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A Brief History of Peanut Butter

The Incas ground peanuts into paste thousands of years ago, but who invented the modern incarnation of peanut butter? If you had to guess, you'd probably say George Washington Carver, but it was John Harvey Kellogg who filed the patent in 1895. Yes, the same guy who developed modern breakfast cereal at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan.  

A Seventh-Day Adventist, Kellogg endorsed a plant-based diet and promoted peanut butter as a healthy alternative to meat, which he saw as a digestive irritant and, worse, a sinful sexual stimulant. His efforts and his elite clientele, which included Amelia Earhart, Sojourner Truth and Henry Ford, helped establish peanut butter as a delicacy. As early as 1896, Good Housekeeping encouraged women to make their own with a meat grinder, and suggested pairing the spread with bread. “The active brains of American inventors have found new economic uses for the peanut,” the Chicago Tribune rhapsodized in July 1897.

Kellogg's peanut butter had its problems, though, and the product went through changes as it became tastier and more amenable to mass production. Throughout the 20th century, peanut butter gained popularity as a protein alternative to expensive meat. Read the history of peanut butter, plus a look at the work George Washington Carver did to promote peanut crops at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: PeanutButter1046)


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