The CSFA first started in 1957 when a few potato chip manufacturers decided to form a business association unique to their purposes.

Potato chips originated in New England as one man’s take on the French-fried potato, and the way it was made was the result not of a sudden stroke of culinary invention but of a fit of insult.

In the summer of 1853, Native American George Crum was employed as a chef at an elegant resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. On Moon Lake Lodge’s restaurant menu were French-fried potatoes, prepared by Crum in the standard, thick-cut French style that was popularized in 1700s France and enjoyed by Thomas Jefferson as ambassador to that country. This French-fried potato dish was a popular and serious dinner fare ever since Jefferson brought the recipe to America from Monticello, France.

At Moon Lake Lodge, one dinner guest found chef Crum’s French fries too thick for his liking and sent the order back. Crum cut and fried a thinner batch, but these, too, met with dissatisfaction. Infuriated, Crum decided to annoy the guest by producing French fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan backfired… the guest was thrilled over the new batch of paper-thin, deep fried, salted potatoes. Soon the chips became known as “Saratoga Chips, a house specialty”.

In 1860 Crum opened his own restaurant called “Crum’s House” in a building on Malta Avenue near Saratoga Lake, and within a few years was catering to wealthy clients including William Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton. After 30 years in business, his restaurant closed (and he died in 1914 at the age of 92).

Around the same time that Crum closed shop, the idea of making potato chips available as a food item for sale in grocery stores came to many people. Perhaps the first was William Tappendon of Cleveland, OH, in 1895. He began making chips in his kitchen and delivering to neighborhood stores but later converted a barn in the back of his house into “one of the first potato chip factories” in the country. At that time, potatoes were tiresomely peeled and sliced by hand. It was the invention of the mechanical potato peeler in the 1920s that paved the way for potato chips to climb from a small specialty item to a top-selling snack food. For several decades after their creation, potato chips were largely a Northern dinner dish.

In 1921, Bill and Sallie Utz opened the Hanover Home Brand Potato Chips in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Salie Utz used her knowledge of good Pennsylvania Dutch cooking to make the chips in a small summer house behind their home. The hand-operated equipment Salie used produced about fifty pounds of potato chips per hour. While Salie stayed home making chips, Bill delivered them to “mom and pop” grocery stores and farmer’s markets in the Hanover, PA and Baltimore, MD area.

Out in Monterey Park, California the Scudders company started making potato chips in 1926. Laura Scudder is credited with developing the wax paper bag for potato chips which made a wider distribution possible because of its preserving properties. Prior to this bag potato chips were distributed in bulk from barrels or glass display cases.

In 1932, Herman Lay founded Lay’s in Nashville, Tenn., which delivered potato chips from a factory in Atlanta, Ga. Herman Lay, a traveling salesman in the South, helped popularize the food from Atlanta to Tennessee. Lay peddled potato chips to Southern grocers out of the trunk of his car, building a business and a name that would become synonymous with the thin, salty snack. Lay’s potato chips became the first successfully marketed national brand.

The industry that George Crum launched in 1853 continues to grow and prosper. Potato chips have become North American’s favorite snack. U.S. retail sales of potato chip are over $6 billion a year.