History Museum’s Retrospective on Foods of the 30s and 40s

LOS ALTOS, CA (June 28, 2022) With the economic downturn during the Great Depression, and food rationing during World War II, Americans needed to find creative ways to feed their families. Los Altos History Museum looks at these two time periods and their effects on eating in an exhibit titled “Fabulous Food of the 30s and 40s: From Hunger to Hope,” on display in the J. Gilbert Smith House Gallery July 14 – August 28, 2022.


The exhibit focuses on how processed and convenience foods became popular during these periods, like Spam, Bisquick, JELL-O, Wonder Bread, and Hostess Cakes. Visitors will see cooking utensils used, and recipes created, such as flour and water for bread when eggs and butter became unavailable. Cookbooks will be showcased, including J. Gilbert Smith’s wife Margaret Smiths, Piggly Wiggly cookbook. Also on display: war ration books used during World War II.


There are a lot of parallels in recipes between then and now,” said Jordan Grealish, Collections Strategist, who is curating the exhibit along with Smith House Committee Chair Sharon Barkoff. As supply chains shut down during the pandemic, were making some of the same dishes with the same ingredients. Its interesting how history repeats itself, and how food items popular during the 30s and 40s are still popular today.”


Visitors to the Apricot STEM Fair, being held on July 16 from 10am to 3pm, will also be able to view this exhibition. Food of the 30s and 40s leveraged some of the scientific and engineering advances made in the early 20th century, such as freezing, dehydrating, and preserving. Food technology will be explored with hands-on activities during the fair.


Fabulous Food of the 30s and 40s” is on display Thursdays-Sundays, noon to 4pm. Free docent-led tours of the historic J. Gilbert Smith House are also available during open hours. Visit the Museum website at losaltoshistory.org.


Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibitsstore and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.


The Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. Tours of the J. Gilbert Smith House are available during open hours. The outdoor agricultural exhibit, gardens and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email hello@losaltoshistory.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.


Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10, eward@losaltoshistory.org