I picked up a vintage Swift’s Jewel Shortening bin at a garage sale about 5 years ago. It caught my eye, and even with no functional purpose for it, I could see it sitting pretty in my living room and knew it was coming home with me! I just had a feeling there was a story to be told.
Let’s start with why I call this a bin instead of a tin. First, it’s 15″ high x 12″ in diameter, and if you look closely there is a faint black 50lb mark on the label. Do you think 50 pounds of shortening once filled this bin?
I’m always curious to learn about the treasures I find, so I asked the garage sale gentleman if he knew how old the shortening bin was. He told me it belonged to his mother back on the Prairies, and that it originated in the late 1800s. Beyond that he couldn’t tell me much more. I’m curious about what his mother did with 50lbs of shortening!
There is a stamp on the label that seems to indicate Swift’s Jewel brand shortening was established in the 1800s. This was a good lead to get me started on researching the history of this company.
However, I was surprised to bump up against a virtually dead end with very little information on Swift’s background. I haven’t been able to find anything on the Swift Canadian Company. It’s hard to even find any bins that look like this one.
This image shared by Log Cabin Antiques is the closet I could find and though it’s similar, it’s the American company Swift’s Jewel Shortening bin. Perhaps another clue?
Source: Log Cabin Antiques
Though each metal bin is gold in colour and the labels are red ovals, if you look closely at the labels you will notice a difference between them. The Canadian label is without the jewel symbol, and its layout and font are slightly different.
Here’s a close-up of Swift Canadian Co.’s label.
From what I could gather based on the trademark information I was able to unearth, it seems US Swift and Company was the original trademark registrant, later replacing ‘and’ with ‘&’. According to this information, I learned the name ‘Swift’ had been in use since 1890, and ‘Jewel’ since 1902. ‘Swift’s Jewel Shortening’ was noted as the pseudo mark, and its trademark was filed in 1940. It appears the trademark events for Swift & Company – Swift’s Jewel Shortening – were renewed in 1981, and expired in 2002.
At the time of my research these tidbits of information were all I could come up with, so I reached out online to see if there was anyone who might have further insight to share. Two people responded over the course of a few years.
One shared, there was a meat plant built in Winnipeg, Manitoba by the Swift Canadian Company in the early 1900s. He confirmed the company was originally established in late 1800’s, and as it turns out, this was the Canadian division of the US Swift and Company, which lines up with the trademark information. Apparently the plant was torn down in 2011, but there is a postcard image of the plant in the University of Alberta library archives that this link will take you to: http://logcabinantiques.blogspot.ca/2009/11/swifts-jewel-shortening.html
The other person responded because she had found a booklet produced by Swift Canadian Co. called ‘How to Have a Luau’, and mentioned the Swift president had also been the president of the Canadian Meat Council in the 1970’s for a year. Now, we all know if we’re hosting a traditional luau, we’ll be roasting a pig! This added snippet of information certainly suggests the Swift meat plant connection makes sense.
So between the two people who shared their tidbits of information and the pieces I managed to put together, it seems Swift’s Jewel Shortening company was a US company with a Canadian division in Manitoba. This piece of information explains why my garage sale gentleman’s mother would have had a Swift’s shortening bin back on the Prairies. Now it all makes a little more sense. My garage sale treasure has a vague but interesting past! What I know is it fits in with our collected decor (can you see it tucked up on top of the cabinet?).
So, tell me. Do you know anything about this the company behind this bin? Anything about Swift’s Jewel Shortening history at all? I would love to hear from you!
Thanks for stopping by!
Photographs © Audrey Would! Vintage Home unless otherwise stated.