Laura Scudder, a woman before her time: Pioneer, Instigator, Doer
May 21, 2017 9:17 AM   Subscribe

"Once a little old lady named Laura Scudder had a thing about potato chips" - an ad for Laura Scudder's Potato Chips, which really were made by Laura Scudder, a California entrepreneur who was the first to package potato chips in sealed bags to preserve their freshness, and was the first to add freshness dates to products. You can take the Laura Scudder Noise Abatement League Pledge, and view a short biographical recounting of Laura's life from Pauline Lemire, president of the Historical Society of Monterey Park.

Working from a dusty two-acre parcel that she and her husband bought in 1920, Scudder parlayed a home-grown potato chip business, which started as a way to capitalize on the people visiting the family's service station, into a multimillion-dollar food empire that spanned California, Nevada, Arizona and Oregon.

The original site of her food products is memorilazed with a plaque. While the Laura Scudder chips brand has been sold and re-sold a number of times, the name remains intact, and they still offer recipes, just like Laura used to. You can also find natural peanut butter marketed with her name, with its own collection of recipes. But because Laura Scudder's Farm Fresh Mayonnaise is no longer sold, you'll have to dig through newspaper archives to find Laura Scudder's Mayonnaise Cake Diablo recipe
posted by filthy light thief (12 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great post! I wish Laura Scudder made unsalted potato chips. The older I get, the less salt I want.
posted by Carol Anne at 9:33 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Laura Scudder, a California entrepreneur who was the first to package potato chips in sealed bags to preserve their freshness,

*salutes*
posted by jonmc at 9:41 AM on May 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


It's really fascinating that the history of potato chips is really the history of multiple individual people having small but critical ideas (which were certainly not focus group tested, etc). If George Speck or Laura Scudder hadn't had their insights, we almost certainly wouldn't have potato chips in the modern food vocabulary.

It makes me wonder what food products could be commonplace in a nearby alternate history that would be absolutely taken for granted by their consumers, but would be astonishing to us.
posted by LSK at 9:53 AM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Laura Scudder was a real person! Now my childhood is complete.

My aunt's special friend was once a mucky-muck at Granny Goose. I should ask him about this, and whether he put a hit out on her in '59.
posted by rhizome at 10:06 AM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


It makes me wonder what food products could be commonplace in a nearby alternate history that would be absolutely taken for granted by their consumers, but would be astonishing to us.

Potato chips in an alternate timeline:

CRISPED POTATO MEDALLIONS: Eight potato "rounds", sliced impossibly thin, flash-fried, salted, and served with vinegar droplets--5

•I learned that before this type of packaging, chips were a regional industry, like your local dairy. I can still find from time to time canisters for our local chip company in flea markets.

•I come across complaints about how "empty" chip bags are with enough regularity to despair for the future of this country.
posted by sourwookie at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


The latest iteration I've seen is chips fried in olive oil and sealed in a foil lined bag with oxygen-free dry nitrogen, made by some company in Boulder.

They are good.
posted by jamjam at 11:55 AM on May 21, 2017


Smith's were supposedly packing crisps in sealed wax paper bags in 1920 in London, so maybe not the first.

Dang, I miss Smith's Crisps, especially the little blue salt bag. Bad cess to Pepsico for killing the brand and merging it into Walker's (with identical packaging to N. American Lay's).
posted by scruss at 12:03 PM on May 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


According to legend, one day a customer repeatedly sent his French-fried potatoes back to the kitchen complaining that they were too thick and soft. Crum’s solution was to thinly slice the potatoes and fry them in grease till brown. The customer loved the crisps and soon other guests began asking for them as well.

So it sounds like the invention of the potato chip was actually an act of passive aggression that backfired.
posted by Flashman at 1:19 PM on May 21, 2017 [8 favorites]


I grew up on Laura Scudder's Potato Chips, mostly the Dip Chips and BBQ flavored (which was the only flavored version they had early on). I got tired of potato chips in general about the same time Frito-Lay took over the supermarket chip racks; still it was discouraging to see her L.A.-local chips disappear from the L.A.-local supermarkets. The only thing left with her brand on them was the peanut butter and since I was/am allergic to peanuts, it was irrelevant to me.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:10 PM on May 21, 2017


Huh! I had no idea Laura Scudder's was a brand of anything other than natural peanut butter. I would say Laura Scudder's peanut butter can take credit for a few inches of my total height; I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with no other brand of peanut butter (because indeed, that was the only brand our supermarket sold that was "just peanuts and salt") for at least half of the days of my life between the ages of 5 and 18. Here's to you, Laura! Thanks for keeping me alive!
posted by potrzebie at 2:55 PM on May 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Other potato chip history would be red dot of Rhinelander WI. As I understand the history - the owner used to hand out stock to people 'round the town. Frito Lay wanted to buy him out - and he didn't wanna sell to them. So they went about town buying up stock 'till they had enough for the buy out. Then the founder of Red Dot put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:02 PM on May 21, 2017


Whazziz name: Spudd Dwyer?
posted by glonous keming at 9:21 PM on May 21, 2017


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