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Feed Sack Collection
You probably won't find a larger collection of feed sacks anywhere than the one owned by Al and Delores Friedrich, Canby, Ore., who have been collecting burlap and cotton feed sacks for over 25 years. They now have more than 500 of them, all photographed and cataloged. Many of the sacks are more than 60 years old, and some are up to 100 years old.
"It's fun collecting them because each sack has a story to tell. Many contain writ-ten information such as ingredients and price and are historical documents," says Friedrich. "They're all that remain of the old flour and feed mills, most of which have gone out of business."
In addition to feed sacks, Friedrich also collects seed, flour, sugar, and other sacks.
His collection traces its beginnings back to 1877 when his great-grandfather opened a feed and flour mill near Mulino, Ore. Friedrich, who is now 76, worked at the mill for 45 years. When sacks were returned to be cleaned and repaired, he began saving some of the better looking ones.
"The sacks really came into their own in the early part of this century, when advances in poultry nutrition began occuring," says Friedrich. "Between 1925 and 1975 more than 100 flour and feed mills were operating in Oregon alone. Each mill identified its bags with a distinctive brand. When feeds fortified with minerals and vitamins were introduced, companies wanted their customers to know about it. As demand for better feeds grew, so did competition between the mills. To get business, they used beautiful feed sacks with colorful brand names, logos, and illustrations printed on them.
"For those of us who loved being around feed mills, the sacks came to symbolize a truly exciting time. As a friend of mine said, that period of several decades was like a æbeautiful romance.'"
But in the 1950's and æ60's, bulk feeds came into the picture, and the use of sacked feed declined. Not too long after that, those mills that still used sacks switched to smaller ones made of paper or plastic. The era of cotton and burlap feed sacks was over. To-day many feed sacks have disappeared for-ever along with the mills that used them.
Friedrich is now retired from the feed business but is doing what he can to pre-serve the history of feed sacks. He and Delores exhibit their collection at the Oregon State Fair every year and have produced a 70-page booklet filled with photos and the histories of each sack they've collected. They've also produced a 90-minute slide show. Unfortunately, there's no national network of collectors with whom to swap information and bags.
"I know there are still some one-of-akind sacks out there that should be in our collection. We want the humble feed sack to have the place in agricultural history that it deserves," says Friedrich, adding that he'd like to hear from other people who collect old feed sacks.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Alvin & Delores Friedrich, 710 N. Juniper St., Box 103, Canby, Ore. 97013 (ph 503 266-9357).

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1996 - Volume #20, Issue #2