Selection of crisp packets, 1990s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Legend has it that the potato crisp was 'invented' in 1853 in the United States by a restaurant chef called George Crum. The railway magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt was eating at the restaurant where Crum worked. Vanderbilt, a notoriously fastidious customer, repeatedly sent his potato chips back to the kitchen, complaining that they were cut too thickly. The exasperated Crum eventually cut the potato into wafer-thin slices, frying them in oil until they were crispy. Vanderbilt enjoyed them, and the crisp was born. Crisps did not appear in Britain until the 1910s, and were not manufactured on any scale until Frank Smith started to make them in a London garage in 1920. Today they are Britain's most popular snack, available in a huge variety of shapes, textures and flavours.