Friday, March 24, 2017

Pork and Beans

Recognizing the need for the growing population of the United State to have fruits and vegetables in the winter, Gilbert Van Camp, along with two partners, constructed the first commercial cold storage, and within a year was canning foods for sale. His business took off when he secured a contract to provide foods to the Union army.  Van Camp Pork and Beans soon became a staple for the troops. When the war ended, Van Camp’s business soared as veterans wanted to purchase the foods they’d come to know.

The ‘tomato sauce’ based pork and beans which became famous and is still produced today was invented by Gilbert’s son Frank in 1894. Within four years they were selling over six million cans of these beans each year. Van Camp’s Pork and Beans are still the second most popular canned beans, second to Bush’s Baked Beans. Frank also founded Van Camp’s Seafood (the name was later changed to Chicken of the Sea due to the popularity of the canned tuna fish slogan).

Preserving foods in tin cans verses glass jars started in the early 1800’s, however it was very labor intensive and expensive because each can had to be handmade out of tinned wrought iron.  The cans were also very large. Meat and pea soup were the most popular and the main market for canned foods at that time was sailing vessels. During that time, canned foods became a status symbol due to its price and a novelty. Nevertheless, there was soon a demand for canned foods, and by the mid-1800’s several inventions had been created to produce smaller machine made cans. It then became a race to meet the public’s demand for varieties of canned foods. Milk, meat, vegetables, soups, fruits, and other novel foodstuffs. Companies were soon able to manufacture bulk supplies of nonperishable foods, and by the end of the Civil War, the working class were able to afford canned foods, saving them from having to shop every day. Canned foods also became available for those heading west.

Even though the can had been around for some fifty years, the can-opener had not. The suggested way to open a can was with a chisel and hammer.  Ezra Warner invented the first can opener in 1858. Due to the fact it left a very jagged and sharp edge, it wasn’t overly popular. And it was very expensive. It also had several parts that broke rather easily, and were not replaceable. Warner’s can opener did serve the troops during the Civil War, and could be found in some stores, where the clerk would open the can for the customer before they left the store.  The hammer and chisel method, or whatever way people discovered to open their cans, continued to be the primary way to open cans until several other can openers, in a variety of shapes and sizes, were invented and became marketable.  The one we still know today, with the wheel that rolls around the rim of the can, was invented in 1870 by William Lyman.

One last tidbit…In 1974 samples of canned foods that had been recovered from the wreckage of a steamboat that had sunk in 1865 in the Missouri River were opened and the contents tested. The appearance, smell, and nutritional value of the contents had deteriorated, but there was no trace of spoilage or contamination and the 109 year-old-foods were determined safe to eat. 

On a final note, I have a new release. The Cowboy's Orphan Bride

Reunited with the cowboy! 
Long ago, orphans Bridgette Banks and Garth McCain made a promise to stay together. But it's been years since they were parted, and Bridgette's almost given up hope! So when Garth's cattle trail passes her town, she won't let him leave her behind again…

Sparks fly as they're reunited—especially when the cowboy catches Bridgette telling everyone she's his bride! Faced with a past he thought he'd lost forever, Garth realizes this impulsive beauty might be the future he never thought he deserved.


  1. I remember my parents canning veggies from the garden and foods they made like catsup and jam. They spent so much time and energy doing that, but of course, they did it because they enjoyed it. However, I can certainly understand why buying canned goods was so popular, and still is.
    I watched a documentary on the attempts to find an ocean pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans through the northern part of Canada. One particular group got stuck in the ice, but they were prepared with canned food to survive. The canned goods were sealed with lead. They all died from lead poisoning.
    This was a delightful article, Lauri.
    I want to wish you tremendous success with THE COWBOY'S ORPHANED BRIDE.

  2. Interesting article, Lauri. I love Bush's Baked Beans but when I was a youngster, my mom always kept Van Kamp's Pork and Beans in the cupboard. She often served them with sausage and sauerkraut.

    Opening a can with a chisel and hammer sounds tricky. I don't think I'd like to try it.

  3. My mom always kept Van Camp's Pork and Beans in the cupboard too, but I had no idea they had been around so long. Interesting article, Lauri.

  4. I love this sort of history because it shows how they lived. My hero in the book A Rancher's Request, to be released this fall, opens a lot of cans of beans. (He's really ready for a wife!) Didn't know that Chicken of the Sea was Van Camp's.

    I've also opened too many cans over the years without a can opener. I love the pop tops. So much easier! Isn't it amazing how life changes so much in 150 years?

  5. thank you for the wonderful reference material contained here. "The Cowboy's Orphan Bride" sounds so intriguing. Wishing you many sales.

  6. I have always loved Pork and Beans...I grew up eating them out of the can...and then there were the Beanie Weinies which was pork and beans plus the bits of Weinies.
    I still buy them but baked them with added brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and a little mustard...with a few bacon pieces on top. This makes great Baked Beans.
    I love the cover for your new release. You do so well, Lauri, and we're delighted you're one of us.
    And it's good that your share your spot with Paty Jager..good thinking, and good job.

  7. Thank you, Lauri. I enjoyed this newsletter very much. I look forward to reading your newest release.

  8. Thanks, Lauri, for another good piece of reference material to tuck away. Our historical characters have to eat... good to know what was available to them in what time periods! Good Luck on The Cowboy's Orphan Bride - a lovely cover.


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