Thursday, August 04, 2016

Thursday Thirteen: Canning Companies

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, local farmers had canneries. At one time in my area there were nearly 200 canneries. Most of them put up tomatoes. Around 1919, this area was the second-largest tomato-production area in the nation (a county in Maryland was first).

A blight came through and killed much of the tomato crop, and in so doing made the ground unproductive for tomatoes (even today it is hard to grow tomatoes here). The blight crushed the industry, and those who survived the blight then suffered after World War II from government regulations as big farming and packaging companies took over and put the smaller farming industries out of business.

The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum in Ferrum, VA currently has a display of labels from these many companies. Each little cannery had it's own label for cans and packing crates. These labels are all from my little part of the world.

The labels were very colorful and unique.
Each farmer created his own design and brand.
Many of these family names can still be found in the area today.
The labels described the product as "mountain grown"
or used some other descriptive advertisement.

This explains how the canneries grew and then collapsed.

Farmers also grew and canned apples, sweet potatoes, and
 other fruits and vegetables.
This is what a cannery looked like. Many of these old buildings can still be found in the area.
These labels were used on packing crates.
A tree of cans with the labels still attached. Each one is different.
Three local cans from my community.

The collection is on display courtesy of Mr. Charlie Woods, who has generously donated his collection
to the Blue Ridge Institute.
Many of the labels were made in nearby Bedford by the Piedmont Label Company. It is
still in business under another name.


  1. such artwork on cans I am showing to a friend -I come from a family of canners

  2. My grandmother and her sisters, who lived in Lithia, worked in one of the local canneries before they married. I wish I knew which one.

  3. It was certainly a different time. It was cool that there were so many small operation running back then, but I'll bet they had more food safety issues, too.

  4. Troutville and Purity brands Labels seem familiar to me, especially Purity, but I'm sure it's from early childhood in Ohio. How wonderful that Smyth Printers are still in business.

  5. We have an old broke down one in Floyd. You can still read the sign and the road name is "Canning Factory." They just built a new processing kitchen at Riverstone Organic Farm in Floyd where they will be canning their food, among other things.

  6. Very cool. Different times, eh?

  7. I am amazed that so many canneries could survive well together before the blight. The blight must have been devastating. Incredible range of label designs.


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