Opened in 2000, the Spam Museum doesn't just chronicle the history of the Hormel company but of the country.
George Hormel worked at a slaughterhouse in Chicago before becoming a traveling buyer of wool and hide. He settled in Austin Minnesota, borrowed $500, and started a meat business in 1891. The company grew slowly but was successful. In 1926 he made the first canned ham called "Hormel Flavored Sealed Ham."
Jay became president in 1929 after his father retired. He introduced Dinty Moore Beef Stew in 1935 when his company was left with 500,000 empty cans due to the abrupt cancellation of a government aid program for livestock farmers and consumers. The beef stew sold for 15 cents a can.
Jay added Hormel Chili in 1936 and Spam in 1937 to the company's line of products. The U.S. Gov't purchased 65% of all Spam produced during WWII.
Some other interesting facts: Spam was named by an actor who won $100 for his contest entry- the combination of SP from spiced and AM from ham. Hawaii is the largest consumer of Spam. Technically, ham is taken from the upper rear leg of the hog - pork is meat from several different cuts.
The museum is a fun stop. Kids were having a wonderful time trying their hand at all of the interactive challenges such as packing a can of Spam in a certain period of time, taking a quiz in a Jeopardy like setting about what they learned and playing "Spam" computer games.
I was surprised to see the array of products in the Hormel family - Jenny-o, Chi Chi's, Farmer John, and lots more. I'm happy I didn't pass up this stop in Austin.