Question from Emily W.:
I know potato chips were invented by mistake – or I guess you could say prank – by a chef fed up with a guest complaining about his fries not being crispy enough.
But is it really true that the cook who invented them wasn’t allowed to get a patent because he was part African-American? How long ago was it, really?
The story goes that George Crum invented the potato chip at a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York during the summer of 1853. A guest in the restaurant where Crum was a chef sent back his order of French Fries complaining they were too thick and mushy. Crum decided to play a joke on the patron. He cut a batch of potatoes as thin as possible and then fried them until they were hard and crunchy. Instead of being angry about this new dish, the guest loved the potato chips. Soon others were coming to the restaurant asking for the thinly cut, deep fried potatoes. Crum opened his own restaurant in 1860. The main attraction of this restaurant was the basket of potato chips placed on the tables.
It is true that Crum did not receive for a patent for his potato invention. It is also true that Crum was Native American and African American. But it is not true that his lack of patent is because as an African American he was not allowed to receive one. Other African Americans held patents at the time. Thomas Jennings was the first African American to receive a patent. He received U.S. Patent 3306x on March 3, 1821 for a dry-cleaning process.
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