The 'Where' of Food

“And I go to Covent Garden Market.  I go to the Western Fair Farmers Market.  Food Basics, No Frills…”
Kate Albert, Canadian, Anishinaabe Father and English Mother, June 2015

“I think back to the days when I came here, we used to have to get [spices] from Guyana but now it’s available everywhere.”
Narida Ghani, Guyanese Canadian, July 2015

Dairy | Produce | Maple Syrup | Meat | Baked Goods | Packaged Convenience Foods

How close are you to the production of the food you eat? Over time, the proximity of Londoners to the people who produced and processed their food has varied.

Early Londoners had to produce many of their own foodstuffs or buy them from local growers and manufacturers.

Late 19th century industrialization brought change. New transportation networks and refrigeration spurred greater distribution of foods, at home and abroad. More factories produced new prepared foods, marketed as “must have” ingredients.

Londoners had choices. They could produce their own foods. They could buy from local growers and manufacturers. They could buy foods imported from across Canada and the world.

What do you do?




Horatio Walker, 1858-1938
Milk Carrier, undated
Watercolour on Paper
Purchased with Funds from the Mitchell Bequest, 1958.


Butter Churns
These two churns for home butter production look different but they do the same thing. They use human power to agitate cream. This causes fat in the cream to clump together and form butter.

The first is a barrel churn. It is operated by rocking the handlebar back and forth, causing the barrel to rotate. The second is a box churn. Wooden paddles inside the churn move the cream as the crank on the left side is turned.
Daisy Barrel Churn, Gift of Mr. Edward Phelps, London, Ontario, 1975.
Box Churn, Gift of Mr. John Moore, 1990.


Butter Churning Competition
Here, women pose beside their barrel churns. They are competing to make the best butter at London’s Western Fair in 1911. Women continued to make their own butter at home well into the 20th century. Butter production moved to factories in the early 20th century. Inventors had found new, more efficient ways to separate cream and to test the butterfat content of milk.
Hines’ Studio Collection, Western Archives, Western University, London, Canada.

George P. Rickard, -2002
Scottsville Cheese Factory, Scottsville, Ontario, 1995
Pen and Ink on Paper
Gift of Mr. Raymond Crinklaw, 1995.



Milk Bottles
These are milk bottles from Silverwood’s Dairy, Saul’s Guernsey Dairy and Robb’s Dairy. They were three of many dairies that once operated in London. Before the introduction of bottles in 1884, milk was poured milk into jugs and buckets provided by the buyer. It was hard, if not impossible, to keep the milk free of contaminants.
Milk Bottles, Gift of Dr. J. Malcolm Smith, London, Ontario, 1999 and 2002.


Bottling Milk
This photograph shows the interior of a milk bottling factory during the Second World War.
Photograph, Gift of Alan Gleason, Sarnia, Ontario, 2004.


“The Milk for Babies”
The Mark Ayres Dairy marketed its products by emphasizing their safety. Contaminated milk had once contributed to high infant mortality rates in Canadian cities. Pasteurization – the process of heating milk to kill pathogens like E. Coli – changed this. In 1938, Ontario passed a law requiring dairies to put this practice in place. By that time, many London dairies had already done so.
Painting, Gift of Mrs. Kathleen Speake, London, Ontario, 1985.



Market Gardening
Here, labourers work in a London area market garden in the 1920s. As the city expanded, market gardeners grew a variety of produce. This, in turn, they sold at local markets like the Covent Garden Market and to local wholesalers.
Canada. Dept. of Interior / Library and Archives Canada / PA-043239.

"For the health and occupation of patients…”
This sign advertised the sale of fruits and vegetables produced at the London Asylum. Using this plow, as well as other farm implements, patients participated in “moral therapy.” They grew cabbages, onions, tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, strawberries and gooseberries, among other crops. What the patients and staff could not eat, they sold to Londoners.
Sign, Plow, Gift from St. Joseph's Health Care London, 2008.

“We have almost three quarters of an acre of land and my husband really enjoys gardening…I grow my own grape leaves for making stuffed grape leaves.”
Jessie Amery, Lebanese Canadian Muslim, June 2015


The Home Gardener
This Dominion Seeds Garden Book, this Royal Purple Handbook for the Garden and tools like this trowel served the needs of London and region home gardeners. By the 1880s, growing vegetables at home had become a healthful leisure activity for the growing middle class. They had enough property and time to establish and look after a garden.
Catalogue, Gift of the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, 1979.


Kitchen Garden
In this photograph, taken near London, Ontario, between 1886 and 1891, a woman reads on her verandah. On the far left, you can see that photographer John Hood has included her kitchen garden in the frame.
Photograph, Courtesy London Public Library.


Victory Gardens
This Second World War (1939-1945) poster exhorts Canadians to grow “fighting foods.” During both world wars, governments and private organizations encouraged Canadians to stretch their budgets, augment their diets and help the war effort by growing their own fruits and vegetables.
Victory Garden, 19730004-014, George Mectalf Archival Collection, Canadian War Museum.


Apple barrel screw press

Many of Ontario’s apple growers produced fruit for the export market. Apples were shipped packed into wooden barrels. A screw press like this one was used to secure the head of the barrel once it was filled. The fruit had to be tightly packed to prevent it from being jostled during transit, which would lead to bruising and spoilage.

South Dumfries Historical Society, St. George, ON


Produce Store Interior
The owner of this produce store, circa 1912-1929, presents a wide range of fruits and vegetables for sale. Some were grown in the region. Others, like the pineapples and the bananas, suspended in bunches from the ceiling at the back of the store, were exotic imports.
Hines’ Studio Collection, Western Archives, Western University, London, Canada.


Steele’s Fruit Store
Here, the staff of the Steele Fruit Company stands in front of the King Street store. Signs advertise the sale of bananas and oranges as well as oysters and peanuts. The man on the far right rests his elbow on crates of melons, likely shipped to London by rail.
Photograph, Gift of Mr. Bruce Johnson, Calgary, Alberta, 1982.


Riverforks Community Garden
This is the Riverforks Community Garden, one of 19 in London. London’s community garden program began in 1993. Today, over 500 Londoners participate, growing healthy foods and a healthy community. Said community gardener Barb Bilyea: “These gardens are about sharing food…and the companionship of the people…and there’s so many nationalities.”
Photograph, courtesy Amber Lloydlangston, London, Ontario, 2015.


The Home Vegetable Garden
This 1945 Canadian Legion manual for returned service men and women offers guidance for the home gardener. The table displayed here explains how to keep enough vegetables for a family of five throughout the year. Some required canning and pickling. Others needed to be dried or stored in the cellar.
Book, Gift of the Estate of Mr. Alfred E. Petrie, London, Ontario, 2004.


Preserving Jars
These two jars are for home canning. The ceramic one (left), produced by London’s Glass Brothers Pottery after 1891, included a rubber gasket to seal the contents. But its opaque surface made it impossible to see if the contents had spoiled. The clear glass mason jar (right), manufactured by Crown in 1936 or after, was an improvement.
Jar, Gift of Mr. John Aristone, 1985.
Jar, Collection of Museum London, 1984.


Fruit-Kepe Preserving Tablets
Staff at the British National Fruit Research Station invented Fruit-Kepe tablets during the Second World War (1939-1945). The tablets preserved soft fruits without the use of sugar, a rationed commodity. The homemaker dissolved a tablet into cold water, packed the fruit in jars, covered the fruit with the water and sealed the jars.
Tablets, Gift of Mr. Barry Garton, 1977.

“And among the fruits there are exotic things like June plums, sweetsops, soursops, custard apples, cherimoyas…”
Janet Collins, Canadian born in Jamaica, July 2015



Maple Syrup


Sugaring Off
This sap spout and bucket were used to collect sap from sugar maple trees. Once collected, the sap was boiled to evaporate excess water, leaving behind syrup. If boiled even longer, the sap produced sugar. It was shaped into small cakes using a mold like this. Today, some urban dwellers are tapping their own trees, having first secured permission from their city.
Spout, Bucket, Gift of Mr. George Bycraft, London, Ontario, 1963.
Mold, Transfer from the London Middlesex Historical Society, 1958.



If you eat meat, where do you get it? Do you buy it at the grocery store or from a local butcher? Perhaps you buy direct from farmers who you know raise their animals ethically? Do you have religious requirements that you must satisfy? Maybe you like to hunt or fish? Past Londoners had similar choices and constraints.


“More and more I’m trying to find some ethically raised meat.  I’m not a vegetarian.  I quite enjoy meat…”
Melissa Taylor-Gates, Caucasian Canadian, June 2015


Fishing and Hunting
In this oil painting (top), Herman Heimlich depicts a fish laid out on a platter. Perhaps it was fresh caught from a river or lake.


Fishing at Pond Mills

Here, a man fishes in Pond Mills in the late 19th or early 20th century. Today, people still fish there and have caught bass and crappie.
Photograph, Gift of Mr. Albert Coventry, 1982.


Butcher Shop
In this pre-First World War (1914-1918) photograph, you see the interior of a London butcher shop. A range of poultry as well as sides of beef, pork and possibly lamb or mutton are offered for sale. Smoked meat or salami sits on the counter. Pails of Swift’s Maple Leaf lard hang in the background.
Photograph, Gift of Walter Eldridge, London, Ontario, 1999.


Sausage Stuffer
This is a sausage stuffer for home or butcher shop use. Sausage-making evolved to preserve meats and to use animal parts that might otherwise be wasted. First, beef, pork, lamb, poultry or wild game is ground and mixed with spices. This mixture is then inserted into a casing, using a stuffer like this. Last, the sausage is smoked or pasteurized to destroy harmful bacteria.
Sausage Stuffer, Gift of Mr. Eugene Lamont, London, Ontario, 1983.

Meat Rationing, Second World War
This chart explained meat rationing, introduced Canada-wide on May 27, 1943. This “Ration Book 2” belonged to Emma Sims, living at 335 Wharncliffe Road. She used all but one of her meat coupons, labelled, “Spare ‘A’ 25 Supplémentaire ‘A’.” The Wartime Prices and Trade Board issued Ration Book 3, with the next installment of coupons, in September 1943.
Chart, Gift of Judith and Wilson Rodger, London, Ontario, 2014.
Ration Book, Gift of Mrs. Emma Sims, London, Ontario, 1970.



Baked Goods

Do you bake? Or do you prefer to buy bread, cakes, cookies and crackers at the grocery store or local bakery? Past Londoners first had to make many of their own baked goods. From the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they could buy these items outside the home.


Dr. Vesey Agmondisham Brown, 1824-1895
Byron Mill and Dam, undated
Watercolour and Gouache on Paper
Purchased with funds from the Volunteer Committee, 2009.

Dutton Flour Mills Sack
This sack once held 49 pounds of “choice Manitoba Patent Prairie Flour,” produced by the Dutton Flour Mills of Dutton, Ontario. Founded in 1874, the mill closed on July 20, 1967. A fire destroyed it in 1969.
Flour Bag, Gift of Barbara McNabb, Melbourne, Ontario, 2000.

“I like baking cakes, pies, any kinds of bread.  I make Jewish challah bread even though I’m not Jewish…”
Ruth Yu, Canadian of Korean Background, June 2015


Bread-making Made Easy
This is a hand-cranked dough mixer. An early 20th century labour-saving device, it reduced the time and effort needed to make the family’s bread.

The instructions on the lid of the device read: “Put in all liquids then the flour Turn 2 ½ minutes / Raise with pail covered After raising turn dough until a ball is formed / Loosen the screw on cross-piece then lift out dough / with stirring rod Dry after using.”
Dough Mixer, Gift of Mrs. J. E. Hunt, 1979.


Bread Pyramid
To illustrate the efficiency of their stove, London’s McClary Manufacturing Company produced this image of a bread pyramid. This McClary’s product, it is implied, baked each beautiful loaf to perfection. The importance of bread to the daily diet is clear.
Canada. Patent and Copyright Office / Library and Archives Canada / PA-028854.


Johnston Bros. XXX Bread
The Johnston Brothers Bread Manufacturing Company used crates like this to transport their product, “XXX Bread,” to its customers. In this 1905 image, Robert Johnston stands outside his grocery store and bakery. What may be a delivery wagon waits at the right.
Crate, Collection of Museum London, 1998.
Photograph, Collection of Museum London, 1999.

McCormick Manufacturing Company
This is a McCormick Manufacturing Company Jersey Cream Sodas tin. Thomas McCormick opened his biscuit and hard candy works in 1858. He later introduced some innovative practices. In the 1880s, he implemented unit packaging, like this tin, for retail sales. Before, manufacturers shipped crackers to retailers in bulk. In the 1890s, to create brand recognition, McCormick adopted a recognizable logo: a youth in over-sized colonial clothing.
Tin, Collection of Museum London, purchased at Gardner Auction Galleries, January 2012.


McCormick’s Warehouse
In this circa 1930s image, men prepare to ship McCormick’s biscuits and candy to local, national and international retailers.
Photograph, Gift of Bev Stainton, 2013.

Packaged Convenience Foods

How full is your pantry with packaged convenience foods? Do you buy things like condensed soups, Jell-O, Oxo cubes or tinned meats? These products are a result of industrialization. Manufacturers guaranteed that these and other new foodstuffs would make the cook’s life easier. They would also create better, more reliable dishes.


Coleman’s Packing Company
Here, staff of the Coleman’s Pork Packing Company poses outside of the factory sometime between 1931 and 1937. During these years, the owners, the Bieman family, dropped “pork” from the company name and began to process other meats, too. They produced products like this tin of Epicure Brand beef minute steaks. The company closed in the early 1970s, forced into bankruptcy.
Photograph, Gift of Mrs. Farr, London, Ontario, 1974.


Oxo Cubes
This is a tin of Oxo cubes, a product invented in 1899 by German chemist Justus von Liebig (1803-1873). He created the Liebig Extract of Meat Company and began an extensive campaign to market the product. In 1908, Liebig had Olympic athletes endorse it as a healthful drink. The company also proclaimed the cubes to be the ideal way to reduce the labour and drudgery of cooking.
Tin, Collection of Museum London, purchased at Gardner Auction Galleries, January 2012.


Campbell’s Soup
This tin of “Kim Campbell’s Cream-a-Tory Soup,” is a spoof. It works because so many people recognize the Campbell’s soup label. Founded in 1869, Campbell’s introduced its condensed soups in 1897. Modest sales led to an aggressive marketing campaign. Advertisements told housewives that they needed this new, modern convenience food. With it, they would please their husbands, children and dinner guests.
Tin, Collection of Museum London, 1994.


Forest City Baking Powder
This is a tin of Forest City Baking Powder, manufactured by London’s Forest City Spice Mills. Founded in 1883 by William Gorman and D. J. Dyson, the company first produced coffee, among other items. It added baking powder as well as flavouring extracts and spices to its product line in 1885.
Tin, Gift of Dr. J. Malcolm Smith, London, Ontario, 1993.


Club House Spices
This is a container of Club House pure mace and one of paprika produced by Gorman, Eckert & Company. The company adopted this name in 1890 to reflect the departure of D. J. Dyson and the arrival of R. C. Eckert. The business introduced the “Club House” brand name in 1928.
Tin, Gift of Helen Bulger, 1986.
Tin, Gift of Catherine Elliot Shaw, 2011.


Bulk Olive Oil
This container held olive oil shipped from Mohammed Amery family’s olive grove in Lala, Lebanon. Amery pumped the oil into old wine bottles to share with his family and friends. Although olive oil is easy to find in London, with this particular oil, Jessie Amery, Mohammed’s wife, is better able to replicate the tastes most enjoyed by her husband.
Container, Lent by Mohammed and Jessie Amery, London, Ontario.


Frosted Flakes
This box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes marked the 100th anniversary of Kellogg’s in 2006. In London from 1907, Kellogg’s introduced Frosted Flakes and the product mascot, Tony the Tiger, in 1952. This 1965 pamphlet of cookie recipes includes three that use Frosted Flakes: Crunchy-Top Brownies, English Tea Cakes and Sour Cream Sparkles.
Box, Gift of Mr. Steven Gordon, London, Ontario, 2015.
Pamphlet, Gift of James and Laurie Smith, Forest, Ontario, 2015.


This is a jar of Marmite. German chemist Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) invented it, using concentrated brewer’s yeast. Manufactured in England from 1902, the product became popular following the 1910 discovery of Vitamin B1. Rich in this vitamin, Marmite became part of British First World War (1914-1918) soldiers’ rations. It helped prevent and cure the vitamin deficiency disease Beriberi. If you’ve tasted it, you know it is an acquired taste.
Jar, Lent by Amber Lloydlangston, London, Ontario.