A war won with Spam

Hormel Spiced Ham, the “father” of Spam, was created in 1927 as an inexpensive luncheon meat to help housewives stretch their budget dollars. But when the combination of cheaper competition and the Great Depression caused sales to drop, company president Jay Hormel decided in 1936 to relaunch the product with a glitzy marketing campaign and a new name.

At the New Year’s Eve party held at his home he announced a name-the-product contest with the prize winner receiving $100. The 65 guests attending had to “purchase” their drinks by completing a contest entry. Hormel recalled, “Along about the third or fourth drink they began showing some imagination.” Finally, the butler brought to Hormel a sheet of paper containing the word “Spam.”…

With the signing of Lend-Lease in March 1941, shipments of Spam were included in the aid transported to Great Britain and the Soviet Union. It was gratefully accepted by both the military and civilian populations…

When America entered the war, Spam became both the boon and bane of troops. Because it was so easy to transport in large quantities, and had a long shelf life, tons of it—ultimately more than 150 million pounds—accompanied them. Though the services purchased luncheon meats made by other companies, all looked alike. As Spam was the most famous of them, all such meats came to be called Spam. It wasn’t long before the troops, seemingly served Spam three times a day, seven days a week for the duration, got thoroughly sick of the stuff.

Now Jackson had his acorns
And Grant his precious rye;
Teddy had his poisoned beef —
Worse you couldn’t buy.
The doughboy had his hardtack
Without the navy’s jam,
But armies on their stomachs move —
And this one moves on Spam.

—Anonymous World War II poem