Canned Nostalgia: The Myth of "Of Course I Can!" and the Rise of the Commercial Food Industry in the United States


  • Carolyn Speer Schmidt Wichita State University


American nostalgia, wartime, WWI, WWII, Victory Gardens, home food production, canning, rationing, commercial food production, history of food production, food preservation


On June 10, 2011, the National Archives exhibit, "What's Cooking Uncle Sam?" opened for a six-month run in Washington D.C., and subsequently, it has toured the United States.1 The exhibit, which contains numerous artifacts, government documents, and images, explores the attempts the American government has made to impact what people eat. From the turn of the twentieth century forward, the U.S. government " ... has ... attempted, with varying success, to change the eating habits of Americans."2 Its many efforts have included governmental calls to increase the home production of food during wartime. Images such the iconic "Of Course I Can!" poster from the World War Two era evoke a nostalgia that remains powerful in the modern United States. In fact, reproductions of these images are readily available for sale.3