16 Great Posters on Preserving Food, When It Was Life or Death

It's that time of year when the harvest is coming in, and people are boiling bottles doing their canning. It has become a popular hobby and a great way to save money, but during World War I and II it was a critical part of the war effort. Twenty million American families had victory gardens, and when autumn came, much of that had to be preserved.

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Waste Not Want Not

credit: McGill Collection

As in this WWI poster from the McGill Canadian War Poster collection shows, mom passed on the skills to daughter. Join the party: Kelly shows you how to can tomatoes.

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Are you a victory canner?

credit: US Dept of Agriculture

Staying on the sidelines for two years meant that Americans were late to the Victory Garden and canning scene, and their posters started off being a little melodramatic, with a young lady liberty dressed in the flag.

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Prepare for the next war

credit: National War Garden Commission

She got around; this version confused me, preparing for the next war. America had just entered the first one.

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credit: Carter Housh

More subtle and more interesting is this series of posters by Carter Housh, who was an illustrator for McCalls in a sort of Maxfield Parrish / art deco style. I just love these, wonderful graphic design.

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Carter Housh

credit: Carter Housh

This is my favorite: Columbia gets canning.

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Uncle Sam

credit: Carter Housh

It's not just women's work; Uncle Sam got into it too.

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Women, Get to Work!

credit: Pennsylvania State College

Although at Penn State, it is clearly the women who are the fount of canning wisdom.

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London calling

credit: Food Production Department London

It was much the same in Britain, although there are not a lot of canning posters to be found.

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Can All You Can WWI

credit: National War Garden Commission

Can all you Can was a popular slogan in World War I.

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Can all You Can WWII

credit: University of Minnesota

This carried right through to World War II.

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Am I Proud!

credit: Hennepin collection

This poster is perhaps the most famous of the WWII canning posters, you can see it everywhere.

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You can learn

credit: unknown

This looks rather like my old darkroom, now lined with shelves and full of my wife's canning, although that certainly doesn't look like Kelly.

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Lots to eat

credit: Hennepin collection

And my favorite WWII canning poster, the mom and daughter in matching outfits, hard at work. There is something demonic in that child's eyes, I often wonder what or who is really going into those jars.

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Victory Garden of Tomorrow

credit: Joe Wirtheim

It is still happening; Artist Joe Wirtheim's Victory Garden of Tomorrow project includes this one about preserving. He describes the poster:

Yes-- those are space pickles. Space is a vacuum, the perfect place to can. Preserving food has re-emerged as a household activity. My own grandma would pick local Ohio peaches and strawberries, can them and fill shelves in the basement with these colorful mason jars. Plus, I like how this rack looks like the space station in the film poster of "2001: A Space Odyssey."
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Collect your own!

credit: Library of Congress

If you want to get bigger, better copies or other posters, here are my favorite sources: Library of Congress, Hennepin County Library, Vintage Maine Images University of Minnesota and Beans are Bullets.

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Holy Victory Garden Batman

credit: Superman

Also, I just discovered this, the best collection that I have found yet on Pinterest, by Pam Dewey.