Potato Chips - History


According to a traditional story, the original potato chip recipe was created in Saratoga Springs, New York on August 24, 1853. Agitated by a patron repeatedly sending his fried potatoes back because they were too thick, soggy and bland, resort hotel chef, George Crum, decided to slice the potatoes as thin as possible, frying them until crisp and seasoning them with extra salt. Contrary to Crum's expectation, the patron (sometimes identified as Cornelius Vanderbilt) loved the new chips and they soon became a regular item on the lodge's menu under the name "Saratoga Chips". Alternative explanations of the provenance of potato chips date them to recipes in Shilling Cookery for the People by Alexis Soyer (1845) or Mary Randolph's The Virginia House-Wife (1824).

In the 20th century, potato chips spread beyond chef-cooked restaurant fare and began to be mass-produced for home consumption. The Dayton, Ohio-based Mike-sell's Potato Chip Company, founded in 1910, calls itself the "oldest potato chip company in the United States". New England-based Tri-Sum Potato Chips, originally founded in 1908 as the Leominster Potato Chip Company, in Leominster, Massachusetts claim to be America's first potato chip manufacturer. Chips sold in markets were usually sold in tins or scooped out of storefront glass bins and delivered by horse and wagon. The early potato chip bag was wax paper with the ends ironed or stapled together. At first, potato chips were packaged in barrels or tins, which left chips at the bottom stale and crumbled. Laura Scudder, an entrepreneur in Monterey Park, California started having her workers take home sheets of wax paper to iron into the form of bags, which were filled with chips at her factory the next day. This pioneering method reduced crumbling and kept the chips fresh and crisp longer. This innovation, along with the invention of cellophane, allowed potato chips to become a mass market product. Today, chips are packaged in plastic bags, with nitrogen gas blown in prior to sealing to lengthen shelf life, and provide protection against crushing.

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