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- Tin Can Tell-All: Revealing Virginia’s Role in the Canning Trade


Goode Canning Company, Bedford County, VA, circa 1900-1915. “Virginia’s Forgotten Canneries” exhibition.

Canned foods have become an everyday part of our lives. Most people have at least a few cans in their kitchen pantry, but far fewer know the critical role Virginia played in the commercial canning industry in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. For the past few months, the Library of Virginia’s Second Floor Reading Rooms have played host to the traveling exhibit Virginia’s Forgotten Canneries. Created by the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, located in Ferrum, Virginia, this installation looks at the visual and material impact of the Virginia canning trade.

Following the Civil War, American cities grew increasingly urbanized and industrialized, with many families moving away from the self-sufficient agricultural traditions seen in centuries past. Because of this, “convenience cooking” and the demand for canned commodities rose rapidly, and canning developed into a successful national industry. Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia led the canning trade, with nearly half of the nation’s canneries operating within their bounds. In Virginia, canneries began to pop up wherever there was steamboat or railway access to transport their finished products. This created two major canning regions in Virginia—the coastal area around Northern Neck and the Eastern Shore and the mountainous Blue Ridge region, centering on Bedford and Botetourt counties.

Tomatoes became the major canning “vegetable” for Virginia packers, with hundreds of canneries focused on … read more »

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