Helping on the Home Front: Canning in the Time of War in Hicksville, NY

Authored by Shannon Jaeger

Taken during WWI, this slide shows a woman working in an American Red Cross canning kitchen in June of 1917 located in Hicksville, NY. Canning and canning stores were a major part of the war effort due to food preservation and those on the home front doing their part for the war effort. These stores often brought the community together.

During World War I, canning became a way to help the war effort at home. Canning was seen as a patriotic practice during wartime and led those in the United States to believe that it would help ensure an Allied victory due to posters that were being printed (Sullivan, n.d.).

The American Red Cross helped sponsor these stores and set up chapters in local towns. One chapter was set up in Hicksville, NY where the community was encouraged to come to the need of the men serving and ensure them a meal by canning food as well as sending it to those who needed it in the countries being affected by war. The canning store in Hicksville was the first public canning kitchen for “war food conservation” (New York Times 1917).

Women were typically not in an active serving military role in the early 1900s. Because of this, they sought out ways to help with the war effort and serve the country in a different way. The store had two objectives: to educate those in the community in order to do canning, drying, salting, and preserving as well as to collect, preserve, and store for future use of the surplus of farm produce (Town Development 1918). The canning kitchen also allowed women in the community to bring extra pies, jellies, jam and cake to sell where a ten percent commission was taken so the kitchen could help raise money and give it for the war effort as well as keep the kitchen open (Long Islander 1917,1). The women in the kitchen really tried to push for Long Islanders to use the canning kitchen by saying it was their duty as women to can food for the men while they are off at war and to satisfy their food desires (Long Islander 1917, 1). At this time in history, it was all they really could do.

The Hicksville canning kitchen closed its doors on October 19, 1918 when the war was winding down and an end was in sight (Long Islander 1918, 8). It put up about 12,000-15,000 quarts of canned goods in its time that the doors were open. These cans were intended to go to the soldiers overseas and to women and children in France and Belgium (New York State Food Commission 1918, 57). The process of canning was not only a beneficial one to those who served in the United States military force but to those in the allied countries who needed it.

The work that these women did in the canning kitchen can be best described as the Vincentian value of opportunity. It embodies the physical actions a person can engage in (Angel n.d, 3) as well as be circumstances favorable to serving others and preparing one’s self for a fulfilling life (St. John’s University 2020). The women that worked here took the time and opportunity to serve their country in its time of need when it was needed most. Granted, the women weren’t able to serve in the fullest of capabilities such as fighting overseas but they had the opportunity to bring the community together, sell items, raise money, and educate the community on canning and the benefits it had.

References:

Angel, Christine M. n.d. “Information Representation through the Vincentian Lens of Transparency: Providing the Under and Misrepresented with a Voice within Our Cultural Heritage Records.” Evolution of Teaching Philosophy: 1-7. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VkY3xbRv1Ikuny5LApVmVWmSiZ81OTtUyJ6aSl_I3xo/.

The Long Islander. 1918. “Hicksville,” October 4, 1918. https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031119/1918-10-04/ed-1/seq-8/

The Long Islander. 1917. “The Hicksville Canning Kitchen A Busy Workshop,” September 28, 1917. https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031119/1917-09-28/ed-1/seq-1/

New York State Food Supply Commission. 1918. Report of the New York State Food Supply Commission: Organized April 17, 1917, under Chapter 205, Laws of 1917. Albany: J.B. Lyon Co. https://books.google.com/books?id=yKpCAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

New York Times. 1917. “Public Canning Kitchen Open: Society Women Back Project at Hicksville-Ask Farmers’ Aid,” June 2, 1917. https://search-proquest-com.jerome.stjohns.edu/docview/99975676/BFFAA7C56FF74F9EPQ/1?accountid=14068

St. John’s University. 2020. “Our Mission.” Last modified October 2015. https://www.stjohns.edu/about/history-and-facts/our-mission

Sullivan, Taira. “How Did We Can?” United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library. Accessed March 10, 2020. https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/ipd/canning/exhibits/show/wartime-canning/world-war-i.

Town Development Company Inc. 1918. Town Development. Vol. 19-20. New York, NY: Town Development Company Inc. “The Homemaker’s Share in the War.” Town Development, July 1917. https://books.google.com/books?id=01xJAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA145&lpg=PA145&dq=canning%20and%20hicksville%20world%20war#v=onepage&q&f=false

“Women in a Red Cross canning kitchen.” 1917. Slide. Hicksville Public Library Archives, Hicksville, New York.

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