The next time you reach for a potato chip to munch on, you might think of a man who was part Afro-American and part Native American. This man, George Crum, was a cook at the Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs in New York. The year was 1853. French Fries were on the lodge’s menu because, as the story goes, Thomas Jefferson had already brought back the concept for the french fry from France in the late 1700’s. So, fried potatoes that were thickly sliced and were eaten with a fork were becoming a common staple in America by this time.
As legend also has it, George Crum was a tough, crusty old man who had previously been a trapper. If any of the diners at the Moon Lake Lodge had the audacity to complain about their food, Crum would release his wrath upon them. It was said he would send back any food that had been returned to his kitchen, only after he made it nearly inedible.
One day, a diner came into the lodge and ordered french fried potatoes. The man complained that the potatoes were too thick. So, George Crum grumbled, but he sliced the customer up a thinner batch of potatoes, fried them, and sent them back out to the dining room.
Still, the plate of potatoes were returned to the kitchen. The diner complained that they were still too thick. He also requested that his potatoes be crunchy.
Hoping to gain personal satisfaction and annoy the complainer at the same time, Crum grabbed some more potatoes. He then took his sharp knife and sliced them as thin as he possibly could. Crum then fried the sliced potatoes in grease until they were hard and crunchy. There was no way now that the customer would be able to eat them with a fork! He then piled them on a plate, sprinkled an over generous amount of salt on them, and sent them back to the disgruntled diner.
As the story goes, the customer loved the thin, hard slices of fried potatoes. And, from that day forward, the potato chip was born!
George Crum happily continued to make the thin, fried potatoes, but he called them “Saratoga Chips” or Potato Crunches. They soon became so popular that they were made up in large batches, packaged in bags, and sold in New England.
Eventually, Cook Crum left the Moon Lake Lodge and started his own successful restaurant on another side of the lake.
George Crum not only invented the potato chip and made himself famous, but, if his story is true, he also ended up supplying thousands of jobs for people all over the United States. Of course, the employment would happen many, many years later. For example, there is Mikesell’s Potato Chip company in Dayton, Ohio, Dan Dee Pretzel and Potato Chip Company in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Utz Company in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The Utz Company is famous for their “Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips”. These companies were all started in the early 1900’s. Then, sometime in the 1920’s, a man by the name of Herman Lay-does that name sound familiar?- made his living by selling potato chips from his car.
Other companies that either have made, or still manufacture potato chips, are Herr’s in Nottingham, Pennsylvania, Humpty Dumpty in Maine, Ballreich’s Potato Chips in Tiffin, Ohio,
and Troyer Farms in Waterford, Pennsylvania.