Put a Lid on It
Heather Hembrey, M.A., M.A.A.
This month’s artifacts or pieces of such artifacts are often found at 19th-and 20th-century archaeological sites where home canning took place. This intact zinc screw-thread canning jar rim and the reusable milk glass liner were made after 1869, when Lewis Boyd patented his rim and glass liner set that fit the glass jars that John L. Mason had patented in 1859. Such inexpensive zinc rims and glass liners were produced into the 1940s.
With the onset of World War I in July 1914, the need to conserve resources took on national significance. The Federal Government encouraged families to cultivate “war gardens”. Preserving home grown food became a patriotic virtue. That year, the U. S. Department of Agriculture established the Agricultural Extension Service whereby county Home Demonstration Agents held community meetings and met with individual families to teach skills including safe food preservation methods.
Lucy Steptoe was Fairfax County’s Home Demonstration Agent. Local organizations sponsored her efforts. By 1925, 425 girls and 41 women in Fairfax County participated in corn and tomato clubs, gardening clubs, kitchen improvement contests, and gardening and canning contests. Home canning remained a common and necessary activity from the start of the Great Depression in 1929 throughout World War II. “War gardens” became “Victory Gardens”. Home canning enabled families to supplement their food when supplies including canning sugar were rationed. “Food Fights for Freedom” and similar slogans inspired women across the nation to produce and preserve their home-grown food.
Canning may not be a common activity in today’s households, but it is not a lost art. Although food grade metal bands/rings and lids with silicone seals have replaced the zinc rims and milk glass liners of the past, it is likely that Rebecca Rice would recognize their purpose and put them to use in her 1930s Oakton kitchen, with a bit of practice.