Black History Month Pathfinder Profile: George Crum

George Crum was a Native American/African American hunter, guide and chef who changed the dining industry when he invented the potato chip in 1853. Crum invented the chips while trying to satisfy a difficult diner who complained the restaurant’s popular french fries were too thick. George sliced the potatoes more and more thin and the diner still wasn’t happy. Finally, Crum sliced the potatoes so thin they could not be eaten with a fork then he fried them and seasoned them with salt.  The diner loved them and the potato chip was born. Crum was a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York and originally called them Saratoga Chips and potato crunches.

Crum’s chips were so popular he was able to open his own restaurant where he greeted guests with fresh baskets of his signature salty chips. The potato chip industry grew exponentially almost overnight. Chips were packaged and sold mostly in New England before Herman Lay began selling chips from the trunk of his car in the 1920s. In 1926, Laura Scudder found a way to keep the chips fresh and crunchy when she invented a wax paper potato chip bag.

Crum never attempted to patent his potato chips, but U.S. retail sales of potato chip are now over $6 billion a year. The Ellison for Congress team salutes George Crum for forging a new path with his innovation and resourcefulness. The next time you have a potato chip be sure to thank George Crum!

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