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15 lbs of Potato Sacks

In 1984, Professor Tom Trusky of the English Department at Boise State solicited Idaho potato companies for samples of their burlap  sacks-to serve as inspiration for the graphic artists illustrating the 1985 "All Idaho" issue of Cold-drill, the university's literary magazine.  Those potato sacks were put on display at Boise State in 1985 (in conjunction with the publication of the magazine) and again in 1995 (as part of an exhibit entitled "Sack Art").  Following the 1995 exhibition, the sacks were transferred to the University Archives in Albertsons Library, where they became part of Record Group 425, Records of Cold-drill.

We resurrected twenty-four of the sacks-weighing 15 pounds-and put them on display on the second floor of Albertsons Library during January and February 2006.  This is a Web version of that exhibit.  Each sack measures approximately 22 by 36 inches and, when full, can hold 100 pounds of potatoes. Once the predominant form of packaging used by distributors to ship their potatoes to market, the burlap potato sack is an important cultural symbol in potato-growing Idaho. The images on the sacks tell many stories, of interest to students of advertising, marketing, the graphic arts, and social and cultural history.  While burlap sacks are still used by Idaho's potato distributors, their supremacy is now challenged by mesh, paper, and poly bags.

Thanks to all the companies who donated sacks to Boise State University. Altogether, there are 105 sacks from Idaho and other Western states in the collection.






Click on the burlap below to see larger images

See Marilyn Monroe dressed in Idaho burlap

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This page last changed: 12 September 2006

Special Collections • 1910 University Drive • Boise, ID 83725-1430 • Phone: 208-426-1204 • Email: Archives