“The Label Unwrapped: The History of Canned Salmon Labels” is the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site’s current feature exhibit, which recently opened in May 2019. In this blog series Shannon King, Manager of Audience Engagement, shares some insight into the new exhibit and the colourful stories behind the labels.
More than 200 salmon canneries have operated in British Columbia since 1870. Each cannery made pretty much the same product, so companies used bright and creative labels to make their products stand out on grocery store shelves. The resulting range of canned salmon labels is fascinating and revealing. Label styles and subject matter followed both pop-culture and world events.
This blog series will explore the art and messaging behind the labels.
To kick off the series, I want to share one of my favourite labels – Bicycle Brand Fresh British Columbia Salmon produced by the Brunswick Canning Company from Vancouver BC.
The label features a young lady in a blue dress with the puffiest sleeves cycling along a path beside the ocean. A rather happy-looking salmon (about the same size as the cyclist) has leapt clear out of the water. The bright blues, reds, and yellows of the label are clearly designed to catch the eye. I can’t imagine a cheerier or more delightful scene.
It is anyone’s guess what a bicycle has to do with canned salmon. But does it really matter? If this brand existed on store shelves today, I would definitely choose it just because the art is so appealing.