he was a member of the Baltimore Colts championship teams. The Ameche sauce gave Gino's hamburgers their distinctive taste.
Mr. Marks was president of Recipe Foods until it was sold in 1966. He was a past president of the Mayonnaise and Salad Dressing Manufacturers' Association.
After the sale of the sauce company, Mr. Marks became the owner of the original Thrifty Car Rental franchise in Maryland, and later founded Marks Auto Leasing, a business he sold to the Heritage Automotive Group in the 1980s.
Born and raised on Oakley Avenue, Mr. Marks was a 1926 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and attended the Maryland Institute, College of Art. He worked in the advertising department of the May Co. and Pompeian Olive Oil Co. before starting his food business.
A prolific painter of landscapes, portraits and copies of classic artworks, Mr. Marks also enjoyed singing and was seldom seen without a Grateful Dead T-shirt designed by one of his grandsons.
As a young man, Mr. Marks studied public speaking in a course taught by then-Baltimore Mayor Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin. He often repeated a McKeldin axiom -- painted on the wall behind Mr. Marks' desk -- that he adopted as his own: "Hang on until you can't hang on any longer, then don't let go."
He was a charter member of Beth El Synagogue and a member for more than 50 years of the Woodholme Country Club, where he enjoyed golfing and playing bridge.
Services were held yesterday at Sol Levinson & Bros.
Mr. Marks is also survived by his wife of 69 years, the former Ida Blumberg; a daughter, Barbara Rollman of London, Ontario; two brothers, Isaac Marks and Benjamin Marks, both of Baltimore; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.