Looking Back - March 31, 2013

History column

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Tuesday is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. Here is a look back at the history of this American favorite.

Peanut Butter

• As far back as the 14th century, the Aztecs mashed roasted peanuts into a paste.

• The invention of peanut butter (as we know it), the process of manufacturing and the machinery used to make it can be credited to several inventors.

• In 1884, Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Canada patented peanut paste, the finished product from milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces.

• In 1895, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yes, the cereal man), patented a process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts. He marketed it as a protein substitute for patients with few to no teeth.

• In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis patented a peanut-butter-making machine.

• In 1922, chemist Joseph Rosefield invented a process for making smooth peanut butter that kept the oil from separating by using partially hydrogenated oil.

• In 1928, Straub licensed his invention to the company that created Peter Pan peanut butter.

• In 1932, Straub began making his own peanut butter under the name Skippy.


• While the exact date is unknown, it is likely the making of jams and jellies began centuries ago in the Middle East where sugar cane grew naturally.

• It is believed that returning Crusaders introduced jelly to Europe.

• In the United States, early New England settlers preserved fruits with honey, mollasses or maple sugar. Pectin extracted from apple parings was used to thicken jellies.

• Jerome M. Smucker first pressed cider at a mill in Orrville, Ohio during 1897. He later made apple butter, which he offered in crocks along with his personal guarantee of quality.

• In 1898, the National Preservers Association was created to establish and maintain standards of excellence for the preserve industry and to promote the industry to consumers and manufacturers.

• A grape jam patent was first issued to Paul Welch in 1917 for the puréeing of grapes. He called the product “Grapelade.” The entire production was purchased by the U.S. Army and shipped to France for consumption by the troops during World War I. When the troops returned to the states after the war, they demanded more of this “Grapelade,” and as a result, it started to be produced in quantity.

• The Food and Drug Administration established Standards of Identity for what constitutes jam, jelly, preserves and fruit butters in 1940.

• Jelly is a clear, bright mixture made from fruit juice (no fruit pieces), sugar and pectin or acid that forms a gel. Using a “10 pound scale” of ingredients, fruit juice content cannot be less than 4.5 pounds with 5.5 pounds of sugar.

Reader poll

Approximately how many peanuts does it take to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter?

  • a) 540 0%
  • b) 670 40%
  • c) 810 20%
  • d) 1,000 40%

5 total votes.

Sliced Bread

• Otto Rohwedder created the first commercial loaf-at-a-time bread slicing machine. He spent 13 years perfecting the technology and eventually received a patent for the machine in 1932.

• The Chillicothe Baking Comapny, in Chillicothe, Mo., put the machine to work in 1928. Many bakers rejected the idea but consumers loved it.

• In 1943, the government banned sliced bread, believing the country needed airplanes for war more than bread-slicing blades. The public outcry convinced the government to drop the ban after just a couple of months.

• In 1921, the Taggert Baking Company was preparing to launch its 1.5-pound loaf of bread. Vice president of the company, Elmer Cline, named the new loaf Wonder Bread after visiting the International Balloon Race.

• Wonder Bread is the source of the phrase, “The best thing since sliced bread,” according to an article in the January 2006 Reader’s Digest. It was the first commercial manufacturer of pre-wrapped, pre-sliced bread.

• Following the debut of Wonder Bread, company trucks delivered helium-filled balloons to children with a note about the product for mothers. Sales rocketed.

• Several advances in the nutrition and baking process were made when, in 1941, Wonder Bread was involved in a government-supported move to enrich white bread with vitamins and minerals.

• In the 1950s, Wonder Bread sponsored “Howdy Doody” with host Buffalo Bob Smith telling the audience, “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies eight ways. Look for the red, yellow and blue balloons printed on the wrapper.” By the 1960s, that slogan was changed to “12 ways.”

• After declaring bankruptcy, parent company Hostess Brands closed its U.S. plants in November 2012, thus ending the production of America’s iconic Wonder Bread.

• After being bought by Flowers Foods in January of this year, it is possible that Wonder Bread will return for future generations to enjoy.

The Sandwich

• In its early years, peanut butter was considered a delicacy and served primarily in New York City’s finest tearooms.

• In June 1896, the culinary magazine “Table Talk” published a peanut butter sandwich recipe. The first reference of peanut butter being paired with jelly is believed to have been published in 1901 by Julia Davis Chandler.

• As the price of peanut butter declined and with the advent of sliced bread, everyone could enjoy the spread.

• During WWII, both peanut butter and jelly were on the rations list for U.S. soldiers. While nobody knows when the first PB & J sandwich was made, its popularity certainly soared following the war.

• An average American child eats 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before graduating high school.