WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

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Laura Scudder (1881 - 1959): Potato Chip Packaging Pioneer

Posted May 10, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Did you ever eat Laura Scudder's Potato Chips - "the noisiest chips in the world"? They are "just like you remember!" Scudder started a food company in 1926 after careers as a nurse and an attorney. While she studied for the bar exam, she and her husband ran a restaurant. They later ran a gasoline station. Her food company produced potato chips and later, peanut butter and mayonnaise. Her innovations in packaging helped potato chips to become a mass market product.

Early potato chips were packaged in barrels or tins. The chips at the bottom of the containers were often stale and crumbled.

package from the 1940s via http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4086/5194890079_dd611c1690.jpg

Scudder asked her female employees to take home sheets of wax paper and iron them into the shape of sealable bags. This was her first innovation in potato chip packaging. Cellophane was invented by a Swiss chemist in 1912. A moisture-proof version, manufactured by Du Pont, became available in America in 1927. Use of cellophane as potato chip packaging further increased the freshness and crispness of the chips.

Laura Scudder's was the first company to place freshness dates on food products. The date helped ensure that the product would live up to its reputation as the noisiest (crunchiest and freshest) chips in the world.

Despite her determination, Scudder faced many obstacles as a woman entrepreneur during the Great Depression. Male insurance agents turned her down when she searched for a policy for the company's sole delivery truck. They thought a woman would not reliably pay the premiums. Scudder found a female insurance agent and insured the company's fleet as it grew.

Laura Scudder's had 1,000 employees and 50% of the potato chip market in 1953. Scudder turned down a $9 million offer for the company when the potential buyer wouldn't guarantee employees' jobs. She sold the company for $6 million to a more agreeable buyer in 1957. Today, her peanut butter line is marketed by Smucker's and her potato chips are marked by Shearer's Foods.

Related Reading on CR4: August 24, 1853 - The First Potato Chip

Resources:

The Associated Press: Monterey Park recalls amazing Laura Scudder

Laura Clough Scudder

Laura Scudder's: History

Wikipedia: Cellophane

Wikipedia: Laura Scudder [image]

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Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 574
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Re: Laura Scudder (1881 - 1959): Potato Chip Packaging Pioneer

05/15/2012 12:25 PM

I read the other CR4 entry about the first potato chip. Only 1 reply for both? And TechnoTourist seems to have departed.

Laura Scudder's picture reminds me of someone else in more recent times, but I can't quite place it. Maybe Madeleine Albright? ...no I think it's Helen Thomas!

I couldn't help thinking about another women in my neck of the woods who also went into the food business -- Mrs. Ninnie Baird.

It's probably hard for modern women to relate to the difficulties encountered by Mrs. Scudder and Mrs. Baird. Women had only gotten the right to vote in 1920. Today women still, seemingly, suffer from the "gender gap." I think women have mostly had to conform to a man's world; behaving more "like" men, in business, to be somewhat accepted. So we've never truly had the opportunity to know what the world would be like if women were running it. (For instance, instead of wars, we might have just had a lot of conferences... "We need to talk.")

It's almost impossible for men to relate to the role women have endured. I'll think of Laura Scudder and muse about "what if" the next time I eat a potato chip.

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