Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oldest food trademark still used in the United States

Another piece of ephemera I picked up on our recent trip to Hoke-E-Geez was the May 6, 1905, edition of The Outlook. Despite it's scribbled-upon and torn-off front cover, the issue is brimming with cool stuff.

On the second page (the inside front cover) is this full-page advertisement for Underwood's Original Deviled Ham.

The ad copy reads:
Underwood's Original Deviled Ham is a delicious, pure New England product very delightful to the palate. It is made of sugar cured ham and fragrant spices for people who want only the best. It is nourishment concentrated, and invaluable for the anticipated or unexpected call. Its flavor makes one's mouth water for the bite. Branded with the devil but fit for the gods. See the little red devil on the can.

The logo of the "little red devil on can"1, which was trademarked in 1870, is the oldest food trademark still in use in the United States. Pictured at right are the 1921 (top) and 2008 versions of the devil logo, taken from William Underwood Company's Wikipedia page. You can see how the logo has evolved over the decades. The satanic sneer and long fingernails have been replaced with a "hello neighbor!" smile and a tiny pitchfork.

But what is deviled ham? I've never had it. The product doesn't appear to have changed too much since its 1868 debut. Here's how the company web site now describes Underwood Deviled Ham Spread: "Made from the highest quality ham, cured in its natural juices, we create the heavily sought after 'deviled' flavor through a proprietary blend of natural spices."

That description is not much different from the one in the 1905 advertisement.

For more information, an October 2004 article by The Straight Dope is a great read, as it discusses the origin of "deviling" in food preparation. It's filled with fun tidbits, including the fact that the word "devil" was first associated with food preparation in 1786, where Washington Irving fits into the story, a good discussion of deviled eggs2, the history of Underwood Deviled Ham, and even what's up with devil's food cake.

Finally, to take this entry off on a tangent you'll wish I hadn't, when I was doing my research on Underwood, I discovered a wonderful and amazing entry on the Now That's Nifty blog titled "Canned Meat, Fish & Bugs From Around the World".

If you're not currently eating (or thinking about eating soon), go check out all the images of canned items, including:
  • Yoders Turkey Chunks With Broth
  • Sweet Sue Canned Whole Chicken ("Home-Style Goodness")
  • King Oscar Fish Balls
  • Rose Beef Tripe with Milk
  • Ye Olde Oak Giant Hot Dogs (sausages in brine)
  • Armour Pork Brains in Milk Gravy
  • Celebrity Sliced Bacon (Product of Hungary)
  • Brown Curry Mole Crickets
  • Tasty Joy Quail Eggs
  • Goblin Meat Pudding3
  • Dale's Wild West Rattlesnake (Dale's also cans buffalo and elk meat)
  • Texas Roadrunner Meat4

My favorites, though, were HP All Day Breakfast and HP The Full Monty.

One of the commenters on the blog explains: "The Full Monty and All Day Breakfast are British. The full monty has beans, sausages, mini burgers, salami, potato and mushrooms. The All Day Breakfast is beans, sausages, bacon, mini scotch eggs and mushrooms."

Now those sound like products the devil could get behind.

1. Let's ignore the creepy guy holding the sandwich.
2. Which I have had, and love.
3. This product has not one, but TWO appreciation pages on Facebook.
4. Alas, not Acme brand.


  1. UPDATE!

    I HAVE eaten Underwood's.
    Mom checks in with the following addendum:

    "Hate to tell you, but you have had Underwood deviled ham. Maybe you blocked it out, or you were too young to remember. I used to make sandwiches with it. (Not often, but you had it. And you ate it. Adriane, too. It's an acquired taste, but not bad at all. You had the canned
    chicken spread, too. I think that's Underwood, too.) I think they used a lot of the canned meats (especially bacon) in Great Britain after the war when everything was rationed for years. Even into the 1950s."

  2. i love this stuff,my mom would spread the deviled ham on some rits crackers as a snack back in the 80s,but i had no idea it was such an old my kids tried it recently and they loved was cool to share my story as a kid with them and about the deviled ham and how my mom would have these lil cans hidden and only pulled them out on special kids love this stuff now.