FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Fritos

Fritos corn chips launched a snack empire by transforming a typical Mexican street food, fritas (little fried things), into a mass-produced, mass-marketed snack staple. C. E. Doolin of San Antonio, Texas, purchased a recipe and equipment for making the chips by hand from Gustavo Olguin in 1932.  By 1950, having applied Henry Ford’s assembly line methods to their production, Doolin was selling bags of Fritos nationwide.

Production line in Los Angeles, 1950s

Production line in Los Angeles, 1950s

Courtesy of Kaleta Doolin

Fritos display, about 1950

Fritos display, about 1950

This rolling display featured an early version of the Fritos mascot that traveled between grocery stores.

NMAH Archives Center AC1263-0000009

Frito Kid figurine, about 1952

Frito Kid figurine, about 1952

Like many other 1950s snack manufacturers, Doolin adopted a mascot. The Frito Kid’s cowboy attire evoked the snack’s ties to Texas. This figure stood on Doolin’s desk.

Lent by Kaleta Doolin

Corn-shell shaper and fryer, 1955–58

C. E. Doolin opened the restaurant Casa de Fritos at Disneyland in 1955, where he promoted Fritos and served Americanized versions of Mexican food. The menu included a “Tacup,” a small, easy-to-eat taco, made in a device patented by Doolin. This tool is an early mockup for the Tacup iron. Gift of Kaleta Doolin.

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Casa de Fritos, Disneyland, 1955

Casa de Fritos, Disneyland, 1955

NMAH Archives Center AC1263-0000006

Cooking with Fritos, about 1960

Cooking with Fritos, about 1960

Doolin imagined Fritos as a side dish or ingredient.  His mother Daisy Dean developed all kinds of recipes, from Fritos chili pie to Fritos Chocolate Cookies.

NMAH Archives Center AC1263-0000010

Frito Bandito ad, about 1968

Frito Bandito ad, about 1968

The Frito Bandito replaced the Frito Kid in 1967. Speaking broken English, he robbed people of their Fritos, a reference to the “Mexican bandit” stereotype in Westerns. He was retired in 1971 due to complaints from the public.