Man’s Best Friend

A long-aged ham makes an unlikely pet.

By Dana Bowen

Published on November 16, 2009

In the 1920s, a ham producer in Smithfield, Virginia, named Pembroke Decatur "P.D." Gwaltney Jr. found a ham in his aging room that, according to his records, had first been cured in 1902. Impressed that it was still perfectly edible, he started taking it with him to county fairs, business conventions, and other events to prove the safety and longevity of Smithfield hams. Gwaltney eventually attached a collar and a leash to the piece of meat and started calling it his pet ham. He even insured it, for $5,000. The pet ham soon made it into newspaper articles around the country; in 1932 the syndicated column "Believe It or Not!" ran a cartoon of the ham and its owner alongside a brief caption: "Although never introduced to cold storage [it] remains tender and sweet and fit to eat after 30 years." The petrified-looking ham's current resting place? The Isle of Wight County Museum in Virginia.

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