Museum Musings

Fall is coming, you can feel it in the air. The crisp early mornings cause one to shiver, ever so slightly. School has started and those with gardens are finishing their harvest of home grown goodness. The race to get the harvest put up is on. It’s a mad dash to purchase new canning jar lids and bags of sugar for the homemade jelly.

An afternoon walk through the museum grounds offers a unique look at how a typical early 20th century household prepared their garden produce. Located in the Cherry Creek Depot is the home of the station master and his family. The kitchen is small, with a wood stove taking up most of the space. Lining the shelves are the necessities of everyday life in the 1940s.

Resting on the wood stove is a 1930 era “National Canning Supply” pressure canner. It‘s an impressive 16 pounds (empty). The rare 30-quart canner can weigh up to 50 pounds empty. With the coming of World War II, the entire country climbed on board to support the war effort.

The National company renamed their canner, “The National VICTORY Canner.” Magazines, newspapers and the National War Garden Commission gave information on how to can. Slogans ranged from “Save The Surplus” to “Be A Soldier of the Soil.”

In food preservation history, canning is a veritable infant. In 1795, Napoleon offered a hefty reward to whomever could preserve food for his army. Basing his idea on bottling wine and 15 years of experimentation, Nicholas Appert determined that if food is sufficiently heated and properly sealed, it would not spoil. Skipping ahead to 1813, the first commercial canning factory was built in England. Shortly after, Thomas Kensett, an immigrant to the United States, established the first U.S. canning facility in New York.

Until the mid-1800s, tin cans were the standard for food containers. In 1858, John Mason invented the glass canning jar which used a rubber gasket and screw top lid. Quickly other manufactures such as Atlas, Ball and Kerr, began developing canning jars. The biggest innovation came in 1915 with the creation of the metal lid with a permanently attached gasket.

Not much has changed in the canning industry, the canners are now made of recyclable steel and most canners have a threaded closure compared to the lid being secured with multiple wing nuts. With good care, even canners made prior to WWII can and are being used today.

The art of canning doesn’t belong to just our Grandparents. It’s a useful and healthy tool that should be taught to everyone. It causes one to go at a slower pace and to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

Slow your hectic pace with a visit to the White Pine Public Museum. The museum is open daily 10-4. For more information call 289-4710.

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