Tacup Iron Prototype

Tacup Iron Prototype

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Charles Elmer Doolin, founder of the Frito Company, was an inventor with a restless mind. In 1932 he bought the recipe for Fritos (“little fried things”) for $100 from Gustavo Olguin, the owner of a small restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. The following year Doolin began large-scale production of Fritos in Dallas and Houston, using a hybrid corn from his experimental farm. He continued to expand production while developing a nationwide ad campaign. By 1947, Fritos were being produced in factories across the United States.
In addition to making Fritos and Cheetos (production of which began in 1949 in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City), Doolin continued to tinker with other recipes and food products. One of his ideas was the “Tacup,” a taco shell shaped liked a small, round tart. He built this prototype of a “Tacup” iron, which consists of two tart molds that fit one inside the other and are connected by handles that operate like tongs. A tortilla is pressed between the molds to form the scalloped-edged shell, which is then dipped into hot oil. Holes in the bottom mold exposed the tortilla to the hot oil, enabling it to cook evenly. Doolin designed a machine based on this prototype, receiving a patent for it in 1959. The Tacup, filled with various taco ingredients and Mexican flavors, was first introduced in the Dallas area at a chain of Dairy Marts. By 1955 visitors to Disneyland in southern California could order a “Taco in a Tacup”at Doolin’s restaurant, “Casa de Fritos.”
See Kaleta Doolin. Fritos Pie: Stories, Recipes, and More (Stephenville, TX: Tarleton State University Southwestern Studies in the Humanities), 2011.
Object Name
cooking iron
date made
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 3 1/2 in x 22 in x 4 1/4 in; 8.89 cm x 55.88 cm x 10.795 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Kaleta A. Doolin
See more items in
Work and Industry: Food Technology
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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