Emeline Jones

Did you know that the woman who invented (or at least popularized) potato chips was from Northeast Baltimore? And from the Eutaw Manor House, specifically?

A fortuitous note from Mark Herlong, a researcher in Washington, DC, has led us to some major breakthroughs in our research into the enslaved people who lived at Eutaw, starting with one Mrs. Emeline Jones. Mr. Herlong came across her name (and her legendary culinary superstardom) during his own fascinating research on crime in 19th-century Washington.

Emeline Jones was born in the 1830s at Eutaw, where her mother, Henrietta Gittings, was enslaved. The laws at the time dictated that children of enslaved mothers were born into slavery, and so Emeline was forced into servitude for the Hall family, as her mother was, until she was emancipated by Elizabeth Hall Whitridge in the late 1850s.

Mrs. Jones followed her lifelong passion for cooking and became a chef, and in the 1870s, she joined forces with John Chamberlin, a former riverboat gambler from Mississippi who ran a wildly popular (and politically connected) restaurant in DC, and later opened grand establishments in New York and at Old Point Comfort in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Emeline Jones ran the kitchens at all of Chamberlin’s restaurants, and when she died, Chamberlin credited her cooking as the driving force of his success.

Mrs. Jones was repeatedly offered a position at the White House; in fact, after tasting her dishes, President Garfield insisted that she come to the White House. As a free woman, Jones could do as she pleased, and once again cordially declined.

It was during her work at another club, Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga, that Emeline Jones introduced “Saratoga Chips,” which we now all know as potato chips, one of the most perfect uses of a potato.

There are many other people who are credited with the creation of Saratoga Chips, and undoubtedly other people fried potatoes without becoming famous for it, but Emeline Jones did more than that. Whether she was making potato chips, Maryland terrapins, canvasback ducks, terrines, oysters, or crab salad, she left an indelible mark on the future of American cuisine. She wasn’t alone; many of the foods everyone in America enjoys today began in the imaginations, experiences, and kitchens of enslaved African Americans. Check out this article in the New York Times, December 31, 1899, for an interview with Mrs. Jones.

The 1860 U.S. Federal Census Showing Emeline Jones and her husband, Robert, living in Baltimore shortly after she was manumitted. The Census misidentified her name as Johns.
The 1870 U.S. Federal Census showing Emeline Jones in New York.
The 1880 U.S. Federal Census Showing Emeline Jones residing in New York. She is identified as a cook for the first time, but was clearly renowned for her culinary mastery well before 1880.



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