A few days ago I received a note through my Contact Me page from a woman I'll identify only by her first name, Cynthia. Unfortunately, Cynthia didn't leave an email address for a reply - but on the other hand, she presented me with a fascinating puzzle which in turn has led to this Vintage Sunday post. Here's her message:
I had a lady call about a canned product she bought back in the 50's made by Snow's - "Clam Crisps" is what she called them and she said they were similar to the fried onions that come in a can and were about the size of a Frito. She actually called Fred Snow, who is now about 92, and he had two cans of the product - and he wouldn't sell them to her! She swears they are the best thing ever. Have you heard of this product?
Would love to know any information you might find.
I enjoy challenges like this. I'm a patient and tenacious researcher, I know where to look for many different types of esoteric information, and I'm very creative in constructing the types of queries which tease out data where others sometimes come up dry. And that includes non-digital research when necessary: there's a lot of info on the internet, but it's very often the case that there are few - or no - digital records of things which existed only briefly in the days before digital media. Such is the case with Snow's Clam Chips. Not even Bumble Bee Foods, the current owner of the Snow's label, could help me - After several changes of ownership and a big move which carried the brand out of Maine and down to New Jersey, there aren't many original corporate records left.
Nevertheless, I was able to find out a bit about Snow's Clam Crisps.
Although they may have been sold in the late 1950's in Maine and eastern Massachusetts, the earliest print references I could find for them date them to no earlier than 1964, when they first appeared widely in newspaper ads all throughout New England. Snow's Clam Crisps were kicked off in this ad campaign, which hit New England newspapers in late summer 1964:
They were a thin and crispy cracker shaped something like Sun Chips are today, seasoned and clam-flavored. Instead of traditional boxes or snack bags, Snow's marketed them in sealed metal cans. Although I've found message board postings here and there in which the writers mention how delicious the chips were and how much they miss them, Clam Crisps were almost certainly a niche product that didn't appeal to everyone. By 1965, Snow's was offering special mail-in coupons allowing folks to send a label in to receive a return of their purchase price (Try them FREE!) or to receive another can free:
Although fondly remembered by many people. Crisps were removed from production and Snow's concentrated their attention on their more traditional products - Chowders, soups, and canned seafood.