I recently completed a certificate in scientific illustration with botanist and illustrator Gretchen Halpert. The final part of the certificate required either doing an internship or conducting an independent study. I selected the independent study option, and chose to focus on the pickle manufacturing industry in Wiggins, Mississippi. I grew up in Wiggins and wanted to honor my hometown by making creating educational illustrations about the pickle industry, which is an important part of its history.
The study focuses on a single entity – AKA , the Wiggins Pickle Plant, the Pickle Plant, or just the Plant, which operated from 1912 – 1983 under various company names. For the study, I traveled to Wiggins and visited the Old Firehouse Museum, which is a repository of information about town’s history. The majority of the information for this project came from newspaper articles dating from the mid 1920s to late 1950s found there. I also questioned several individuals who had either worked at the Pickle Plant, or had family who grew pickles for it.
In this study, illustrations and supporting text are used to describe cucumbers and discuss how they are pollinated. It then examines the harvest and processing methods associated with the Wiggins Pickle Plant between mid-1930s to late 1950s. The study concludes with a look at a Pickle Festival held in 1937 to show how the plant impacted the town both economically and socially. These are the illustrations that I created for the study.
Click on the link below to download the full PowerPoint presentation of the study.
Given the long history of the pickle plant in Wiggins, this ten-week project barely scratched the surface of the many microcosms involved in manufacturing pickles. I plan to continue the study, but will do so by focusing on more specific research questions.
*Note: In case you’re wondering what happened to the building, It was purchased by the family of Rusty Reeves in 1987 and used for HVAC air distribution products until 2002. According to Mr. Reeves, the plant employed up to 88 employees at peak times.
12 thoughts on “Pickletown, U.S.A. – the Wiggins, Mississippi Pickle Plant”
Thanks for review. My family purchased the plant 1987 and manufacture d HVAC air distrobution products until 2002. Up to 88 employees at peak times.
Hi Rusty, thanks so much for commenting! I’m glad to hear the building was used and it provided people with jobs. I will add your comment to the text. Have a great Sunday! – Joely
My Uncle Ott worked at “The Pickle Factory” as he called it for about 35 years. Our family lived in Louisiana, but when they visited, they always brought jars of American or Rainbow Pickles as gifts. My Dad lpved the big Kosher Dills. Uncle Ott also brought us “Wylers Grape or Orange Drink” that was also produced in the factory. He loved the stuff. My Mom always bought the Rainbow or American Pickles and supported the brand in the grocery store in Louisiana and wouldn’t buy anything else, as we had other family working there off and on over the years.
My Dad’s entire family had been in Wiggins for many generations, and some still live there to this day. Most are buried at Ten Mile Baptist Church, or a Cemetery at Big Level. Over the years, spending time at my Aunt and Uncles home in Wiggins, I always saw Uncle Ott walking out of the house early, in his work shirt with a Rainbow Baseball Cap, carrying his old metal lunch box and climbing into his old Chevy Pickup truck, heading to work. We loved the sweet Baby Gherkins Pickles and he would bring them home for us in the evening after work. Wonderful memories of my family in the past, and a great place, where people were nice and lived a simpler life.
Hi Donnie, thank you so much for the comment! That is such a great visual about your Uncle Ott walking to his Chevy with his work lunch box. 🙂 My Dad worked at one of the local papermills and his morning departure was similar – work clothes, lunch box, and an old truck. I didn’t know that they made soda there too, really interesting. I am a 5th generation “Wigginite”, although I moved to Texas 30 years ago, and now live in North Carolina. I have a lot of family in Wiggins still (my maiden is Seal) and I am familiar with Ten Mile Baptist Church. You are right, it was a much simpler, and often harder life back then in that part of the country. I miss those times though. – Joely
Hello! Would you happen to know the production dates for sweet pickles under the “American Brand”? I am trying to date an old Kerr Jarr with an American Brand label.
Hi Tim, I looked back at some of my research and it seems to be the 1920s – 1930s under the American Brand. I’m sorry I don’t have a more precise number.
Joely, thank you so much!! You were so gracious to look it up! That helps a lot. Is there a way that I could upload a pic to you? It’s an awesome label.
Hi Tim, I emailed you.
My grandparents lived in Perkinston, then later in Wiggins, I remember the smell of the pickles when coming through town. My parents and grandparents are buried at Ten Mile Baptist church. Delmar and Fleanor Green, and Russell and Marteal Ingram
Thanks for the comment Mark. I’m familiar with Ten Mile Baptist church. I’ll ask my parents (Robert and Christa Seal) if they knew your family.
My dad, now deceased, told us kids of when he was in the army, he was stationed in Germany.
On weekends, instead of cooking meals, the kitchen staff would put out cold cuts, bread, mayo and pickles to feed the folks that stayed on base.
He remembers one day he was eating a sandwich and thinking to himself, just how them pickles tasted.
He remembered picking up the jar and reading the label that read, manufactured in Wiggins, Mississippi.
Being raised in Petal, that surely made him homesick. I’ll always believe that may have had something to do with us living in Wiggins all our lives.
By the yay, we raised and picked pickles for several years and sold them to Brown Miller Pickle Company in Wiggins, MS
Thanks for the comment Steve. That’s a great memory from your Dad. It’s cool how food can connect people to home.