A Native American, Crum was employed as a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort where a dinner guest rejected the chef’s French fries as too thick. Crum cut and fried a thinner batch, but these were also rejected. Crum reacted by producing fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. To the chef’s surprise, the guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and other diners began requesting what was then called the Saratoga Chip.
Crum opened his own restaurant in 1860 featuring potato chips in a basket placed on every table. The restaurant was a big hit until it closed around 1890. Crum died in 1914 at the age of 92.
Elsewhere, the potato chip was spreading. In 1895 William Tappendon of Cleveland, Ohio, begins selling potato chips as a food in grocery stores. Tappendon made his chips in his kitchen and delivered to neighborhood stores, He later converted a barn at his house into one of the first potato chip factories in the country.
The first purpose-built factory opened in 1908 as Leominster Potato Chip Co. of Leominster, MA. Today’s big manufacturer, now known as Frito-Lay North America Inc., was founded in 1932 as H.W. Lay & Co.
The potatoes were peeled and sliced by hand until the 1920s when the mechanical potato peeler was invented and potato chips immediately move from a small specialty item to a top-selling snack food.
Now potato chips have American retail sales of more than $6 billion a year.