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The Strange History of Potato Chips

Potato chips

By Mohamed AlmnsoryPublished about a year ago 3 min read
The Strange History of Potato Chips
Photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella on Unsplash

Potato chips are one of the most popular snacks in the world. Despite their ubiquity, the history of potato chips is a little strange. From their accidental creation to their rise in popularity during World War II, there's a lot to explore when it comes to this crunchy and salty snack.

The Accidental Creation of Potato Chips

The story of potato chips begins in the mid-19th century, in Saratoga Springs, New York. A man named George Crum was working as a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge, a popular resort in the area. One day, a customer sent back his order of fried potatoes, complaining that they were too thick and soggy.

Crum, annoyed with the customer's complaint, sliced the potatoes as thin as possible, fried them until they were crisp, and added a generous amount of salt. To his surprise, the customer loved the crispy potato slices, and potato chips were born.

The Rise of Potato Chips

Initially, potato chips were only available in high-end restaurants and hotels. They were a specialty item, often served as an appetizer or accompaniment to a meal.

But as the snack grew in popularity, entrepreneurs began to see the potential for mass production and marketing. In 1895, William Tappendon began selling potato chips in grocery stores in Cleveland, Ohio.

He called them "Tappendon's Chips" and advertised them as "delicious and nutritious." The snack quickly became a hit, and other companies soon followed suit.

By the 1920s, potato chips had become a staple snack food in the United States. The invention of mechanical potato peelers and slicers made it easier to produce large quantities of chips, and advances in packaging and distribution allowed them to be sold in stores across the country.

Potato Chips and World War II

But it wasn't until World War II that potato chips truly became a national obsession. During the war, many foods were rationed or in short supply, making potato chips a welcome indulgence for Americans.

The government even encouraged the production and consumption of potato chips as a way to boost morale and support the war effort. In 1942, the U.S. War Production Board classified potato chips as an essential food item and allowed manufacturers to continue producing them, even as other foods were being rationed.

Potato chips also became a popular snack among soldiers. In fact, the U.S. Army's Quartermaster Corps included potato chips in their rations, alongside other staples like canned meat and powdered eggs. The chips were a lightweight, portable source of energy that soldiers could easily carry with them on the front lines.

The Popularity of Potato Chips Today

After the war, potato chips continued to grow in popularity. In the 1950s and 60s, they became a symbol of American culture and were often featured in advertisements and TV shows.

Companies like Frito-Lay and Wise used celebrity endorsements and catchy slogans to market their products to consumers, and potato chips became a ubiquitous snack food in homes across the country.

Today, potato chips are available in a wide variety of flavors and styles. You can find everything from classic salted chips to gourmet varieties like truffle or lobster-flavored chips. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in "artisanal" potato chips, made with high-quality ingredients and unique flavors.

Some small-batch producers have even begun to use heirloom potato varieties and specialized cooking techniques to create chips with a distinct texture and flavor.


Despite their strange origins, potato chips have become a beloved snack food and cultural icon. From their accidental creation in a Saratoga Springs resort to their classification as an essential food item during World War II, potato chips have had a fascinating history.

Today, they continue to evolve and adapt, with new flavors and styles constantly appearing on the market. Whether enjoyed as a quick snack or incorporated into gourmet dishes, potato chips are a versatile and enduring part of the American culinary landscape.


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