Potato Chip Industry History & More
GENERAL HISTORY OF THE POTATO CHIP INDUSTRY
BY MIKE REILLY September, 1996
1853 – Indian chef George Crum discovers thepotato chip at Moon’s Place In Saratoga Springs, N.Y..
1850’s to 1920’s – The “Cracker BarrelEra”. potato chips sold in restaurants, large glass jars, glass and/or sheet metaldisplay boxes.
1861 – First commercial U.S. pretzel bakeryestablished by Julius Sturgis in Lititz, Lancaster County, PA.
1895 – William C. Tappenden manufacturing anddistributing “Saratoga Chips” by horse- drawn wagon in Cleveland, Ohio.
1900’s – Bon Ton Foods, Inc., York, PA.
1908 – Leominster Potato Chip Co. founded byJ.P. Duchesneau in Leominster, MA.. Becomes Tri-Sum in 1932.
1910 – Colorado Potato Flake Co. began, laterto 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. RestemierCo. .
1918 – Noss Baking and Specialty Co. foundedin Cleveland, Ohio. Later to become Num Num.
For 75 years the potatochip was chiefly served in restaurants or to picnickers from grocery and”confectionery” stores. Potato chips were now being pushed for school lunchesand since Prohibition began, the “speakeasy” trade demanded more “snackfood” for its drinking customers.
Nalley’s Fine Foodsstarted by Marcus Nalley.
1919 – Blue Bell (John & Ted Sachs) inIllinois.
Husman PotatoProducts Company formed by Harry Husman is Cincinnati, Ohio first potato chip factory.
Grippo Potato ChipCo., Inc. also begins in Cincinnati.
1920 – Perfect Potato Chip Co. in Decatur,IL.
Smith’s PotatoCrisps, 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 productionof potato chips (crisps) begins in the United Kingdom ,1920/21.
early 1920’s – Bell Brands founded by MaxGinsberg in Los Angeles, CA.
1924 – April: Moore’s Potato Chip Co. startedby J.W. Moore in Bristol, VA.
First Milwaukeelisting 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 (namechange). see 1918.
Kuehmann Co. beginsin Toledo, Ohio (Q-Man Potato Chips).
Egers Chips inSandusky, Ohio.
Durnell GoldenCrisp, Chicago, IL..
Yo-Ho Potato Chip,Chicago, IL..
Up-To-Date FoodProducts Co started by Mr. Superior.
Home Town PotatoChip Co. begins in Louisville, KN.
During the 1920’sthe development of waterproof packaging enabled the potato chip business to leap out ofits cottage industry status, providing “self-service” product packaging.
Chips became rancidif exposed to light, thus a switch to opaque packaging.
1926 – November: Laura Scudder’s”Scudder’s Foods Co.” is marketing “Mayflower Potato Chips in southernCalifornia and Blue Bird Potato Chips in northern California.
1927 – April 1: Salem Potato Chip Co. inAkron, Ohio (five other companies already existed).
1928 – Groff’s Snack Food Co. started byHorace W. and Mamie Groff in Bowmansville, PA.. In 1947 production facilities are built.
1929 – First continuous potato chip cookermade by J.D. Ferry Co. of Harrisburg, PA., installed at Ross Potato Chip Co. in Richland,PA.
1931 – Impact of Great Depression more widelyfelt; potato chip companies founded by many out of work citizens.
Rainey SaratogaPotato Chip Co., Philadelphia, PA. buys 2nd Ferry cooking unit.
Thomasson Potato Chip Co.begun by Oralie Thomasson in Elyria, Ohio.
Purity Potato ChipCo., Milwaukee, WI., later as Purity Food Products Co. is sold to Red Dot in 1946.
Wise Potato Chipsfounded.
Pre 1932 – Barrett Foods, Inc founded inAtlanta, 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, theplant moved to Cambridge, MA. and another plant was built in 1953 in Medford, MA..
Weaver Potato Chipsstarted by Ed Weaver, Sr. in Lincoln, Nebraska.
H.W. Lay loses salesjob with Sunshine Biscuit Co. due to Depression.
1932+ – E.M. Gordon, son W.P. Gordon andothers leave Barrett Foods and start Gordon’s Foods in Atlanta, GA.. Eventually sold toSunshine.
1933 – Stock Quality Foods in Reading, PA.purchases 4th Ferry cooker.
Seyfert Foods inFort 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’sFresheen”.
Reading PretzelMachinery Co. introduces first automatic pretzel twisting machine.
Geiser’s Potato ChipCo. founded by Frank and August Geiser as the Delicious Brand Food Products Co.
1934 – K.T. Salem uses glassine waxed bagsdeveloped by Dixie Wax Paper Co.
Ferry cooker toLoose-Wiles in Long Island, N.Y..
Ferry cooker sold toHiland potato Chip Co. in Des Moines, Iowa.
Old Dutch Foods,Inc.
Waulter’s PotatoChips 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 storesare still not self-service.
Early Ohio chipassociation started by Dan-Dee, Restemier Co. (supposedly Dan- Dee bought this company in1913?), and Num-Num.
K.T. Salem,Mike-Sells and Husman’s in Cincinnati join group to become the Ohio Potato ChipAssociation.
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 121Lehman Ave Bowling Green, Ohio started. Company incorporated in 1953. “Marcelle”means wavy chip.
Paradise Potato ChipCo. (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 paperPCI labels with “The King of Chips” slogan under crown. Label is dated 1937.
EL-GE Potato ChipCo. of York, PA. started by Leonard Gillespie.
H.W. Lay buysBarrett Foods in Atlanta for $60,000.
1938 – Arthur Ross closes Ross Potato ChipCo. and retires.
Special Foods Co.started by Leonard Japp; sells Mrs. Japp’s Potato Chips.
Hod Sander’s CloverClub Potato Chip Co. in Kaysville, UT.. The Salt Lake City area already had thirty potatochip companies in existence.
First PCI conventionheld at Hollenden House Hotel in Cleveland. Harvey Noss is elected President of PCIthrough 1939; Henry Restemeirer is VP; D.W. Mikesells is Treasurer, and Milton Daus, aCleveland 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 andno initiation fee by 1940).
1939 – First issue of “Chips”January 23, 1939 published by the PCI for its 2nd annual convention at the Penn-HarrisHotel in Harrisburg, PA.
Articles for”Chips” should be sent to T. Harding 2034 E. 83rd Street, Cleveland, Ohio.
During 1939/40 thePCI becomes the National Potato Chip Institute (NPCI).
Frederick J. Meyerforms Red Dot Foods, Inc. in Madison, WI..
1940 – NPCI publishes “Chips” inApril, 1940, later to become “The Chipper” in July, 1940.
Joseph Wozniakelected President of the NCPI with Ralph Wheeler, as Executive Director. First three monthassignment was to increase the membership role.
1941 – December: Customer outcry overJapanese bombing of Pearl Harbor prompts renaming Mrs. Japp’s to Jay’s by the SpecialFoods 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’sfirst year of formal publication.
Paul Worcester ishired as a paid Executive Director and Editor of the “Potato Chipper”; office ismoved to Hanover, PA.
Charles’ Chips andMusser’s Potato Chips, Inc begin.
General MaximumPrice Regulation prohibits manufacturers from raising a product’s price above what it soldfor in March 1942.
July – Office ofDefense Transportation announces controls on all private and contract truck haulers.
Sept – WarProduction Board places limits on shortening and oil.
Paul Worcester isdrafted and Harvey Noss, then VP, fills role as Executive Director and moves headquartersback to Cleveland.
Govt declares potatochips are not essential food. Noss and committee prepare document “32 Reasons WhyPotato Chips Are An Essential Food” and convince Govt that chips are essential.
1943 – Harry Husman (Husman Potato ProductsCo.) is NPCI president, with Earl Wise as VP.
Office of PriceAdministration announces nationwaide price structures for all foods to help stabilize thecost of living.
1944 – NPCI has approximately 190 businessmembers 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 (WisePotato Chip Co.) is NPCI president.
War Production Boardrestricits 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 NPCIpresident.
January 30th NPCI”War Conference” is held at the Netherlands Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati. It’scalled a “war conference” because the govt restricted or discouraged meetingsthat drew a number of out-of-town attendees unless they dealt with wartime issues.
Publicity program isbegun in October; includes the distribution of three receipes featuring potato chips to4,000 newspapers across the country, mailing of two serving suggestion pamphlets and threereceipe 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 tonow women employees usually did the tedious weighing, packaging and sealing operations.
1946 – Magic City Food Co. becomes Magic CityFood products Corp. see 1921 and 1955.
Herr Potato Chipsbegins (James S. Herr purchases a Lancaster, PA. chip company for $1,700 )
June 11: CanadianPotato Chip Association formed. Initial members are La Parmentier, Hunter ManufacturingCo., Synder’s Potato Chips, Saratoga Products, Krispak Products, KleanMaid Potato Chips,Laviolette Potato Chips, Top Hat Food Products, Sure Good Products Co., Duchess PotatoChips, and Watson Food Products.
August – a PotatoChip Queen is named at the NPCI summer meeting.
Industry gross salesincrease from $120 million to $170.5 million.
Theo. L. Sachs (Blue StarFoods) is NPCI president.
Govt suspends priceregulations – first time in four years that potato chip manufacturers can adjust prices asthey see fit.
1947 – Paradise Potato Chip Co. buys NyePotato Chip Co., a one truck operation in Ypsilanti, MI.. see 1936, 1953, 1954 and 1963.
Barr Foods (owned byMatthew Barr of Oakland, CA.) originates “Granny Goose” brand potato chips. Soldin 1948 to a group of investors, now called “Granny Goose Foods”. Sold to DeMonte Corp. in January 1966.
March: “TheChipper Hostess” newsletter debuts followed by the movie “Thank You, Mr.Chips”, and the song “Potato Chips”.
Snyder of Berlinopens 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 thefirst time to diplay their wares.
Planter’s comes out withpotato 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 isMade by National Peanut Corp. Wilkes Barre, Pa.
1948 – Sta Krisp Potato Chip Co. purchased byDon Tidemann (305 S. Hydraulic Ave. Witchita, Kansas). In 1963 new plant built at 3710McCormick. Base company became T&F Snacks in 1966. Sta Krisp, Inc. in 1973. Bought RedSeal 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 (BellBrand Foods) is NPCI president.
1949 – Frederick J. Meyer (Red Dot Foods) isNPCI president.
1950 – Hydrometer for testing specificgravity 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 systemutilizing an external heat exchanger and a hot oil pump, which continuously circulated thecooking oil, is introduced to the industry.
NPCI actively beginsaggressive marketing of potato chip industry (see examples)
National Potato ChipMonth begins (October?).
Potato Chip Queenselected.
“Chip Off TheOld Block” Awards given out. Sons following in their father’s footsteps.
Bob Murray of MurrayPotato Chip Co. throws bags over Niagara Falls, and shows press how they remain crisp.
Buckeye Potato ChipCo. was a pioneer in using regional TV advertising
Picture of PresidentEisenhower shows him tearing into a bag of Granite State Potato Chips.
1951 – Mister Bee Potato Chip Co. purchasedby Leo Klein in West Virginia.
Martin A. Janis(Kuehmann Foods, Inc.) is NPCI president.
1952 – May: Potato shortages and high pricesshut down 36 plants completely and 125 others operate part time. The Office of PriceStabilization (OPS) had put a ceiling on potato prices.
Fred Stock(Stock Quality Foods) is NPCI president.
1953 – Paradise Potato Chip Co. buys SuperiorPotato Chips and changes its name to Superior.
Robert H. Cain(John E. Cain Co.) is NPCI president.
1954 – Superior Potato Chip Co. moves to asingle location at Berwood St. in Detroit. see 1963
Duchesspretzel Co. started by Bill Mana and Bill Huggins in Bluffton, IN. Later sold and anothercompany started by same called Pretzels, Inc. in 1979.
E.L. Nicolay(Nicolay-Dancey, Inc.) is NPCI president.
1955 – Mrs. Howe’s begins potato chipmanufacturing in Milwaukee.
Reed Blackwell(Gordon Foods, Inc.) is NPCI president.
1956 – Magic City Food Products Corp. becomesGolden Flake, Inc.. see 1921 and 1946.
NPCI has nineinternational members; including Uruguay, U.K., Italy, Australia, Mexico, and SouthAfrica.
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 Chipof 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 NPCIpresident.
1959 – Nibble With Gibble’s, Inc. started byMary and Ray Gibble in Chambersburg, PA..
UrschelLaboratories (Valparaiso, IN) introduce the Model CC Slicer (potato slicer), the firstwith throw-away knives. Up to now potato chip manufacturers paid to have the slicingknives resharpened, very costly.
The NPCIbecomes the Potato Chip Institute International (PCII).
William B.Oliver (H.W. Lay Co.0 is PCII president.
Herman Laybuys Barrett Foods, Inc.(?) Later buys Richmond Potato Chip Co. of Virginia, Tas-TeePretzel and Potato Chip Co. of Huntington, West Virginia, Halter’s Pretzels, Inc. inCanton, Ohio, Brooks Potato Chip in Springfield, MO..
1960’s – PCII sponsors the U.S. Men’s AmateurCooking Championship (recipes using potato chips).
Promotionalmovie titled “The Adventures of Chip & Dip” produced; 20 minutes long on16mm film.
1960 – Development of first successful potatochip package filling equipment. Mira-Pak unveils a form-fill-seal machine for potatochips.
Lays buys RedDot 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. buysEverkrisp Potato Chip Co.
Zip Codes areintroduced 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 andRhinelander, WI. plants and others to Nefco, Inc. of Little Rock, Arkansas.
1969 – Vita Seal Potato Chip Co in Hawaiiacquired by Lays.
1970 – Potato chip annual sales top $ 1billion mark.
1970’s (early – PCII initiates formal”hands-on” training programs at Ohio State University for improvement in qualityand uniformity in the chip market place.
1973 – Potato shortage.
UniversalProduct Code (U.P.C.) is introduced and first used on food product packaging.
1973/74 – Arab oil embargo affected suppliesof energy to fire cookers. Packaging made from petroleum also very scarce.
1974 – March 31: Harvey Noss dies.
1976 – PCII becomes the Potato Chip/SnackFood Association. Magazine changes to “Chipper/Snacker”.
PCII creates aPotato 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 inAlexandria, Virginia.
1979 – Pretzels, Inc. formed, see 1954.
1982 – December: Herman Lay dies.
1983 – Heileman Brewing Co. buys Mrs. Howe’sof Milwaukee, WI..
1984 – Borden, Inc. buys Geiser’s Potato ChipCo. of Milwaukee, WI..
1986 – PC/SFA’s name is changed to Snack FoodAssociation (SFA).
July: Borden,Inc. buys Jays.
1993 – March, the Ball Corporation acquiresHeekin Can, Inc., the largest regional manufacturer of metal food containers to make Ballthe third largest producer of metal food and aerosol can in the North American market.
1994 – Japp family buys back Jay’s brand fromBorden, Inc. as well as Geiser’s brand.
1996 – Number of U.S. potato chipmanufacturers reduced to approx. 50.
References: Milwaukee County Historical Society – CityDirectories,; Snack Food Blue Book 1976, compiled by Snack Food magazine; 50th Anniversary,1987 Snack Food Association, LCCCN: 87-060215; plus much additional historical research bythe editor.