Camp Coffee bottle

Okay, so I’ve been really lousy about posting over the past month. Life, it seems, caught up to me and gave me the old Hulk Hogan special. So, now that I’ve picked myself off the ground and am in the process of dusting myself off, here’s a new Canmore historical mystery. It’s another one the Canmore Museum is attempting to solve and find out if people in Canmore used Camp Coffee and if so, when? Judging by the label alone, it was some time ago. Camp Coffee is still available, but thankfully, the label has changed. Read on and find out more about this intriguing coffee substitute.

Camp Coffee bottle

According to Amanda Sittrop at the museum: “Camp Coffee was created in Glasgow, Scotland in 1876 by Paterson & Sons Ltd. It is said that the military on campaign in India were looking for an easily brewable cup of coffee, hence the brand name “CAMP”. The Camp Coffee product was meant as an instant coffee mix. Much like a hot cocoa powder, it was to be stirred into hot milk as a coffee substitute. The label depicts a Gordon Highlander, more specifically the Major General Sir Hector Macdonald. Macdonald was born near Inverness Scotland on March 4, 1853 to a crofter father and dressmaking mother. At 15, Macdonald left home and joined the Gordon Highlanders at 17. In 1874, after several years of service, Macdonald was honoured with the Victoria Cross for bravery demonstrated in the Second Afghan War. He earned the nickname “Fighting Mac” shortly after this during the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. “Fighting Mac” as the product icon likely appealed to the Victorian market at the time, in terms of overseas “conquests.” Criticism and outrage over the label has sparked several redesigns over the years, the most recent in 2006. Rather than the Sikh man standing beside the Scotsman in a subservient way, the Sikh man today sits beside his Scottish counterpart, cup and saucer also in hand. A spokesperson for McCormick Foods, the current manufacturer of the product, insisted that the change in label was purely ‘marketing strategy.’”


About Rob Alexander

I am a writer, photographer and historian and the author of The History of Canmore, published by Summerthought Publishing of Banff, AB.
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