What Do You Cook at Home for Dick? Advertising Spam in the 20th Century

A man called Ken Daigneau came up with the name Spam first. It was for a 1937 competition held by Hormel a food manufacturing company and he won a generous $100. It seemed a slightly unfair contest as he was the brother of a Hormel executive. What the name actually means is “known only by a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives but it’s probably an abbreviation of “spiced ham or shoulders of pork and ham”.

It is just about possible to say that without Spam Hitler might have won World War 2. The difficulty of delivering fresh meat to the front during World War II saw Spam become a ubiquitous part of the U.S. soldier’s diet. It became variously referred to as “ham that didn’t pass its physical”, “meatloaf without basic training”,[1] and “Special Army Meat”. According to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink over 150 million pounds of Spam were purchased by the military before the war’s end. From 1939 the canned pork meat became ubiquitous both in the UK (although rationed, it was generally easily available and not subject to supply shortages, as were other meats) and in the Soviet Union. Margaret Thatcher had fond memories of the reconstituted pink meat and once referred to it once as a “wartime delicacy”. Nikita Khrushchev went much further and actually said: “without Spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army”. It they hadn’t been able to feed their army the Nazis would have invaded Russia and the history of the world would have been completely different. Although on the plus side, no one would have had to eat Spam.

The normal can of Spam contains chopped pork shoulder, ham meat, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar and sodium nitrite and as recently as the 1990s almost four cans of this reconstituted pork were eaten every second in America. It is also sold in over 40 different countries.

1941 Food Ad, Hormel Spam, Kids As G-Men

1943 - Spam for Victory! Published in the May 1943 issue of Woman's Day magazine

1959 Spam Advertisement Readers Digest February 1959

1966 Spam Spread Advertisement Readers Digest January 1966

1977 Food Ad, Hormel Deviled Spam

As Much Fun As Fish Fingers... But not as much as real food.

Join Hands With Spam National Geographic, July 1944

Make Your Summer Night Sensational With Spam Better Living, June 1951

Peach Fiesta Spam Loaf

Shout Out For Spam 1940.

Spam 1966


Spam ad 1958 Which Spam Dinner is top winner

Spam ad From McCall's, December 1967


Spam Hormel Food Advertising National Geographic July 1947

Spam Published in Good Housekeeping, December 1962

Spam Spread Good Housekeeping, September 1968

Uncle Sam Must Cook A Lot of Spam Birds National Geographic, 1944


Spam is so popular throughout Hawaii that it’s been nicknamed the “Hawaiian steak”.

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