by Ross Coen
In addition to being works of art in their own right, canned salmon labels are unique historical artifacts. They can tell us which canneries operated where and when. They point to the marketing strategies used by the packers to attract consumers in different eras. And, as the Oona label below illustrates, they reveal a great deal about racial stereotypes and the appropriation of Native American iconography for commercial purposes. (click on image to see larger version)
Note the young woman’s feathered headdress and buckskin shirt, which speaks to indigenous cultural traditions located far, far from Wrangell Narrows where the Doyhof Cannery began operations in 1915.
I’ve begun collecting salmon labels, and I will post a selection on this blog every now and then with a few words of commentary about origin, iconography, etc. Fellow label enthusiasts are welcome to contact me at: email@example.com.