Cooking, History Class, Uncategorized, World War 2

World War 2 History and SPAM® (The Meat, Not the Mail)

On my last run to Costco a few weeks ago, they had a whiteboard set up listing items that were out of stock. One of them was “SPAM,” which got me thinking that this might be time to revisit an old post on the history of that iconic, tinned meat.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did!


Image courtesy of Pixabay
spam can

Growing up as a Minnesota girl, I visited many of the state’s unique sites.

I waded across the headwaters of the Mississippi, and travelled underground 3/4 mile into the Soudan iron mine. I saw the giant statue of Paul Bunyan in Brainerd, and visited sites from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s journeys. I’ve even waved to the Jolly Green Giant, keeping watch up on the hills above LeSueur.

But I’ve never yet made it to the site with arguably the most unique historical flavor–the Spam Museum in Austin, MN.

Opened in 2001, the SPAM® Museum celebrates the history of those iconic blue cans of meat. Love it or hate it, Spam does have some interesting history.

The year was 1937, during the later half of the Great Depression. The Hormel meat company of Austin, MN, spearheaded by the founder’s son, Jay, looked for ways to expand their fresh-meat business into canned goods.

After trial and error, he successfully produced a moist canned meat made from pork shoulder. The company VP’s brother, Ken Daigneau, won the honor of christening the new product, and thus “Spam” was born.

The timing couldn’t have been better.

Hostilities of the of the Second World War opened in 1939, and FDR signed the Lend-Lease Act in 1941, by which the U.S. agreed to aid Allied countries while remaining officially neutral. Supplying the countries and troops embroiled in the conflict became a challenge.

What better product to send abroad to aid Great Britain, the USSR, and later to feed U.S. troops than easily-shipped canned meats like SPAM®? According to the official SPAM® website, over 100 million pounds were shipped to the troops alone.

Of course, even for fans of SPAM®, there’s always the possibility of too much of a good thing. According to one source, jokes such as “Spam is a ham that didn’t pass its physical” were common.

Still, the canned meat helped feed millions. Not bad for an underutilized cut of pork, salt, potato starch, sugar and water.

SPAM® doesn’t seem to be going anywhere today. Featuring 15 flavors including “Hot and Spicy,” “Teriyaki” and “SPAM® with Portuguese Sausage Seasoning,” it is sold in forty-four countries around the world. In 2012, as SPAM® celebrated its 75th anniversary, the company produced its eight millionth can.

Maybe we’ll make it to Austin next time we’re in the Midwest. For the time being, since I can’t think of Spam without singing Monty Python’s  Spam song, here it is for your listening pleasure!

My Spamariffic sources for this post are as follows:

So, are you a SPAM® fan? I haven’t had it for a while, though a friend from Hawaii made a wonderful rice dish with it a few years back. How do you like your SPAM®?

Many thanks for visiting!


25 thoughts on “World War 2 History and SPAM® (The Meat, Not the Mail)”

  1. Indeed, SPAM was a lifesaver during WWII. While not part of the infamous “C-Rations”, SPAM made up a large portjon of “B-Rations”.

    In 1947, Dad was deployed to Tokyo as part of the Occupation; he was a sergeant in the US 8tg Army’s Military Intelligence Service. One of his “family’s” missions as soon as he docked was to search for his motger and brother in Hiroshima. When he finally found his mother still alive being care for by my cousin Masako, he carried with him two duffle bags filled with US Army C-rats… and SPAM. Masako said it was the most delicious thing she had ever eaten after almost ten years of not finding food due to the war.

    To this day, SPAM is a delicacy for Masako.


    Liked by 4 people

    1. Wow. What a fascinating piece of family history- thanks so much for sharing it. What a tremendous blessing it must have been- especially to have that bag full of something filling, and something that wouldn’t spoil!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My dad, a WWII veteran wouldn’t let it in the house so I thought it must taste awful. Apparently he was fed too much of it. I was surprised when I tasted later that it was not so bad. Thanks for the memories.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh funny! I don’t really mind the taste of it either, but from some of the stories, it sounds like some of the men over there had more than enough of it!
      Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Anne Clare – it was both a useful meat … and now provides a great sketch by Monty Python – the clip I saw as I couldn’t open yours … actually said that they tried to close down the Monty Python sketch – but in the end sponsored the show!! also ‘explained’ how ‘spam’ as a moniker came about. (It was in YouTube – under ‘Spam stems from Monty Python sketch’). We had spam on occasions … cheap and cheerful for kids I guess – with extra veg! Take care and happy memories. Your museum tours looked interesting … stay safe too – Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh that’s interesting, Hilary, I suppose there would be an issue with Python using the brand name- I’m glad the sketch still happened!
      You stay safe and healthy, too!


      1. Hi Anne Clare – yes … looking back on brand names is really often quite interesting let alone the time frame part. Not sure about Python though: I want to write about it sometime (possibly not soon – yet equally could be next week!) … yes eating better now than many decades later … mind you my parents grew all our veg and fruit … so all well there. Take care – Hilary

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating as ever, Anne! I haven’t had Spam for years, but do remember Spam fritters being one of the more disgusting offerings on the school menu. Glad you gave the Monty P sketch a mention, though sadly it seemed to be blocked ‘for copyright reasons’. All the best to you and your family at these difficult times – at least the kids have a professional in charge of home schooling!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know, Mike, the kids almost had Spam for a “school lunch”- since I’m now school- since I reposted this and was thinking about it, but the can I was sure I had seems to have walked away. Hmmmm…
      The school at home has been…interesting. It is hectic, but the teachers at our little school have done a really tremendous job at making it all work. Since I’ve still got my classes, too, I’m spending a lot of time talking to myself on “zoom,” recording myself teaching. (Don’t think I’ll share my videos, though. Unless my blogging friends want some distance Art or Reading lessons… :))
      Hmmm, I will look in to the Python link and see if there is one that works.
      Take care!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Have no fear- it might be back now! It’s been about a month since I did a Costco run.
      Yes, you should! I’m planning on revisiting some older posts once a month or so- there are good ones back there and many of my followers weren’t around on their first run. (And if this second book is EVER gonna get finished, I need to dedicate more of my scant writing time to it. 😬)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Gah, yes! Good thinking. How’s school stuff holding up? I find it interesting that Bash’s teacher sent a whole new learning packet home with 3 weeks’ worth of learning materials, while Biff’s teacher sent…his gym shoes. His markers. No work whatsoever. Sigh.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Bwahaha- interesting is one word for that! Our little school got really organized really fast so the littles have regular daily assignments and online instruction, and I’m still recording lessons on zoom. Our staff are terrific and it’s about as good as it can be, but it’s lot more work for everyone-teachers, parents, even kids (lots of self discipline needed, and my kids are tired of it.) I’m glad we are out in 3 weeks.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Our son Dan asked about SPAM so we bought a can. He loved it! On Scout campouts, when it was his unit’s turn to plan, shop for, and cook the meals, they always fixed “SPAM McMuffins.” He earned the nickname Spam and even had it on his letter jacket instead of his name.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve always been interested in ‘the way things were’, but your knowledge on history, especially in the World War eras, seem to be off the charts. Am loving the theme I’m seeing in your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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