Peanut butter was invented and reinvented many times during history. Peanuts were known as early as 950 B.C. and originated in South America. The ancient Incas used peanuts and were known to have made it into a paste-like substance. As a crop peanuts emigrated from South America to Africa by early explorers and then traveled by trade into Spain who then traded the product to the American colonies. The first commercial peanut crop was grown in Virginia in the early to mid 1840’s and in North Carolina beginning around 1818.
According to the Corn Products Company, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis patented a peanut butter-making machine in 1903 and some unknown doctor invented peanut butter in 1890.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg patented a “Process of Preparing Nut Meal” in 1895 and used peanuts. Kellogg served the patients at his Battle Creek Sanitarium peanut butter. Joseph Lambert worked for Dr. Kellogg and began selling his own hand-operated peanut butter grinder in 1896. Almeeta Lambert published the first nut cookbook, “The Complete Guide to Nut Cookery” in 1899.
By 1914, many companies were making peanut butter.
Joseph L. Rosenfield invented a churning process that made smooth peanut butter smooth. In 1928, Rosenfield licensed his invention to the Pond Company, the makers of Peter Pan peanut butter. In 1932, Rosenfield began making his own brand of peanut butter called Skippy which included a crunchy style peanut butter.
Agricultural chemist, George Washington Carver discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. He start popularizing uses for peanut products including peanut butter, paper, ink, and oils beginning in 1880. The most famous of Carver’s research took place after he arrived in Tuskeegee in 1896. However, Carver did not patent peanut butter as he believed food products were all gifts from God. The 1880 date precedes all the above inventors except of course for the Incas, who were first. It was Carver who made peanuts a significant crop in the American South in the early 1900’s.
After all peanut butter is just roasted peanuts crushed into a paste. One-half of all edible peanuts produced in the United States are used to make peanut butter and peanut spreads.