Label from a Can of Peaches Holds WWI History

There are so many everyday items that we would never think about holding on to. Packaging related to food is very rarely reused these days and this goes double for the labels on food items. But, there was a time when these labels were quite beautifully made and for that reason alone some of them are worth quite a bit. Think of fruit and vegetable labels from 1900-1940 with their bright colors and distinctive artwork. Well, a label from a tin of peaches came up for examination on Antiques Roadshow and it held some amazing history that made it a bit more special than other canned good labels.

The owner of this object had the peach label framed because it was so special. The advertising artwork on the face of the label features soft colors in corals and pinks and frilly lettering declaring the contents to be Laura Brand Lemon Cling Peaches. It’s pretty enough, but it’s the back of the label that is really special.

The can that once held the label had been part of a shipment to American soldiers on the front during World War I. The distributor, W.B.A.Jurgens, had sent the peaches to the men stationed in France and who were engaged in difficult trench warfare with the Germans. And, on the back there is a letter written by a soldier that is quite moving.

The letter tells of being trapped in the trenches and having what sounds like a pitiful meal of corned beef (probably eaten cold out of the can) and hardtack. Not surprisingly, the peaches were the best part of the meal and so cheered the soldier up that he wrote a letter to the people responsible for making and shipping the peaches.

He wrote, “They tasted so good I felt it my duty to congratulate you and your firm for putting such goods within our reach.” The soldier closed the letter by signing off, “Believe me they are worth fighting for, your friend Eddie.” You can tell how grateful that soldier was to have something to brighten his day like that. Moments of comfort must have been so few and far between in the trenches.

The front does have some writing on it as well:

“Sept 22, 1918

From No Man’s Land, France.

Ed Martens

Censored Lt. P.E. Walker 4th inf.”

The censor’s note was the ok the send it ahead and that there was nothing that could give away state secrets in the writing. And, of course, it tells us the soldier’s name. What an amazing piece of World War history! And, for this reason the label cannot be appraised for only design- although it is quite a lovely piece of ephemera even without the writings from WWI on it.

See what this label was appraised for in the video below.

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