Oyster Tin, Foote's Best Oysters

This gallon tin once contained fresh oyster meats packed by the D. E. Foote & Co., Inc. Established in 1870 on West and Jackson Streets in Baltimore, D. E. Foote was one of a hundred oyster packing firms in the city that year, reflecting the enormous volume of trade in oysters from the Chesapeake Bay.
In 1906 the U.S. Congress passed several pure food laws in response to outbreaks of typhoid fever and gastrointestinal ailments linked to poor sanitation. Several new regulations were imposed on the oyster industry after contaminated oysters were blamed for serious illnesses. The laws required inspections of oyster beds and packing houses, as well as the identification of shellfish sources and standardized labeling.
This tin probably dates to the period 1920-30, when colorful lithographed tins became popular. It includes the old-style bail handle, a feature that was phased out around this time in an effort to reduce manufacturing costs. Like many Baltimore oyster packers, the Foote Company addressed consumers’ fears about sanitation by emphasizing the clean conditions under which the oysters were handled and citing its compliance with the law. The message to consumers on the reverse of the can reads: “THIS CAN CONTAINS STRICTLY FRESH SHUCKED SALT WATER OYSTERS PACKED UNDER PERSONAL SUPERVISION IN THE MOST SANITARY MANNER IN CONFORMITY WITH THE NATIONAL PURE FOOD LAW. KEEP ON ICE UNTIL USED.”
Object Name
oyster can
date made
D. E. Foote & Co., Inc
Physical Description
ferrous tinned (overall material)
overall: 7 1/8 in x 6 3/4 in; 18.0975 cm x 17.145 cm
place made
United States: Maryland, Baltimore
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Health & Medicine
Industry & Manufacturing
The Emergence of Modern America
See more items in
Work and Industry: Food Technology
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.