George Speck aka Crum (1828 - 1914)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Ballston Spa, NY, USA
Death: Died in Saratoga Lake, NY
Managed by: Margaret, (C)
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About George Speck aka Crum

George Speck aka Crum (1822 - 1914)

In the summer of 1853, George Crum, The son of an African American Father and a Native American Mother, 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. Ever since Jefferson brought the recipe to America and served French fries to guests at Monticello, the dish was popular and serious dinner fare.

At Moon Lake Lodge, one dinner guest found chef Crum's French fries too thick for his liking and rejected the order. Crum cut and fried a thinner batch, but these, too, met with disapproval. Exasperated, Crum along with his sister, Katie Speck Wicks, decided to rile the guest by producing French fries too thin and crisp to skewer with a fork. The plan backfired. The guest was ecstatic over the browned, paper-thin potatoes, and other diners requested Crum's potato chips, which began to appear on the menu as Saratoga Chips, a house specialty.

In 1860 George opened his own restaurant 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. His restaurant closed around 1890 and he died in 1914 at the age of 92.

The idea of making them as a food item for sale in grocery stores came to many people at around the same time, but 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 rear of his house into "one of the first potato chip factories" in the country.

At that time, potatoes were tediously 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 soar 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.

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