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Fascinating facts about George Crum
inventor of the Potato Chip in 1853.
George Crum
AT A GLANCE:
In the summer of 1853, Native American George Crum was employed as a chef at an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. O
ne dinner guest found Crum's French fries too thick for his liking and rejected the order. Crum decided to rile the guest by producing fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan backfired. The guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and other diners began requesting Crum's potato chips
THE STORY
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DID YOU KNOW?
Inventor: George Crum (a.k.a. George Speck*)
Photo courtesy www.history.rochester.edu
Criteria: First to invent.
Birth: 1822 Saratoga Lake, New York
Death: 1914 Saratoga Lake, New York
Nationality: Narive American
Invention: Potato Chips in 1853
Photo courtesy www.fritolay.com
Definition: noun / po·ta·to chips
Function: Snack food made of a thin slice of white potato that has been cooked until crisp and then usually salted. Also known as Saratoga Chips or potato crisps.
Patent: Never patented.
Milestones:
1853 George Crum invents the Saratoga Chip, a thin French fry, now known as the potato chip
1960 Crum opened his own restaurant, featuring potato chips in a basket placed on every table..
1895 William Tappendon of Cleveland, Ohio begins selling potato chips as a food in grocery stores
1908 Leominster Potato Chip Co., Leominster, MA (later changed the name to Tri-Sum)
1910 Mikesell's Potato Chips, Dayton, Ohio.
1910 George Dentler, Houston, Texas.
1913 Dan Dee Pretzel and Potato Chip Company, Cleveland, Ohio.
1918 Num Num, Cleveland, Ohio
1919 Blue Bell - Illinois
1921 Wise Delicatessen Company, Berwick, Pennsylvania
1921 Utz - Hanover, Pennsylvania. started as the Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips
1921 Magic Food Co, later Golden Flake*, Birmingham, Alabama.
1924 Moore's, Bristol, Virginia.
1926 Scudder's - Monterey Park, California
1930 Better Made - Detroit, Michigan
1932 Lay's - founded by Herman Lay of Nashville, Tennessee
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The Story
As a world food, potatoes are second in human consumption only to rice. And as thin, salted, crisp chips, they are America's favorite snack food. Potato chips originated in New England as one man's variation on the French-fried potato, and their production was the result not of a sudden stroke of culinary invention but of a fit of pique.

In the summer of 1853, Native American George Crum was employed as a chef at an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. On Moon Lake Lodge's restaurant menu were French-fried potatoes, prepared by Crum in the standard, thick-cut French style that was popularized in 1700s France and enjoyed by Thomas Jefferson as ambassador to that country. Ever since Jefferson brought the recipe to America and served French fries to guests at Monticello, the dish was popular and serious dinner fare.

At Moon Lake Lodge, one dinner guest found chef Crum's French fries too thick for his liking and rejected the order. Crum cut and fried a thinner batch, but these, too, met with disapproval. Exasperated, Crum decided to rile the guest by producing French fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan backfired. The guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and other diners requested Crum's potato chips, which began to appear on the menu as Saratoga Chips, a house specialty.

In 1860 George opened his own restaurant in a building on Malta Avenue near Saratoga Lake, and within a few years was catering to wealthy clients including William Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton. His restaurant closed around 1890 and he died in 1914 at the age of 92.

The idea of making them as a food item for sale in grocery stores came to many people at around the same time, but perhaps the first was William Tappendon of Cleveland, OH, in 1895.   He began making chips in his kitchen and delivering to neighborhood stores but later converted a barn in the rear of his house into "one of the first potato chip factories" in the country.

At that time, potatoes were tediously peeled and sliced by hand. It was the invention of the mechanical potato peeler in the 1920s that paved the way for potato chips to soar from a small specialty item to a top-selling snack food. For several decades after their creation, potato chips were largely a Northern dinner dish.

In 1921, Bill and Sallie Utz started the Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Salie Utz used her knowledge of good Pennsylvania Dutch cooking to make the chips in a small summer house behind their home. The hand-operated equipment Salie used made about fifty pounds of potato chips per hour. While Salie stayed home making chips, Bill delivered them to "mom and pop" grocery stores and farmer's markets in the Hanover, PA and Baltimore, MD area.

Out in Monterey Park, California  the Scudders company started making potato chips in 1926. Laura Scudder is credited with developing the wax paper bag for potato chips which made a wider distribution possible because of its preserving properties.  Prior to this bag potato chips were dispensed in bulk from barrels or glass display cases. 

In 1932, Herman Lay founded Lay's in Nashville, Tenn., which distributed potato chips from a factory in Atlanta, Ga. Herman Lay, a traveling salesman in the South, helped popularize the food from Atlanta to Tennessee. Lay peddled potato chips to Southern grocers out of the trunk of his car, building a business and a name that would become synonymous with the thin, salty snack. Lay's potato chips became the first successfully marketed national brand.

The industry that George Crum launched in 1853 continues to grow and prosper. Potato chips have become America's favorite snack. U.S. retail sales of potato chip are over $6 billion a year.  In 2003 the U.S. potato chip industry employed more than 65,000 people.

*George Speck was born to Abraham and Catherine Speck. George also used the name Crum, as his father did while working as a jockey.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of the Potato Chip      from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Mistakes That Worked
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Paperback - 48 pages
(1994) / Doubleday
Recounting the fascinating stories behind the accidental inventions of forty familiar objects and products.

Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.
The Greatest Potatoes
by Penelope Stowell, Sharon Watts (Illustrator) / Hardcover: 36 pages / Jump At The Sun (2005)
Who knew that potato chips were invented in an attempt to cook the worst-tasting potatoes on Earth? This dynamic picture book is based on the true story of George Crum.


ON THE SCREEN:
Salty Snacks
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / 76318 / Less than $25.00
It's official--the American diet is a disaster. But it is also undeniably tasty, and increasingly snack-centric. We consume over 4.3 billion pounds of snack food a year which means the snack is on the verge of becoming America's favorite meal!

Snackfood Tech
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / 74171 / Less than $25.00
It's a world of creamy fillings, frosted tops and salty morsels. It's a multi-billion dollar industry where recipes are closely guarded secrets. It's an American obsession. See what happens before M&Ms get to "melt in your mouth" at Masterfoods USA, the world's largest candy manufacturer. At each stop, we'll meet the men and women who keep these tasty treats coming and the formulators who are working to create the next snack sensation.


ON THE WEB:

The Legacy of Mr. Crum's Potato Chips
History, links, recipes and more.
(URL: www.dmgi.com/chips.htm)
Potato Chip: 1853, Saratoga Springs, New York
History of the Saratoga Chip and the Potato chip.
(URL: www.history.rochester.edu/Scientific_American/mystery/crum.htm)
Potato Chips
Piecing together how chips spread between 1853 and the early part of the 20th century is difficult.  One thing that is known about that period, however, is that potato chips (Saratoga Chips) were principally prepared and consumed in restaurants. Article by John E. Harmon
(URL: www.geography.ccsu.edu/harmonj/atlas/potchips.htm)
Saratoga County Historical Society

Crum is credited with "inventing" the potato chip while a cook at Moon's Lake House on Saratoga Lake in 1853. Crum was really George Speck
(URL: www.brooksidemuseum.org/photo/2002/september2002.html)
The Potato Chip is 150 This Year!
A Century and a Half of Crunch: The Potato Chip Turns 150!. Article by Ann Przybyla Wilkes,
SFA Vice President of Communications in 2003.
(URL: www.sfa.org/potato150.aspx)
Better Made Potato Chips History
Cross and Peters company was founded on August 1st, 1930. The company was named after the founders' first names, Cross and Peter. Both set goals to make a better potato chip hence the brand name, Better Made Potato Chips.
(URL: www.bettermadepotatochips.com/history.htm)
Utz Potato Chip History
Utz Quality Foods, Inc. was started in 1921 by Bill and Salie Utz in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Bill Utz, dissatisfied with the quality of potato chips being produced at the time, believed so strongly in the marketability of a wholesome quality chip that he quit his job and risked it all to begin producing the couple's own brand of potato chips.
(URL: www.utzsnacks.com/)
Wise Potato Chips History
Even with so many snacking alternatives, there’s a reason traditional potato chips, flavored and original, remain so popular. They’re undeniably delicious. And nobody does chips better than Wise.
(URL: www.wisesnacks.com/company_history.html)
FritoLay
The snack food giant's Web site has lots of information, including history of the company.
(URL: www.fritolay.com)
THE SNACK FOOD ASSOCIATION
The SFA is an international association representing more than 800 company members, including snack manufacturers and suppliers to the snack industry.
(URL: www.sfa.org)

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • Americans today consume more potato chips than any other people in the world.
  • As a world food, potatoes are second in human consumption only to rice. And as thin, salted, crisp chips, they are America's favorite snack food.
  • The potato chip did not leave the United States as a food item until 1921 when they were introduced in England.  Since the words chips was already in use for what we in this country call french fries, the word crisps was used.
  • The potato used for making chips is not the same brand of potato you get at the super market. Special varieties are grown specifically for chips. They are called “chipping” potatoes and have to be specially ordered
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised April 20, 2007.
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