My parents bought their house in 1968; since my father's death two months ago, my brothers and I have been sorting through the contents--an emotional task made especially daunting by the fact that both parents were champion Keepers. We've found receipts dating back to the early 1950s, multiple photocopies of trivia quizzes from Elderhostel trips taken almost 20 years ago, and unopened packages of twin-size cotton-polyester sheets in perky floral patterns from the late 1960s.
And last weekend, on an expedition into the deep recesses of the walk-in pantry, my brother Michael discovered more artifacts.
I don't remember ever seeing this can or hearing of this brand. Right under the "Gumption" product name you can just barely see the line "Made in England." But someone evidently Americanized the copy on the reverse side, which includes the words stove and aluminum. In Britain they'd have been cooker and aluminium. That aside, what a great name and what a fabulous use of type! I counted seven fonts, but I may have missed one. Though it's difficult to discern, at the very top there's a cartoon mascot whose head is shaped like a scrub brush. That's "Little Gumption" himself.
Gumption was apparently acquired by Clorox, which continues to sell it in the United Kingdom.
I wasn't familiar with this product, either:
From the looks of the spokesmodel drawing, it dates from the early 1960s. At the time, Zud was manufactured by Boyle-Midway in New York; the company was later acquired by American Home Products, which sold it in 1990 to British household-products giant Reckitt Benckiser. And whaddya know: you can still buy Zud, albeit with a snappy new logo. The product must be really good to have survived such a leaden name.
I definitely remember Peter Pan peanut butter, although not necessarily this 28-ounce can:
According to a Wikipedia entry, Peter Pan peanut butter was introduced in 1920 by the Derby Foods division of Swift & Company under the name "E.K. Pond." That may have sounded uncomfortably close to Pond's cold cream (introduced in 1914); for whatever reason, the peanut butter got its current name in 1928. You opened the can with the key that you detached from the base. (In a kitchen drawer, Michael and I found a small collection of peanut-butter-can keys.) The Wikipedia entry says that cans were discontinued during World War II because of metal shortages, but this design appears to date from the late 1940s or early 1950s. Wikipedia jogged my memory about a Peter Pan slogan: "Picky people pick Peter Pan peanut butter, it's the peanut butter picky people pick."
The Peter Pan brand is now owned by ConAgra. It was the subject of a 2007 recall because of a salmonella outbreak.
Finally, this bit of paper packaging, saved for who knows what reason:
The futuristic logo (and the pricetag from Fedco, a consumers' cooperative where our family frequently shopped) would seem to date this package from the early 1960s. Again: amazing use of typography. The Goodell Company of Antrim, New Hampshire, was established in 1875; besides the Hampshire Spreader, it also made the Perfect Pencil Pointer, a pencil sharpener. The Antrim website mentions the company in passing and includes this poignant paragraph about the town:
Today most farms and factories are gone. Some of the mill buildings still stand, but they are no longer used for manufacturing, The schools and Frameworks are the largest employers. Most townspeople work in bigger surrounding towns like Peterborough and Hillsboro.
And most of the utensils used in American kitchens are manufactured in China.
My parents didn't hang onto these products because of their nostalgic design. I'm sure they believed there was some useful life left in them. The Gumption and Zud were still part full; the Peter Pan can served as a container for paper clips and such. The cardboard spreader package? Possibly saved as a reminder of the bargain price.
But I started wondering: Is there any current consumer packaging that I treasure enough to save? How about you?