Who Invented Peanut Butter: Unveiling the History of a Classic Spread

Peanut butter originated from ancient civilizations with progressive refinements leading to the modern product we know today, and as such cannot be not credited to any one inventor.

The invention of peanut butter is not attributed to a singular individual, but rather a progression of innovations and patents that refined the grinding of roasted peanuts into the spread we know today.

The origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations and evolved through various patents and mechanical improvements.

Early Uses and Development

The civilizations of the Aztecs and Incas in South America are known to have ground peanuts into a paste, which some consider a primitive form of peanut butter.

The uses were varied and not necessarily for consumption as they are today.

Marcellus Gilmore Edson’s Patent

In 1884, Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson was granted a patent for peanut paste, which was a result of milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces.

This was an early iteration of what would eventually become known as peanut butter, intended as a nutritious food product for people who could hardly chew solid food.

John Harvey Kellogg and Health Innovations

John Harvey Kellogg, the American physician better known for his cereal inventions, filed a patent for a type of peanut butter in 1895.

His version was made from steamed, rather than roasted, peanuts.

Kellogg promoted it as a healthy protein substitute for patients without teeth.

Dr. Ambrose Straub and Machine Inventions

Dr. Ambrose Straub patented a peanut butter-making machine in 1903 to cater to the growing demand for the product.

Straub’s invention contributed significantly to the spread of peanut butter’s popularity and made its production more efficient and widespread.

Influences on Peanut Butter’s Popularity

Peanut butter jar surrounded by peanuts, a peanut plant, and a timeline of key historical figures and events related to its invention and popularity

Peanut butter’s popularity has seen a steady climb due to pivotal figures, cultural significance, and the expansion of national brands.

This section explores how these elements have shaped its place in American households and global cuisine.

George Washington Carver’s Contributions

Carver’s research at the Tuskegee Institute led to innovative uses for the peanut, which boosted the peanut industry and laid groundwork for the widespread use of peanut butter.

His collaboration with Booker T. Washington further highlighted the value of peanuts as a cash crop for the South.

Watercolor illustration of peanut butter on toast.

Role in American Culture and WWII

During World War I and World War II, peanut butter served as a protein-rich ration for American soldiers.

This association with the national effort led to its incorporation into the daily lives of civilians, who continued to consume peanut butter in peacetime, solidifying its place in American culture.

Expansion of Peanut Butter Brands

The 20th century introduced several national brands such as Skippy, Peter Pan, and Jif, which are staples in American households.

Joseph Rosefield’s invention of churning process gave birth to the smooth, spreadable modern peanut butter enjoyed today.

The growth and innovation of these brands helped transform peanut butter from a novelty to an everyday essential.