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Made in Appalachia: Beyond Cabins, Crafts, and Coal

Artifacts and their stories, selected from the Appalachian Studies Teaching Collection to explore Appalachian material culture beyond its stereotypical inclusions.

Appalachian Food Connections

Food is just as important in Appalachia as any place. It comes in many forms: homemade, fast, grandma’s cooking, local specialties, highly processed, and junk, just to name a few. Recently the region has been getting a lot of positive attention regarding local foods and community supported agriculture, but a look at Appalachian material culture also shows some long standing connections to a few big brands and some American Classics.

Ale-8-One Soda

[Accessions 2013.20.1 and 2013.35.1]
Left - Right: 1970s, 1990s, & 2013
Made by Ale-8-One Bottling Company, Winchester, Kentucky

Since 1902, G.L. Wainscott had been bottling soda water, fruit flavored drinks, and Roxa Kola (named for his wife Roxanne) in Winchester, Kentucky. However, Wainscott wanted a really unique flavor, so he began to experiment with ginger and fruit. In 1926 he hit on a winner with Ale-8-One®. Wainscott liked curious slogans, many of which have been used in advertising Ale-8-One: “It Glorifies,” “For Bracing Pep,” and “A Late One.” Since it was first sold in 1926, the soda has grown from a local product to a regional brand.  

Ale-8-One bottling plant, Winchester, Kentucky, ca. 2010
Photo by Jeff Adkins, jwaphoto.blogspot.com.

The Coca Cola by the Bottle

The beverage Coca Cola® was invented by pharmacist John Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia in 1886. During the 1890s, Asa Chandler, also of Atlanta, turned it into a national business, but Coca Cola was only sold by the glass at soda fountains.

Bottled Coca Cola, however, is an Appalachian product. This is the story: In 1899 two Chattanooga, Tennessee lawyers purchased the exclusive rights to bottle Coca Cola and to license other bottlers around the country. Chandler didn’t think the idea would amount to much, so he only charged them $1.  

Chandler was wrong. People loved Coke® by the bottle. The Chattanooga Coca Cola Bottling Company became the largest in the country, and by 1909 its national network included over 400 locally owned franchise bottlers. The rest of the story of Coke bottling has many twists and turns, but there is no doubt that bottled Coca Cola first found legs in Appalachia.

[Artifact On Loan]
Straight-Sided Coca Cola Bottle (ca. 1910)
Bottled by the Coca Cola Bottling Company, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Bottle possibly made by Chattanooga Glass Company  

Prior to 1916 Coke bottlers could use any kind of bottle they wanted.  These straight sided bottles in clear, green, and amber were common from 1901 to 1915.  They typically had a paper label.  

Coca Cola bottling machine, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1952
Photo from Tennessee State Library and Archives, ID#20651

Little Debbie Snacks

In 1933, struggling in poverty with the addition of a second child to his family, O.D. McKee of Tennessee asked a delivery man about a job. McKee got a job delivering snack cakes, and within a year, he and his wife, Ruth, decided they would begin manufacturing snack products themselves.

In 1960 McKee Bakery launched a new line of boxed snack products. O.D. named them “Little Debbie Snak Cakes” after his granddaughter and used her picture on the box. Little Debbie® snacks were extremely popular and by 1991 had become a national brand.

Moon Pie

In 1917, Earl Mitchell, a salesman for the Chattanooga Baking Company, stopped at a coal mine company store in eastern Kentucky.  Local miners gave him ideas about a good snack food to take into the mines. They told him it had to be filling but fit inside a lunch pail. It is said that one fellow held up his hands, encircled the rising full moon, and said it should be “this big.”  

When Mitchell returned to the bakery, he noticed some workers liked to make their own special snacks by dipping cookies in chocolate and letting it harden. They put it all together, added a layer of marshmallow in between, and the Moon Pie® was born.

Chattanooga Baking Company and Orient Flour Company, 1947
Photo from Tennessee State Library and Archives, ID#20583

Bob Evans Products

[Accession 2012.26.1]

Bob Evans owned a 12-stool diner in Gallipolis, Ohio. He could not find sausage he liked, so in 1948 he began to make his own. Customers liked it so much, they bought some to take home—in ten-pound bags!  In 1953 Evans, along with family and friends, formed the Bob Evans Company to just make and sell sausage.  Soon it was sold all over Ohio and in neighboring states.  As his brand became established, he expanded into other pork products.  

[Accession 2013.38.1]

In his advertising, Evans invited people to “come on down to the Farm!” Come they did, so Bob turned his Rio Grande, Ohio farm into a tourist attraction including a restaurant to feed the folks.  Today Bob Evans products and restaurants are found throughout the eastern U.S.

   

                                                Bob Evans Farm Museum Postcard, ca. 1970                            

Bottled Spring Water

Mountain regions are the source of much of the world's supply of clear water, so it is only natural that drinking water should also be an important Appalachian product.  These are just a few examples.

[Accession 2011.26.1]

Cumberland Spring Water was founded in 1904 by R.M. Barry.  It has been bottled by the Middlesboro Coca-Cola Inc. Bottling Company, located in Middlesboro, Kentucky, since 1991.

The spring at Climax, Kentucky has long been famous among locals. It comes from a watershed protected by thousands of acres of the Daniel Boone National Forest. In 2003 Climax Spring Water Company formed to bottle and sell it.  Locals can still come get water for free.  

Heiner's Bread

In 1905 Charles and Kate Heiner started a bakery in Huntington, West Virginia.  Heiner’s has since grown from a local brand to a regional one in West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia, and Kentucky.

Heiner's Delivery Wagon, driven by J.W. "Bill" Milstead in Huntington, West Virginia, 1911

Stokely's and Bush's Canned Foods

[Label is a Reproduction of 2013.26.1]

[Accession 2013.26.1]

The Stokely Brothers Canning Company was founded in the late 1800s in Newport, Tennessee by James, John, and Anna Stokely.  Stokely became a national brand for canned vegetables in the 1930s.  This label is from the 1940s.


In 1904, A.J. Bush partnered with the Stokely Brothers to open a tomato cannery in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee. After buying out the Stokely Brothers in 1908, Bush Brothers & Company was born. With the introduction of Bush’s Baked Beans in 1969, the company experienced rapid expansion.  By 1990 it was a national brand.