Culture Magazine

A Collection of Vintage Cheese Labels

Our photo essay originates in England, circa 1957. It was there and then that a colorful package of cheese inspired one person (unknown) to start a collection of dairy labels, neatly organized in a scrapbook. His or her now-vintage collection — found orphaned on eBay — is a virtual journal of cheese branding in the mid-20th century.

Reproduced here, these graphic labels look just as the originals would have if you could step back in time, back to a day when bright, hand-rendered package art was a novelty and innocence wasn’t, and long before a blitz of color-soaked multimedia outlets emerged all around us. Once upon this time, artists illustrated a label to tell a story, evoke a feeling, with a single bright image. For many people such labels were the only artwork they saw from week to week.

Some of these artistic styles may seem familiar. Take a look at Heidi, or the slightly scary laughing cow, the princess castle, or the plump chick — think you’ve seen these before, perhaps in a forgotten storybook? Or maybe it’s the memory of a brand, imprinted long ago, that inspired a childhood daydream as you passed the time perched, legs dangling, on your mother’s shopping cart.

Other labels recall the handwork of artists who went on to fame and fortune, lucky to leave the marketing world to its own devices. Cartoonists like Theodor Geisel, who gave us Dr. Seuss, and William Donahey, the creator of the Teenie Weenies, started their careers in commercial art.

Whatever else you glean from this heirloom label collection, it stands as a graphic reminder that the confluence of art, branding and food can be a powerful thing, revealing as much about ourselves as the world around us.

The above text and collection first appeared in the Autumn 2010 issue of Culture Magazine and has been reprinted here with the publishers permission.

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Comments [4]
Great post! Thank you. This kind of images are just amazing.
Seems like the '50-'60-'70s are in the air.. We are very much interested in such graphic images, since we are working on a project with a similar subject. Here, if you'd like to take a look
It's a collection with all kinds of images from the communist years in Romania: posters, labels, covers.. the best of which are included in a book we've recently published - Graphics without computer.
It has something to do with nostalgia, as you say, but beyond this (and despite communist propaganda, in our case), there are some outstanding, very simple and nice graphic solutions.

I love this!
Nathan Hill

Those weren't cheese labels. They were processed cheese labels. Blech. (I really enjoyed them, I'm just a cheese snob.)

I found a similar collection in a junk shop, my children still laugh at me, I will post them soon
Simon Darnley

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