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SPAM bank

Twelve-ounce coin bank used to promote the dedication of a SPAM plant in Austin, Minnesota, on September 12, 1982. The lid has a horizontal slit in which to insert coins.

In 1937, the George A. Hormel Company, a meat-packing business in Austin, Minnesota, introduced SPAM luncheon meat to use up an excess of pork shoulder in their inventory. In the eighty years since its introduction, SPAM has fed millions of people and is available in more than forty countries and in over fifteen varieties and sizes.

George A. Hormel, a child of German immigrants, was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1860. After working in the meat packing industry, he moved to Austin, Minnesota, and started the George A. Hormel Company at the age of thirty-one. His one son, Jay, became company president when George retired after leading the company for thirty-six years. (In 1993, the company’s name changed to Hormel Foods Corporation.)

In the late 1930s, Jay Hormel awarded Kenneth Daigneau a $100 prize for suggesting the name SPAM for the company's new pork product. Daigneau’s original intended meaning is unclear, but it is thought to be an abbreviation of Spiced Ham. It could also be an acronym for Spiced Ham Austin Minnesota, or Shoulder of Pork And Ham. During severe World War II-era rationing in Britain, it was also known as Supply Processed American Meat and was greatly appreciated by the citizens who used it to supplement sparse meals.

In the 1940s, Hormel supported the World War II effort by shipping more than one million cans of SPAM abroad to feed Allied troops and civilians. It is ideal for mass feeding since it does not require refrigeration and has a long expiration date. SPAM was so readily available for military meals, often two or three a day, that many would not eat it when they returned home to their civilian lives. In an early recycling program, flattened SPAM cans were soldered on airplane bomber wings and fuselages to cover and patch bullet holes created by enemy bullets. The cans were also reshaped to make military cookware. During World War II, 1,751 Hormel employees were in the military; sixty-seven of them died while serving.

Early advertising used catchy phrases and full-page color ads to promote SPAM. A 1960s advertisement stated that “you can serve it cold, you can serve it hot, you can slice it, dice it, bake it, fry it.” As time progressed, the varieties of SPAM produced by Hormel expanded to match the tastes of their fans and worldwide markets. A can of SPAM Classic, the original SPAM, consists of pork, ham, and five other basic ingredients—salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite. Other varieties include turkey, hickory smoke, hot and spicy, jalapeno, teriyaki, chorizo, Portuguese sausage seasoning, and mezclita (Puerto Rican-inspired, with red pepper and cheese).

When visiting Hawaii, a Minnesotan may be surprised to find musubi in convenience stores and on restaurant menus alongside pizza and hamburgers. Composed of fried SPAM and a cake of rice in a wrapper of seaweed, musubi is a popular Hawaiian food, as are other SPAM creations that use Asian or tropical ingredients. Hawaiians have eaten SPAM ever since World War II, and they consume more than seven million cans a year. Sales of SPAM in South Korea rank second worldwide, with the United States first. Introduced in Korea by Americans during the Korean War, budae jjigae (army stew) is made with SPAM Classic, hot pepper paste, onions, ramen noodles, and kimchi.

The Great American SPAM Championship is an annual contest sponsored by Hormel and held at twenty-six state and county fairs throughout the United States. Entrants use any variety of SPAM, and up to ten additional ingredients, to create a recipe judged for taste and simplicity. The cooks compete for prizes at the local level and for a trip to the SPAM Jam Festival, held each year in Hawaii. In 2016, the winning recipe at the festival, Gemütlichkeit SPAMwich, was made with SPAM, bacon, a pretzel bun, cabbage slaw, and mustard.

In 2016, Hormel moved its SPAM museum—open since 1991—to a building in downtown Austin. Featured are displays about SPAM and World War II, the history of SPAM throughout the world, the history of other Hormel Foods and products, and a gift shop with a variety of SPAM-related products, such as whimsical SPAM-can earrings.

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Allen, Karma. “British Couple Travels Nearly 4,000 Miles for Spam-Themed Wedding.” ABC News.

BBC. WW2 People’s War. “Spam: Did it Save the Nation?”

Blanchette, Aimee. “Couple to Wed at the Spam Museum.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 21, 2017.

Bock, Phillip. “Sheboygan Woman Wins National Spam Recipe Contest.” Sheboygan Press, February 19, 2016.

“Brokaw Encourages the Next Generation.” Austin Daily Herald, June 17, 2002.

Burckhardt, Ann L. A Cook’s Tour of Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Press, 2004.

Fangqing, Wang. “Hormel to Start Making SPAM in China.” Global Meat News, April 15, 2005.

Governor Jesse Ventura, 1999–2003
Communication Office Records, 1998–2003
State Archives, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: The records include a SPAM Museum history album (2001) with reproductions of letters, photographs, newsletters, and other documentation of the Hormel Foods Corporation. All of the items concern SPAM and its role in World War II.

The Great Taste of SPAM. Snacks, Light Main Dishes, and State Fair Winning Recipes. N.p.: Hormel Foods Corporation, 1994.

“A Hog Goes to Hormel and to Fame.” Life 7, no. 19 (November 6, 1939): 56–59.

Hormel Foods. 125th Anniversary Celebration.

Minnesota State Fair. Creative activities, 2017.

Olson, Rochelle. “Dayton Declares ‘Spam Day’ in Minnesota.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 7, 2017.


Wyman, Carolyn. SPAM: A Biography. The Amazing True Story of America’s “Miracle Meat”! San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1999.

Related Audio

MN90: World War SPAM | Details

Related Images

SPAM bank
SPAM bank
Jay Catherwood Hormel
Jay Catherwood Hormel
Hormel packing plant
Hormel packing plant
Women working in the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota
Women working in the Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota
World War II-era can of SPAM
World War II-era can of SPAM

Turning Point

Hormel supplies Allied troops and civilians with SPAM during World War II, making the canned meat a product recognized around the world.



Ken Daigneau wins $100 in a contest to name Hormel’s new luncheon-meat product. His winning suggestion is SPAM.


Via an advertisement in Life magazine, readers can order a free booklet with recipes and menu suggestions for serving SPAM. A recipe for a hot SPAMwich made with SPAM, toast, tomato, cheese, and onion is featured.


In December, Jay Hormel, president of Hormel, sends a holiday letter to 1,649 Hormel employees enlisted in the military during World War II. He includes a five-dollar money order and personally signs each letter.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, former Supreme Commander in Europe, writes a letter to H. H. Corey, president of Hormel. In the letter, he said millions of soldiers ate SPAM during World War II and that he forgives Hormel for sending them so much of it.


Hormel donates SPAM packaging to the Smithsonian Museum.


In June, the grand opening of the SPAM Museum is held in Austin, Minnesota. Tom Brokaw, television anchorman and author, is a guest speaker.


Hormel produces the eight billionth can of SPAM.


Hormel introduces SIR CAN-A-LOT—the official spokescharacter for SPAM, who wears a miniature suit of armor. Hormel states that his mission is to rescue the world from routine meals.


Mark Benson, a SPAM fan from Liverpool, England, changes his middle name from William to “I Love SPAM.” Mark’s uncle and grandfather worked at a SPAM factory in the United Kingdom.


The Minnesota State Fair introduces two new foods for attendees to enjoy. SPAM Sushi includes grilled SPAM with sushi rice, a fried egg, and wasabi rolled in nori. SPAM Curds are battered, deep-fried, cheese-flavored SPAM cubes.


First-prize winner of the Great American SPAM Championship at the Minnesota State Fair is Betsy Faber of St. Paul. Her creation, Minne-cristo SPAM Stacker, is made with SPAM Less Sodium, crescent roll squares, jam, and Swiss cheese. She wins $150.


Mark Benson of Britain marries Anne Mousley on April 25 at the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota. The couple honeymoons in Hawaii and attends the SPAM Jam Festival.


SPAM products are manufactured in China for the first time.


Mark Dayton, the governor of MInnesota, declares July 7 SPAM Day to recognize the eightieth birthday of SPAM.