The food manufacturer Beech-Nut has roots going back to 1891, “to the Mohawk Valley town of Canajoharie, New York,” about an hour northwest of Albany. A number of men, including Bartlett Arkell, “founded The Imperial Packing Co. with the production of Beech-Nut ham.”
The company was incorporated as the Beech-Nut Packing Company in 1899. In 1900, the company’s sales were $200,000. Engineers from Beech-Nut patented the first vacuum jar with a design that included a gasket and top that could remain intact in transit and became a standard of the industry.
During the first 25 years of the 20th century, the company expanded its product line into peanut butter, jam, pork and beans, ketchup, chili sauce, mustard, spaghetti, macaroni, marmalade, caramel, fruit drops, mints, chewing gum, and coffee.
While the former Canajoharie plant was sold by Beech Nut in late 2013, the over-a-century long relationship is captured at the Arkell Museum, which my family visited in August 2014. Because we got a pass from the Albany Public Library, the museum stop was free. It is located in the building with the Canajoharie Library.
Check out just a piece of the Beech Nut collection. Like many businesses in the first half of the 20th century, there was a circus motif with some of the advertising. In the 1930s Beech-Nut Gum and Candies toured the country with six miniature circuses housed in custom-built buses. “Illustrator Frederic Stanley created artwork which featured Rosie Rieffenach, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey bareback rider.”
Other name artists, including Norman Rockwell (graphic above), also contributed to the advertisements. He has captured a real phenomenon of the period, the Beech Nut gum girls, who would give away sticks in order to entice folks to buy packs of gum.