Center: the mummy-like world's oldest ham.
Center: the mummy-like world's oldest ham. Mega-ham is on the left.

World's Oldest Edible Ham

Field review by the editors.

Smithfield, Virginia

The most prized artifact in the small Isle of Wight County Museum is the world's oldest edible cured ham.

Secrets of Ham Mold.

The ham was cured in 1902 by a local pork processor, Pembroke D. Gwaltney Jr. Then the ham was misplaced and forgotten. When it was rediscovered, decades later, Pembroke knew he had a ham worth its weight in gold. He outfitted the ham with a brass collar, called it his "pet ham," and showed it to customers as proof of his ability to preserve meat without refrigeration. It made his company famous enough to eventually merge into the pork behemoth Smithfield Foods.

The ham outlasted its tireless promoter and, in 1985, it was donated to the museum by one of Pembroke's grandchildren. One of the jobs of the curator of the Isle of Wight County Museum is to keep the ham edible by keeping it free of bugs and mold. The ham -- which now somewhat resembles a shriveled human arm -- shares a special climate-controlled case with two other famous hams, one of them said to be the world's largest.

Despite its great age, the ham is still younger than another food item displayed in the museum: the world's oldest peanut. It was picked and dated "1890" by Pembroke's father, P.D. Gwaltney Sr., known in his time as "The Peanut King." Unlike the ham, however, the museum makes no claim that it is edible.

World's Oldest Edible Ham

Isle of Wight County Museum

Address:
103 Main St., Smithfield, VA
Directions:
Isle of Wight County Museum. I-64 exit 263A (Mercury Blvd/US 258). South on US 258, across the James River Bridge, for 17.5 miles. Turn right on Main St. in Smithfield, then one-half mile to Museum.
Hours:
M-Sa 10-4, Su 12-4 (Call to verify)
Phone:
757-356-1223
Admission:
Adults $2.00
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

USS Monitor Relics, ReplicaUSS Monitor Relics, Replica, Newport News, VA - 9 mi.
Auto Muffler KingAuto Muffler King, Newport News, VA - 11 mi.
Statue of Mr. PeanutStatue of Mr. Peanut, Suffolk, VA - 18 mi.
In the region:
Muscular Chrome Workers, Portsmouth, VA - 22 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Virginia

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Virginia.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

September 22, 2017

My Sights

My Sights

Save Cool Vacation Destinations!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Virginia Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

As We Are: The Ultimate Selfie Machine, Columbus, Ohio (Sep 18-24, 2017)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Nearby Hotels and Motels, Smithfield, Virginia

Nightly rates found:

Book Online Now