18 July, 2010

Vintage Sunday: Snow's Clam Crisps

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:

Clam Crisps just never really caught on.  The last advertisements for them showed up in newspapers in late summer 1966, and after that the product just sort of faded away.


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.

15 comments:

J. Astro said...

I'd try me some o' those...

Andrew Green said...

Excellent detective work there!

Chefs Resources said...

Very cool research! I bet you had to dig deep to find this info. I've added you to my favorites list.

jen cheung said...

amazing research you got there! I love to try these out one day! but dono when yet :) hehehe


PS: Have a lovely weekend!
Jen

cheryl_power3 said...

I remember them. We had 5 family members that worked for Snow's from the 50s thru the 80s, and were given these chips to sample with their families. They were absolutely delicious, and kept for years, lol, as we had found some stashed away in my grandmother's cellar in the 70s, opened them and pigged out! I do wish someone would pick up the ball and make them now. I think the USA is ready for a new chip, and people are open to try new ones.

Larry said...

when i was in veit nam my wonderfull sister sent me a package every month and in that package was always a box of clam crips that was in 1965, when i got home in 67 i could not find them again.if i could get my hands on some that would bring back alot of nice memory's.

David said...

In the 1960's we used to buy them at Shackford and Gooch (seafood market) in Kennebunkport, Maine. They were made at Snow's at Pine Point in Scarborough, Maine. I remember how unhappy we were when Snow's discontinued them in the late 60's.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother(A.Snow) kept a huge stash of those... They were still yummy 30years later ;)

Normand said...

Thanks for the history lesson! "Snow's Clam Crisps"... I can't believe that I've been missing them for over 40 (FORTY) years. I love it where someone commented "I think the USA is ready for a new chip..."; this "Clam Crisp" lover couldn't agree more. I'm a professional chef, 37 years in the business and someday (sooner than later) I plan on spending some time trying to figure out the recipe. What a great treat to RE-introduce to my brothers & sisters, their children & grandchildren. They were "simply delicious"! Thanks again Dave. Norm

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that I'm not going crazy. My brother and I loved these snacks growing up, but when trying to research online, it was as though they never existed. I do wish somebody would come out with these again. They were delish!!

Deb said...

They also sold the Snows Clam Chips in a local seafood store in New Jersey. I remember them also and have been searching for them or have even considered experimenting with a recipe for them.

Debbie

Bart Snow said...

Just shared a can a few weeks ago. It was of course a very very old can. I could hear the air from the vacuum seal when we opened them and they tasted very fresh and tasty. They had to stop making them because they could not keep up with demand and the machinery took up a lot of space at the factory.

P. Gordan said...

Just reading about Snow's Clam Chips makes my mouth water. As a child I loved them. I can't believe they existed for only a few years. I seem to remember eating them throughout my childhood.

Wendy Jendro said...

I am so happy to have found this blog. I have been looking for the clam crisps for years. I could not remember who made them. I remember them being in a can. I still remember the location of where they sat on the shelf in that small grocery store in Rhode Island. It all makes sense that it was a Snow's product. And now sadly, I know their fate. I wish they would bring them back. I grew up in Rhode Island and remember buying these clam flavored crisps. My girlfriend and I used to go to this one market and buy them as we walked home from school in the 60's. They were the best. Please bring them back.

Cathy Hogan said...

Funny, I was just talking to a friend about Snow's Clam Chips and telling her how delicious they were. My grandmother was a Snow, so I had the fortune of having "experienced" them often as a child. I really wish the recipe would resurface, so we can all enjoy that tasty little treat in a can!