The Great Canning Shortage of 1975

While conducting research in the Little Falls Daily Transcript on refugees who came to Central Minnesota following the Vietnam War, I ran across three articles on a shortage of supplies for home canning.

The July 9, 1975, headline – “Sugar, canning lids both short” – was mildly interesting but not enough for me to read the article. Then I saw “Please don’t hoard, home canners urged” in the July 17, 1975, paper and my interest was piqued a little further. When I came to the August 20, 1975, paper and read “Canning lid shortage not conspiracy,” I had to retrace my steps and investigate this “not conspiracy” by reading the articles.

The first article features grocers around Morrison County discussing how there was a run on sugar, with grocery stores in Pierz, Royalton, and Little Falls being unable to keep sugar on their shelves, no matter how much they ordered from suppliers. They surmised that a couple of factors were at work. There was an expected shortage of sugar beets from the Red River Valley due to flooding and prices on sugar were projected to skyrocket. This caused consumers to run out and buy all the sugar they could get their hands on, in part causing their own immediate shortage. In addition, home canners were having an awful time getting canning lids from area grocers.

The second article delved further into the canning lid shortage. Apparently, there had been a lid shortage the summer before, according to Corinne Schulz, Morrison County’s Extension home economist. Canning manufacturers were expected to keep up with demand, having first started by manufacturing jars and lids (complete sets for canning) but switching to manufacturing lids only when they discovered the demand. “… Canning supply manufacturers indicate a tight, but adequate, supply unless consumers panic and begin to hoard jars and lids.”

The third article was about the politics of the canning lid shortage, because obviously there was a Minnesota House subcomittee investigation. This wasn’t just a state issue, though. “Sherry Chenoweth, state consumer services director, said five federal agencies, including the FBI, are looking into the shortage, but that any information uncovered is likely to be too late to be of help to consumers this year. She said the apparent reason for the oversupply of jars with lids is that manufacturers overestimated the number of new canners and underestimated the number who would need only the lids.” No conspiracy, just a miscalculation by manufacturers.

~ Mary Warner
Executive Director

This article originally appeared in the Morrison County Historical Society newsletter, Vol. 31, No. 4, 2018.

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