Family Favorite – Potato Chips

It seems like potato chips have been around forever. Well, they do date back some 169 years in America. The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum, born in 1824. He was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. French fries were quite popular at the restaurant, and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick, too “soggy”, or not salted enough. The one doing the complaining was a regular patron of the restaurant, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (railroad tycoon). Crum became frustrated with the customer’s demands, so he sought revenge by slicing a batch of potatoes paper-thin, frying them to a crisp, and seasoning them with lots of salt. Surprisingly, the customer loved them. Soon enough, Crum and Moon’s Lake House became well-known for their special “Saratoga chips” as they became known as.

However, there is yet another version. Crum’s sister, Kate Wicks, claimed to be the real inventor of the potato chip. Wick’s obituary, published in The Saratogian in 1924, read, “A sister of George Crum, Mrs. Catherine Wicks, died at the age of 102, and was the cook at Moon’s Lake House. She first invented and fried the famous Saratoga Chips.” The sister’s version is: Wicks explained that she had sliced off a sliver of potato and it inadvertently fell into a hot frying pan. She had let Crum taste it and his enthusiastic approval led to the decision to serve the chips.

Cary Moon, the owner of Moon’s Lake House, later tried to claim credit for the invention and began producing and distributing potato chips in boxes. Once George Crum opened his own restaurant in the 1860s in Malta, New York, he provided every table with a basket of chips. That restaurant remained open and did well until Crum retired and closed the place in 1890. Crum lived until July 22, 1914.

With the dawn of the 20th century, companies started mass-producing potato chips for people to have at home. Companies such as: Mikesell’s Potato Chip Co. in 1910 and Tri-Sum Potato Chips in 1908 were two early manufacturers. In 1920 was Smiths Potato Chips Co. How the snacks were packed and preserved changed in the coming decades.

The more familiar companies include Wise Foods started in 1921 and became known also for Cheez Doodles. In the 1970s the Kettle Brand chips made them a bit thicker. There is Cape Cod Chips and Ruffles had their chips with ridges. The most famous is Lay’s Chips in a yellow bag, known for using only potatoes, vegetable oil and salt. Lay’s was started by Herman Lay in 1938, he purchased the Atlanta, Georgia-based potato chip manufacturer “Barrett Food Company”, renaming it “H.W. Lay Lingo & Company”.

Today potato chips represent more than 35% of all snacks sold.

Photo: Lay’s Yellow Potato Chips bag.

Related Blogs:

Foods Still Loved Today

Breakfast Foods of Our Ancestors

Family Desserts

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