Grocer Builds “X-ray” to Sell Customers Flawless Spuds (Nov, 1932)

I’m not sure what potatoes cost in 1932, but it can’t have been enough to make this worthwhile.

Grocer Builds “X-ray” to Sell Customers Flawless Spuds

WHAT is more embarrassing to a housewife who boasts of her cooking than to have her mashed potatoes turn out black, or to have her guest slice into a deliriously deliciously baked cobbler and find it with a black cavity?

Confronted with complaints from housewives on bad potatoes, an Ames, Iowa, groceryman rigged up a potato X-ray, or candling device to inspect choice potatoes before they go to the fastidious customer.

This groceryman’s invention, modeled after an egg candler, is a wooden box with two elliptical holes cut in the top. Light adequate to penetrate the spuds, and thus disclose the flaws, is furnished by a 1000 candle power lamp set in the bottom of the box.

Mirrors sloping outward from the light socket to the top of the box serve to increase the reflection. The potatoes must be examined in a darkened room.

Now when there is need for unblemished potatoes for the luncheon, banquet, or party, housewives of Ames, Iowa, go to the one grocer they know can be depended upon to furnish exactly what is wanted. If the customer wishes, she can do her own inspecting—that’s a privilege which the grocer permits them in his store.

11 comments
  1. Blurgle says: September 21, 200710:54 am

    Not only that, but generally when you make mashed potatoes you pare and slice the potatoes before cooking them. What housewife boils her potatoes whole and mashes them blindly without checking for rot first?

    And how the heck do you get a “black cavity” in a deliciously baked cobbler? It’s not like you put the apples in whole.

  2. Firebrand38 says: September 21, 200712:05 pm

    Charlie, “deliriously baked cobbler”? Just wanted you to know that I’m paying attention.

  3. Charlie says: September 21, 200712:12 pm

    Whoops. Fixed :)

  4. Blurgle says: September 21, 20072:32 pm

    And also, what do potatoes have to do with a cobbler?

  5. Charlie says: September 21, 20072:51 pm

    I was wondering that too.

  6. Blurgle says: September 21, 20073:03 pm

    I have just performed Research (cue thunderclaps); it appears that the definition of cobbler has changed over the last 80 or so years.

    For those who don’t recognize it, the word “cobbler” is a mainly United States word for a dessert of sweetened fruit covered with dough or batter and baked. Before World War I, though, the word “cobbler” could be applied to any pastry-covered dish, including one containing meat and vegetables. The word meaning changed slowly and I suspect in some rural areas didn’t change until World War II. (I’m also guessing that the Modern Mechanix editorial staff wasn’t exactly on the cutting edge of culinary language.)

  7. Randy says: September 21, 200710:53 pm

    “Cobbler” is also the name of a variety of white potato grown in the USA.

  8. Paul Lindemeyer says: August 13, 20091:45 pm

    I’m from Ames. I can probably identify the grocery with a little input from our Historical Society.

    A more successful invention also originated in Ames in 1932: gasohol. Gasoline with ±10% grain alcohol content was marketed that year by a local filling station.

  9. Paul Lindemeyer says: August 13, 20091:52 pm
  10. Bubba says: October 26, 20114:05 pm

    I wonder if any potato customers got fried by that exposed electrical block — fuses? switch?

  11. Michael, N5RLR says: October 26, 20116:52 pm

    I wonder if any potato customers’ *retinas* were fried by the reflector-intensified 1,000-candlepower lamp. :O

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