P.D. Gwaltney Jr. and his "pet" ham, which is now on exhibit at the Isle of Wright County Museum.
P.D. Gwaltney Jr. and his "pet" ham, which is now on exhibit at the Isle of Wright County Museum.

Today when food gets too old, we throw it away. This wasn’t always the case, as demonstrated by a 112-year-old ham sitting in a Smithfield, Va., museum, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The cured ham was originally owned by P.D. Gwaltney Jr., who referred to the ham as his “pet” and used it as a marketing tool for his meat company. He fitted it with a brass collar and a leash to show it off to potential ham buyers.

It was initially cured and smoked in 1902 and has been smoked several time since.

It was donated to the Isle of Wright County Museum in 1985 by a Gwaltney relative.  The museum’s site boasts the ham was featured in Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” in 1929, 1932 and 2003.

Henrietta Gwaltney, the owner’s granddaughter, explained to reporters “you could probably still eat the darn thing.”
Even though the ham is shriveled and now resembles a chunk of old leather than a hunk of meat, she admits, "It's kind of interesting to see."

Tracey Neikirk, curator of Isle of Wright County Museum, re-iterated that the ham could be considered edible, though she wouldn’t recommend it.  

"It would be dry, dry tasting, but it's not molded," Neikirk said.

The museum had a special case made to keep the ham free from bugs and mold. Trays of silica absorb moisture, and the case is cleaned annually to prevent residue from building.

Click here to read more about the ham and other century-old foods.