As It Happens

As it Happened: The Archive Edition - The Extremes Episode

He was a fine swine. Alas, he did not get better with age. Ham, the aptly named ham, is now the world's oldest cured ham. In the summer of 2014, the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, Virginia celebrated Ham's 112th birthday.
At 113-years-old, this is the world's oldest cured ham. It's on display at the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, Virginia. (Photo courtesy the Isle of Wight County Museum)

He was a fine swine. Alas, he did not get better with age.

Ham, the aptly named ham, is now the world's oldest cured ham. In the summer of 2014, the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, Virginia celebrated Ham's 112th birthday. 

The ham was first cured in 1902 by the P.D. Gwaltney Jr., who owned several meat packing plants in Smithfield.

Jennifer England, the historic resources manager at the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, where the famous ham now reside says the ham was hung from the rafters of one of the packing houses and forgotten.

"Eventually someone found it and said 'this ham is still in great shape, it's probably still edible.' But when Gwaltney found it he thought that it would make a great pet. In fact he called it his pet ham," England told As it Happens guest host Rick MacInnes-Rae,

First cured in 1902, P.D. Gwaltney Jr.’s famous pet ham currently resides at the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield, Virginia. (Photo courtesy the Isle of Wight County Museum.)

Gwaltney had a collar made for the ham, he had it insured, and he took it with him when he went to trade shows. In 1927, the ham survived a fire at one of Gwaltney's plants, which endeared him to the ham even more.

The ham is on display at the Isle of Wight County Museum, but it can be viewed from afar via a live web cam. The ham is now 113 years old.

England describes the ham as "a little bit shrivelled. It's well-preserved, you could eat it. It would most likely be very chewy and need some kind of sauce, perhaps."

Every summer the museum holds a photo contest with the ham. The Pan Ham contest encourages fans of the ham to take a picture of themselves on their summer travels while holding a picture of P.D. Gwaltney Jr and his ham. 

As it Happens producer Laurie Allan (far left) with a picture of P.D. Gwaltney Jr. and his ham at the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games. Pan Ham at the Pan Am.

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