5 Potato Chip Legends Who Changed The Game
Potato chips have been America’s favorite snack food for over a century. On average, each American will crunch into over four pounds of potato chips, annually and collectively Americans eat approximately 1.5 billion pounds of potato chips per year. Globally, potatoes are second only to rice when it comes to global human consumption. Knowing how significant potato chips are to America’s snack culture, it begs the question, where did potato chips come from, and how did they rise to the coveted status of being America’s favorite snack food? A handful of people and organizations made it happen.
5 Legends Who Changed Potato Chip History
1. George Crum George Crum (a.k.a. George Speck) was a Native American who worked as a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge, a restaurant at an elegant Saratoga Springs, NY resort. Crum was accustomed to preparing the typical, thick-cut French style potatoes that became popular during the 1700s in France. However, in the summer of 1853, one of the guests rejected Crum’s French fries stating that he wanted them to be thinner. Crum obliged the guest and cut a thinner batch of French fries, but the dinner guest still disapproved. By this time, Crum was annoyed and decided to irritate the guest by creating French fries that were extremely thin and so crispy that he would not be able to pierce them with his fork. Crum’s plan backfired as the guest was delighted with the paper-thin, crispy potatoes. Other guests began to request these soon-to-be-called potato chips. These chips were added to the menu at Moon Lake Lodge, listed as the house specialty and referred to as Saratoga Chips. These Saratoga Chips were ultimately packaged and sold throughout New England. In 1860, Crum opened his own restaurant that featured his potato chips. He placed a basket of potato chips on each of his tables. Creating these delectable delights was time consuming because each potato had to be peeled and then sliced by hand. Before too long, Crum was catering to the likes of Jay Gould, William Vanderbilt and Henry Hilton. The restaurant remained open until around 1890. In the 1920s, the mechanical potato peeler was invented. This invention made it possible for potato chips to become the top-selling snack food that they are today.
2. Earl Wise What started as a potato surplus evolved into Wise Foods, Inc., one of the most successful snack-making companies in the country. In 1921, Earl Wise, Sr. had too many potatoes in his possession. To avoid wasting the spuds, Earl hand-peeled and sliced the potatoes to make potato chips, which he then sold in brown paper bags from his grocery store. The snacks were a big hit, so four years later, Earl opened his first production plant. The business grew and in the 1950s began expanding the line of snacks produced beyond potato chips – to much acclaim. One constant remained: Wise Foods, Inc. continually produced and still produces all-natural potato chips. In recent years, Wise Foods, Inc. was inducted into the Snack Food Association’s prestigious Circle of Honor.
3. Laura Scudder The Snack Food Association states that potato chips weren’t a mainstream snack food until Laura Scudder invented a moisture-resistant, sealable bag. Before Scudder invented this bag, potato chips were stored in barrels or glass display cases. This storage method allowed the chips at the bottom of the barrel to quickly become stale and damp. In 1926, Scudder took two pieces of wax paper and ironed them together. Every evening her employees would head home with sheets of wax paper to turn into bags. They ironed them. The next day, these newly created, moisture proof and sealable bags were used as chips packaging. They would seal the tops of the bags with an iron, too. This seal kept the chips fresh until they were opened.
4. Thomas Hutchinson Prior to the 1950s, commercial potato chips remained unseasoned. The consumer received a packet of salt inside the chip bag. Thomas Hutchinson owned Tayto, an Irish potato chip company. He discovered a way to add flavor to potato chips. Hutchinson created the world’s first seasoned potato chips, which were Salt ‘n’ Vinegar and Cheese & Onion.
5. The United States Government In 1942, the U.S. government declared potato chips an essential food and allowed factories to remain open during World War II. This could be because, for many, the only ready-to-eat vegetable sources were potato chips. Once the war ended, it became commonplace to serve potato chips and dip. Absent any of these legends, Americans’ favorite snack food would be completely different. Thanks to ambitious innovators like Crum and Wise who hand-made chips, Scudder who discovered a way to keep chips fresh and crisp, Hutchinson who added flavor, and the U.S. Government who endorsed potato chips as an essential food, potato chips are part of your life. They have become a delicious, varied, fun, go-to snack for people around the world. Needless to say, we appreciate the creativity and dedication of these innovators for perfecting the humble potato chip.