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Enlarge Exterior of single-story factory with large Red Dot signage and cars parked nearby.

Red Dot Factory Exterior, 1939

Madison, Wisconsin. This building, located at 1435 East Washington Ave, was expanded in the 1940s and still stands today. WHI 11002

Enlarge Women with hats working near conveyor belts inside the potato chip factory.

Red Dot Factory Interior, 1939

Madison, Wisconsin. Two continuous potato making machines in operation. A year after this photograph was taken Red Dot had 95 employees. Ten years later the company would have over 300 employees working in Wisconsin. WHI 11003

Red Dot Potato Chips Founded in Wisconsin

Red Dot Foods of Madison, Wisconsin was founded in 1938, the same year as H.W. Lay & Company in Atlanta, Georgia, and soon achieved comparable success. Red Dot's founder, Frederick J. Meyer, had been selling snack foods to grocery stores in Dane County as a middleman since 1931. When potato chips began selling faster than any other product, he realized that they were the snack food of the future. In 1938 he found investors to purchase the latest in potato chip technology — a continuous potato chip making machine — and a new enterprise was born.

Red Dot was the only large potato chip company founded in Wisconsin, but several smaller companies called the state their home. These included Delicious ("De-lish-us" brand) in Waupaca, and Drenk's, Geiser's, and Mrs. Howe's in Milwaukee. Today only Delicious, founded in 1938 (the same year as Red Dot), makes potato chips in Wisconsin.

Red Dot Foods claimed to be the first potato chip company to operate its own potato research program. Red Dot worked closely with the University of Wisconsin's agricultural department to create the perfect potato for chips. The University continued to do research in this area after Red Dot folded and in 1990 introduced the Snowden potato, now considered the ultimate chipping potato. Potato growing in central Wisconsin began as a major crop in 1890. In the early 2000s, Wisconsin produced the third-largest potato crop, behind Idaho and Washington.

Enlarge Woman in white dress and hat using a machine to bag Red Dot potato chips.

Bagging Red Dot Potato Chips, 1939

Madison, Wisconsin. Although they made their own potato chips, Red Dot Foods continued to sell snack foods made by other companies until 1948. WHI 9072

Enlarge Man wearing apron, white shirt and tie checking raised beds of potato plants in a large greenhouse.

Red Dot Potato Greenhouse, ca. 1956

Oneida County, Wisconsin. Sugar Camp Farms. View the original source document.