12 Facts about George Crum

Before discussing 12 facts about George Crum or George “Speck,” let us look at common legends about how some believe potato chips originated.

Who invented Potato Chips? 

First, some believe the original fries originated in Namur, Belgium. Namur is where the locals were fond of fried fish. But when the Meuse froze over one cold winter in 1680, people reportedly fried potatoes instead of the fish that they were used to.

Second, some believe that the invention of french fries took place just before the French Revolution on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1789. However, at least one reference to “fried potatoes” appears to date from 1775 in France.

Did George Speck invent Potato Chips?

According to legend, Crum became annoyed when a customer, Cornelius Vanderbilt, complained that his French-fried potatoes were too thick. Crum reacted by slicing the potatoes as thinly as possible, frying them in grease, and serving the crunchy brown chips back out to the guests.  

Cornelius Vanderbilt 

George Speck, also known as George Crum, was a chef known for inventing what we know as Potato Chips. He became famous for popularizing potato chips in Upstate New York and was later known as their creator. He was a mixture of black American and Mohawk Indian. However, the Moon’s Lake House, where he worked, was credited with the invention of the potato chip around the mid-1800s.

Was George Crum’s sister involved in the invention?

George Crum is commonly believed to have invented the potato chip, but his sister Kate Speck claimed to have come up with what would become known as the Saratoga chips. She accidentally sliced off a sliver of potato, and it fell into a hot frying pan. George Crum approved of the chip after tasting the sliced potato. Her claim is undermined by the existence of cookbooks describing earlier versions of the chips that were called fried potato shavings in the United States and Great Britain.

12 Interesting Facts about George Crum:

Moon’s Lake House (credit: Wikipedia)
  1. Born in 1822 to a Native American mother and a black jockey father in Saratoga Lake, New York, George Crum was first employed as a mountain guide and trapper in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.
  2. He was known as Crum. His father used that name when he was a horse jockey.
  3. In 1853, he took a position as the head chef of Cary Moon’s Lake House in Lake Saratoga, New York, where he cooked dinner for guests one evening.
  4. Having planned to make french fries, one of his guests complained that they were too thick. He was annoyed, so he cut the potatoes very thinly, and when he deep-fried them in oil, they were thin and crisp. After adding salt, they tasted good.
  5. Crum’s chips were initially known as potato crunchers and also Saratoga chips.
  6. George decided to build his restaurant near Saratoga Lake in 1860. He served potato chips as an appetizer at every table. The restaurant was a huge success and lasted 30 years before closing in 1890. 
  7. Although he did not patent his potato chips and never tried to market them outside of his business, potato chips were widely sold by others after he left. The industry grew to a six-billion-dollar sector. 
  8. Moon’s Lake House owner later tried to claim credit for the invention and began packing and distributing potato chips inboxes. 
  9. As soon as Crum opened his restaurant in 1860 in Malta, New York, he provided every table with a basket of potato chips. Visitors travelled 10 miles to try Crum’s potato chips.
  10. George Crum died in 1904 at the age of 92, leaving behind the legacy of inventing the world’s greatest snack food.
  11. Crum’s involvement first appeared in an advertisement in 1885, and Vanderbilt was introduced in an ad made 120 years after the potato chip was thought invented.
  12. In 1895, he started making potato chips in his kitchen, then delivered them to local stores. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, people began to sell potato chips in grocery stores. The first such person may have been William Tappendon of Cleveland, Ohio. 

Conclusion 

Making potato chips was a tedious task. That changed in the 1920s when the mechanical potato peeler was invented. Potato chips went from a local favorite to a national brand with this technology.

There’s no doubt that potato chips are one of the world’s most popular snack foods today. Many say potato chips are America’s favorite snack food. They might be right! Retail sales of potato chips in the United States total over $6 billion every year.

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