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Potato Chip Industry History & More

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BY MIKE REILLY September, 1996

1853 - Indian chef George Crum discovers the potato chip at Moon's Place In Saratoga Springs, N.Y..

1850's to 1920's - The "Cracker Barrel Era". potato chips sold in restaurants, large glass jars, glass and/or sheet metal display boxes.

1861 - First commercial U.S. pretzel bakery established by Julius Sturgis in Lititz, Lancaster County, PA.

1895 - William C. Tappenden manufacturing and distributing "Saratoga Chips" by horse- drawn wagon in Cleveland, Ohio.

1900's - Bon Ton Foods, Inc., York, PA.

1908 - Leominster Potato Chip Co. founded by J.P. Duchesneau in Leominster, MA.. Becomes Tri-Sum in 1932.

1910 - Colorado Potato Flake Co. began, later to become Red Seal Potato Chip Co. of Denver, CO.

1912 - Mike-Sells founded in Dayton, Ohio.

1913 - Dan Dee Pretzel & Potato Chip Co. founded by Charles V. Pike and Harry Orr in Cleveland, Ohio by purchasing H.T. Restemier Co. .

1918 - Noss Baking and Specialty Co. founded in Cleveland, Ohio. Later to become Num Num.

    For 75 years the potato chip was chiefly served in restaurants or to picnickers from grocery and "confectionery" stores. Potato chips were now being pushed for school lunches and since Prohibition began, the "speakeasy" trade demanded more "snack food" for its drinking customers.

     Nalley's Fine Foods started by Marcus Nalley.

1919 - Blue Bell (John & Ted Sachs) in Illinois.

     Husman Potato Products Company formed by Harry Husman is Cincinnati, Ohio first potato chip factory.

     Grippo Potato Chip Co., Inc. also begins in Cincinnati.

1920 - Perfect Potato Chip Co. in Decatur, IL.

     Smith's Potato Crisps, North London, U.K. ; first in U.K..

1921 - Wise Potato Chip co. in Berwick, PA.

     Utz Potato Chip Co. founded by Salie & Bill Utz in Hanover, PA. . Hanover Home Brand Potato Chip.

     Magic City Food Co. started by Walter Gregg in Birmingham, AL.. see 1946 and 1955.

     Overseas production of potato chips (crisps) begins in the United Kingdom ,1920/21.

early 1920's - Bell Brands founded by Max Ginsberg in Los Angeles, CA.

1924 - April: Moore's Potato Chip Co. started by J.W. Moore in Bristol, VA.

     First Milwaukee listing of a "Potato Chip Manufacturer", William H. Schaller at 710 North Ave. Mr. Schaller, under "Pop Corn", had a listing "Pop Corn Confections" at the same address.

1920's - Noss Pretzels and Cone Co (name change). see 1918.

     Kuehmann Co. begins in Toledo, Ohio (Q-Man Potato Chips).

     Egers Chips in Sandusky, Ohio.

     Durnell Golden Crisp, Chicago, IL..

     Yo-Ho Potato Chip, Chicago, IL..

     Up-To-Date Food Products Co started by Mr. Superior.

     Home Town Potato Chip Co. begins in Louisville, KN.

     During the 1920's the development of waterproof packaging enabled the potato chip business to leap out of its cottage industry status, providing "self-service" product packaging.

     Chips became rancid if exposed to light, thus a switch to opaque packaging.

1926 - November: Laura Scudder's "Scudder's Foods Co." is marketing "Mayflower Potato Chips in southern California and Blue Bird Potato Chips in northern California.

1927 - April 1: Salem Potato Chip Co. in Akron, Ohio (five other companies already existed).

1928 - Groff's Snack Food Co. started by Horace W. and Mamie Groff in Bowmansville, PA.. In 1947 production facilities are built.

1929 - First continuous potato chip cooker made by J.D. Ferry Co. of Harrisburg, PA., installed at Ross Potato Chip Co. in Richland, PA.

1931 - Impact of Great Depression more widely felt; potato chip companies founded by many out of work citizens.

     Rainey Saratoga Potato Chip Co., Philadelphia, PA. buys 2nd Ferry cooking unit.

    Thomasson Potato Chip Co. begun by Oralie Thomasson in Elyria, Ohio.

     Purity Potato Chip Co., Milwaukee, WI., later as Purity Food Products Co. is sold to Red Dot in 1946.

     Wise Potato Chips founded.

Pre 1932 - Barrett Foods, Inc founded in Atlanta, GA.. Also had plants in Memphis, TN. and

     Jacksonville, FL.. Later sold to Herman Lay.

1932 - Schuler Pretzel & Potato Chip Co. started in Rochester, N.Y..; 3rd Ferry cooker.

     Cain's Potato Chip (John E. Cain) started by buying out Sunrise Pure Food Co. in Plymouth, MA.. In 1939, the plant moved to Cambridge, MA. and another plant was built in 1953 in Medford, MA..

     Weaver Potato Chips started by Ed Weaver, Sr. in Lincoln, Nebraska.

     Morton's founded.

     H.W. Lay loses sales job with Sunshine Biscuit Co. due to Depression.

1932+ - E.M. Gordon, son W.P. Gordon and others leave Barrett Foods and start Gordon's Foods in Atlanta, GA.. Eventually sold to Sunshine.

1933 - Stock Quality Foods in Reading, PA. purchases 4th Ferry cooker.

     Seyfert Foods in Fort Wayne, IN. starts out making pretzels and adds potato chips in 1934.

     Dixie Wax Paper Co. of Dallas, TX. introduces first "pre-print" waxed Glassine bag, "Dixie's Fresheen".

     Reading Pretzel Machinery Co. introduces first automatic pretzel twisting machine.

     Geiser's Potato Chip Co. founded by Frank and August Geiser as the Delicious Brand Food Products Co.

     Dickey's founded.

     Kitty Clover started.

1934 - K.T. Salem uses glassine waxed bags developed by Dixie Wax Paper Co.

     Ferry cooker to Loose-Wiles in Long Island, N.Y..

     Ferry cooker sold to Hiland potato Chip Co. in Des Moines, Iowa.

     Old Dutch Foods, Inc.

     Waulter's Potato Chips started in Milwaukee by Frank W. Waulter.

Mid 1930's - Noss Pretzels and Cone Co. becomes Num-Num. see 1918, 1920's and 1959.

     Most grocery stores are still not self-service.

     Early Ohio chip association started by Dan-Dee, Restemier Co. (supposedly Dan- Dee bought this company in 1913?), and Num-Num.

     K.T. Salem, Mike-Sells and Husman's in Cincinnati join group to become the Ohio Potato Chip Association.

1935 - Brewer-Synder Co of Washington, D.C. buys Ferry cooker.

     Becker Pretzel Co. of Baltimore, MD. buys Ferry Cooker.

     Seyfert's founded (see 1933).

1936 - Cain's Marcelle Potato Chip Co. at 121 Lehman Ave Bowling Green, Ohio started. Company incorporated in 1953. "Marcelle" means wavy chip.

     Paradise Potato Chip Co. (Zya & Sally Matuszewski) begins in Detroit, MI.. see 1947,1953, 1954 and 1963.

1937 - The Ohio Potato Chip Association, headed by Harvey Noss, becomes the Potato Chip Institute (PCI). Purchases a million paper PCI labels with "The King of Chips" slogan under crown. Label is dated 1937.

     EL-GE Potato Chip Co. of York, PA. started by Leonard Gillespie.

     Buckeye founded.

     H.W. Lay buys Barrett Foods in Atlanta for $60,000.

1938 - Arthur Ross closes Ross Potato Chip Co. and retires.

     Special Foods Co. started by Leonard Japp; sells Mrs. Japp's Potato Chips.

     Hod Sander's Clover Club Potato Chip Co. in Kaysville, UT.. The Salt Lake City area already had thirty potato chip companies in existence.

     First PCI convention held at Hollenden House Hotel in Cleveland. Harvey Noss is elected President of PCI through 1939; Henry Restemeirer is VP; D.W. Mikesells is Treasurer, and Milton Daus, a Cleveland attorney is named Secretary. One of the Trustees is Joseph Wozniak (Wolverine). Dues are set at $25/mo. and an initiation fee of $100 is determined (reduced to $10/mo and no initiation fee by 1940).

1939 - First issue of "Chips" January 23, 1939 published by the PCI for its 2nd annual convention at the Penn-Harris Hotel in Harrisburg, PA.

     Articles for "Chips" should be sent to T. Harding 2034 E. 83rd Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

     During 1939/40 the PCI becomes the National Potato Chip Institute (NPCI).

     Frederick J. Meyer forms Red Dot Foods, Inc. in Madison, WI..

1940 - NPCI publishes "Chips" in April, 1940, later to become "The Chipper" in July, 1940.

     Joseph Wozniak elected President of the NCPI with Ralph Wheeler, as Executive Director. First three month assignment was to increase the membership role.

1941 - December: Customer outcry over Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor prompts renaming Mrs. Japp's to Jay's by the Special Foods Co..

     NPCI changes "The Chipper" to "The Potato Chipper" in July, 1941.

     William V. Snyder (Snyder's Bakers) president of NCPI from 1941 thru 1942.

1942 - "Potato Chipper" magazine's first year of formal publication.

     Paul Worcester is hired as a paid Executive Director and Editor of the "Potato Chipper"; office is moved to Hanover, PA.

     Charles' Chips and Musser's Potato Chips, Inc begin.

     General Maximum Price Regulation prohibits manufacturers from raising a product's price above what it sold for in March 1942.

     July - Office of Defense Transportation announces controls on all private and contract truck haulers.

     Sept - War Production Board places limits on shortening and oil.

     Paul Worcester is drafted and Harvey Noss, then VP, fills role as Executive Director and moves headquarters back to Cleveland.

     Govt declares potato chips are not essential food. Noss and committee prepare document "32 Reasons Why Potato Chips Are An Essential Food" and convince Govt that chips are essential.

1943 - Harry Husman (Husman Potato Products Co.) is NPCI president, with Earl Wise as VP.

     Office of Price Administration announces nationwaide price structures for all foods to help stabilize the cost of living.

1944 - NPCI has approximately 190 business members with 40 associated allied member businesses.

     Jean's Foods, Inc. starts frying potato chips by hand. Opens a potato chip plant in 1946.

     Earl V. Wise (Wise Potato Chip Co.) is NPCI president.

     War Production Board restricits the quantity of cartons by chippers to 65% of their 1942 level.

Mid-1940's - High capacity immersion cookers, capable of processing 650-1,000 lbs of potato chips per hour are introduced.

1945 - G.C. Morton (Morton Foods) is NPCI president.

     January 30th NPCI "War Conference" is held at the Netherlands Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati. It's called a "war conference" because the govt restricted or discouraged meetings that drew a number of out-of-town attendees unless they dealt with wartime issues.

     Publicity program is begun in October; includes the distribution of three receipes featuring potato chips to 4,000 newspapers across the country, mailing of two serving suggestion pamphlets and three receipe books to 1,750 food editors of daily newspapaers and 1,000 radio commentators.

1945/46 - H.W. Lay & Co. introduce "automatic" weighing and packaging machine designed by Dan Woodman. Note - up to now women employees usually did the tedious weighing, packaging and sealing operations.

1946 - Magic City Food Co. becomes Magic City Food products Corp. see 1921 and 1955.

     Herr Potato Chips begins (James S. Herr purchases a Lancaster, PA. chip company for $1,700 )

     June 11: Canadian Potato Chip Association formed. Initial members are La Parmentier, Hunter Manufacturing Co., Synder's Potato Chips, Saratoga Products, Krispak Products, KleanMaid Potato Chips, Laviolette Potato Chips, Top Hat Food Products, Sure Good Products Co., Duchess Potato Chips, and Watson Food Products.

     August - a Potato Chip Queen is named at the NPCI summer meeting.

     Industry gross sales increase from $120 million to $170.5 million.

    Theo. L. Sachs (Blue Star Foods) is NPCI president.

     Govt suspends price regulations - first time in four years that potato chip manufacturers can adjust prices as they see fit.

1947 - Paradise Potato Chip Co. buys Nye Potato Chip Co., a one truck operation in Ypsilanti, MI.. see 1936, 1953, 1954 and 1963.

    Barr Foods (owned by Matthew Barr of Oakland, CA.) originates "Granny Goose" brand potato chips. Sold in 1948 to a group of investors, now called "Granny Goose Foods". Sold to De Monte Corp. in January 1966.

     March: "The Chipper Hostess" newsletter debuts followed by the movie "Thank You, Mr. Chips", and the song "Potato Chips".

     Snyder of Berlin opens in Berlin, PA. by Eda & Edward Snyder.

     Herman W. Lay (H.W. Lay Co.) is NPCI president.

     10th Convention, January, is held in Cincinnati. Historic occassion because exhibitors are allowed for the first time to diplay their wares.

    Planter's comes out with potato chips in cellophane bags and tins. The bag is red white and blue. It says "Always fresh", and has a little Mr. Potato as well as the familiar Mr. Peanut. It says net wt. 8 oz. and Potatoes cooked in vegetable oil, salt added, NPC 1947. This is Made by National Peanut Corp. Wilkes Barre, Pa.

1948 - Sta Krisp Potato Chip Co. purchased by Don Tidemann (305 S. Hydraulic Ave. Witchita, Kansas). In 1963 new plant built at 3710 McCormick. Base company became T&F Snacks in 1966. Sta Krisp, Inc. in 1973. Bought Red Seal Potato Chip Co. from Pet, Inc. in November 1971. base company became T & W, Inc.. In August '73 they bought H & W Foods of Joplin, MO..

     Cyril C. Higg (Bell Brand Foods) is NPCI president.

1949 - Frederick J. Meyer (Red Dot Foods) is NPCI president.

1950 - Hydrometer for testing specific gravity of potatoes designed.

     Harold W. Burris (Halter's Pretzels, Inc.) is NPCI president.

1950/65 - Under-pan fired cookers phased in, eliminating need of a firebox bricked onto the floor.

1950's - Chip color tester tape introduced ( reacted to glucose/sugar content). High sugar content causes brown chips when cooked. Starch in stored potatoes turns to sugar during the winter months.

     A processing system utilizing an external heat exchanger and a hot oil pump, which continuously circulated the cooking oil, is introduced to the industry.

     NPCI actively begins aggressive marketing of potato chip industry (see examples)

     National Potato Chip Month begins (October?).

     Potato Chip Queen selected.

     "Chip Off The Old Block" Awards given out. Sons following in their father's footsteps.

     Bob Murray of Murray Potato Chip Co. throws bags over Niagara Falls, and shows press how they remain crisp.

     Buckeye Potato Chip Co. was a pioneer in using regional TV advertising

     Picture of President Eisenhower shows him tearing into a bag of Granite State Potato Chips.

1951 - Mister Bee Potato Chip Co. purchased by Leo Klein in West Virginia.

     Martin A. Janis (Kuehmann Foods, Inc.) is NPCI president.

1952 - May: Potato shortages and high prices shut down 36 plants completely and 125 others operate part time. The Office of Price Stabilization (OPS) had put a ceiling on potato prices.

      Fred Stock (Stock Quality Foods) is NPCI president.

1953 - Paradise Potato Chip Co. buys Superior Potato Chips and changes its name to Superior.

      Robert H. Cain (John E. Cain Co.) is NPCI president.

1954 - Superior Potato Chip Co. moves to a single location at Berwood St. in Detroit. see 1963

      Duchess pretzel Co. started by Bill Mana and Bill Huggins in Bluffton, IN. Later sold and another company started by same called Pretzels, Inc. in 1979.

      E.L. Nicolay (Nicolay-Dancey, Inc.) is NPCI president.

1955 - Mrs. Howe's begins potato chip manufacturing in Milwaukee.

      Reed Blackwell (Gordon Foods, Inc.) is NPCI president.

1956 - Magic City Food Products Corp. becomes Golden Flake, Inc.. see 1921 and 1946.

      NPCI has nine international members; including Uruguay, U.K., Italy, Australia, Mexico, and South Africa.

     Harold B. Cregar (Easton Potato Chip Co.) is NPCI president.

1957 - K.J. Crannry (Clover Club Foods, Co.) is NPCI president.

1958/59 - Frito Co. buys Num Num Potato Chip of Cleveland, Crispie Potato Chip Co. of Stockton, CA., and Nicolay-Dancey of Detroit.

European Potato Chip Association formed.

1958 - Olen C. Turner (Morton Foods) is NPCI president.

1959 - Nibble With Gibble's, Inc. started by Mary and Ray Gibble in Chambersburg, PA..

      Urschel Laboratories (Valparaiso, IN) introduce the Model CC Slicer (potato slicer), the first with throw-away knives. Up to now potato chip manufacturers paid to have the slicing knives resharpened, very costly.

      The NPCI becomes the Potato Chip Institute International (PCII).

      William B. Oliver (H.W. Lay Co.0 is PCII president.

      Herman Lay buys Barrett Foods, Inc.(?) Later buys Richmond Potato Chip Co. of Virginia, Tas-Tee Pretzel and Potato Chip Co. of Huntington, West Virginia, Halter's Pretzels, Inc. in Canton, Ohio, Brooks Potato Chip in Springfield, MO..

1960's - PCII sponsors the U.S. Men's Amateur Cooking Championship (recipes using potato chips).

      Promotional movie titled "The Adventures of Chip & Dip" produced; 20 minutes long on 16mm film.

1960 - Development of first successful potato chip package filling equipment. Mira-Pak unveils a form-fill-seal machine for potato chips.

      Lays buys Red Dot of Madison, WI. (Red Dot own Rold Gold Pretzels ?)

1961 - H.W. Lay & Co. and Frito Co. (Dallas, TX.) merge.

1963 - Superior Potato Chip Co. buys Everkrisp Potato Chip Co.

      Zip Codes are introduced by U.S. Post Office and appear on product packaging.

1965 - Frito-Lay merges with PepsiCo.

1967 - Troyer Potato Products started.

1968 - Frito-Lay sells Red Dot Madison and Rhinelander, WI. plants and others to Nefco, Inc. of Little Rock, Arkansas.

1969 - Vita Seal Potato Chip Co in Hawaii acquired by Lays.

1970 - Potato chip annual sales top $ 1 billion mark.

1970's (early - PCII initiates formal "hands-on" training programs at Ohio State University for improvement in quality and uniformity in the chip market place.

1973 - Potato shortage.

      Universal Product Code (U.P.C.) is introduced and first used on food product packaging.

1973/74 - Arab oil embargo affected supplies of energy to fire cookers. Packaging made from petroleum also very scarce.

1974 - March 31: Harvey Noss dies.

1976 - PCII becomes the Potato Chip/Snack Food Association. Magazine changes to "Chipper/Snacker".

      PCII creates a Potato Technology Advisory Committee.

1977 - In 15 years, from 1962 through 1977, 97 out of 900 potato chip companies survive.

1978 - PC/SFA moves to new quarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

1979 - Pretzels, Inc. formed, see 1954.

1982 - December: Herman Lay dies.

1983 - Heileman Brewing Co. buys Mrs. Howe's of Milwaukee, WI..

1984 - Borden, Inc. buys Geiser's Potato Chip Co. of Milwaukee, WI..

1986 - PC/SFA's name is changed to Snack Food Association (SFA).

      July: Borden, Inc. buys Jays.

1993 - March, the Ball Corporation acquires Heekin Can, Inc., the largest regional manufacturer of metal food containers to make Ball the third largest producer of metal food and aerosol can in the North American market.

1994 - Japp family buys back Jay's brand from Borden, Inc. as well as Geiser's brand.

1996 - Number of U.S. potato chip manufacturers reduced to approx. 50.

References: Milwaukee County Historical Society - City Directories,; Snack Food Blue Book 1976, compiled by Snack Food magazine; 50th Anniversary, 1987 Snack Food Association, LCCCN: 87-060215; plus much additional historical research by the editor.


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