• Rich Honiball

Today in Brand History: The Potato Chip




In 1853, the 1st potato chips were prepared by chef George Crum at Moon's Lake House, near Saratoga Springs, New York, or so the legend goes.


The story as I first heard it, in 1853, a customer was dining at Moon’s Lake House. Disappointed by the fried potatoes he’d been served, he sent them back to the kitchen a couple of times, each time complaining that they weren't thin enough. Out of spite, George Crum (a famed chef of Native American and Black heritage) sliced some potatoes as thin as he could, fried them to a crisp and served them to the customer who love them. Soon after, their "Saratoga Chips" became a customer favorite.


However, this story has been disputed.


Some believe the potato chip wasn't created out of spite by Crum, but rather on purpose years earlier by his sister, Catherine Wicks. Some say it was Hiram Thomas, a prominent black hotelier who ran the Moon Inn. Or it was Emeline Jones, who worked at one point at the Moon Inn and moved on to working for as a cook for wealthy families in New York City.


Others believe that it wasn't created in Saratoga at all. In 1817, an English doctor named William Kitchiner introduced "potatoes fried in slices" in the first edition of his pioneering cookbook, The Cook’s Oracle, which many believe was the first published accounting of the potato chip.


When I originally heard the story many years ago, I was told that Herman Lay (Yes, Frito-Lay) was a traveling salesman who ventured through Saratoga, loved what was then called "Saratoga Chips" and bought the patent, making them in his garage. He was a traveling salesman who purchased the Atlanta, Georgia-based potato chip manufacturer "Barrett Food Company" in 1938, renaming it "H.W. Lay Lingo & Company". The first was actually the Dayton, Ohio-based Mikesell's Potato Chip Company, founded in 1910, and calls itself the "oldest potato chip company in the United States". Or perhaps, it was the New Hampshire-based Granite State Potato Chip Factory, founded in 1905 and in operation until 2007.


Who knew that the dispute around who was first in the potato chip category would get so...salty! (Ever since I posted about the launch of Encyclopedia Britannica, and they responded with "love, but a correction" because I had the wrong date, I've tried to dig deeper and not only learned more, but tried to check my facts. That said, I still can't say that everything I've written is accurate...so if you find something you don't think is right, let me know. Encyclopedia Britannica was kind enough to!)

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