We left Forest City, Iowa and headed north towards Minnesota, another new state for us. Even though Minnesota is known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, the landscape between Iowa and southern Minnesota did not really change. We continued to see farmland, silos and many wind turbines. All beautiful scenery.
Our next stop was four nights at Chester Woods County Park in Eyota. I wasn’t happy to see the signs at the park entrance warning of ticks and Lyme Disease. It was a nice county park with electric only sites. It was about a fifth full while we were there during the week. I am sure it is full on the weekends.
One day we drove to Austin, MN to visit the SPAM Museum. The museum included interactive exhibits and galleries on the history of the company, but was mainly dedicated to their product, SPAM. We didn’t know what to expect but found the museum very interesting. We were welcomed by a friendly greeter and then immediately someone came over to give us a free sample of their teriyaki SPAM. Bill said it was good, I passed.
Hormel Foods Corporation is based in Austin, Minnesota. It was founded in 1891 by George A. Hormel and named George A. Hormel & Company. In 1993 the name was changed to Hormel Foods. Today they have 40 manufacturing and distribution facilities. They developed the world’s first canned ham in 1926. Dinty Moore beef stew and Hormel Chili was introduced in 1935. When the Federal Government abruptly ended a Depression era program to aid livestock farmers which left Hormel with 500,000 empty cans, they decided to sell beef stew. They acquired the Dinty Moore name from another company and sold beef stew for 15 cents a can.
When Hormel introduced their Hormel Chili Con Carne they organized a twenty piece Mexican song and dance troupe called The Hormel Chili Beaners to promote the product and give away samples. They also offered double money back to anyone dissatisfied with their chili.
SPAM luncheon meat was introduced in 1937.
In 1941 Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act, in which the U.S. agreed to provide “as much aid, short of war,” to the people of Great Britain, France and Russia. In response, Hormel Foods supplied 15 million cans weekly. By 1945 over 133 million cans (100 million pounds) of SPAM, had been shipped overseas to feed hungry soldiers and civilians. Nikita Khrushchev once said, “Without SPAM, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army”.
In 1942, the Austin Hormel Foods facility became a War Facility with its workers photographed and fingerprinted and its perimeter fenced. During World War Two, 1,961 Hormel employees went off to to serve with written promises they would have jobs when they returned. By 1944 more than 90% of the canned food produced by Hormel Foods was destined for war operations. Supplying food to troops has continued through the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars and recently in the Middle East.
SPAM Fun Facts:
- SPAM can be stored in the can for up to five years.
- SPAM is sold in 44 countries around the world.
- Over 8 billion cans of SPAM products have been sold.
- Guam is the largest consumer of SPAM with an annual average of 16 cans per person. Hawaii is second.
- The SPAM JAM Festival is one of Hawaii’s largest festivals every year.
- There are now over thirteen varieties of SPAM.
- SPAM products are made from six simple ingredients.
- Hawaii consumes 8+ million cans a year, more SPAM products than any other state. It is sold all over the islands including at 7-Eleven, McDonalds and Burger King.
- In 2015 the SPAM Portuguese Sausage was created for Hawaii.
- Dwight Eisenhower said in a letter to Hormel Foods on their 75th anniversary, “I ate my share of SPAM along with millions of soldiers. I’ll even confess to a few unkind remarks about it. As former Commander in Chief, I officially forgive you of your only sin: sending us so much of it”.
- A U.S. Marine on leave from the South Pacific once said, “You never fully realize how delicious and good SPAM really is until you taste it out here in the bottom of a fox hole”.
Minnesota Fun Facts:
- Even though it is nicknamed “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, there are actually around 15,000 lakes in Minnesota.
- Legend is that Paul Bunyan’s Blue Ox named Babe trampled the land leaving his footprints in the mud which created 10,000 lakes. Along roadways throughout Minnesota are statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe. The real geological story is the grinding force of advancing and retreating glaciers left behind beautiful lakes and vast, fertile prairie.
- The state was built by immigrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Finland, and other areas of Europe.
- Early settlers used prairie grass sod that was cut and stacked to build crude shelters. Many lived in these for years until they could afford to build a wooden prairie home. This is described in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s account in “Little House on the Prairie”.
- Minnesota is known for formidable winters with intense cold and large amounts of snow. The first snowmobile was used in Minnesota.
- The first permanent settlement was in 1819 at Fort St Anthony, later renamed Fort Snelling.
- In 1858 Minnesota became the 32nd state.
- In 1863 Dr William Mayo started a medical practice in Rochester that later became the Mayo Clinic.