Our Family History

Backer’s Potato Chip Company was born from fire and the Great Depression.  In September of 1930 an arson started a fire in an adjoining business to the Home Café where Ernest Backer and partners made potato chips as a side dish for their patrons.  The café was destroyed.  Ernest and wife Ida recovered the potato chip making equipment and moved their family to rural Callaway County where they started making potato chips in tiny batches for customers they had known from the café and bakery business.  The small hand powered equipment and coke fired doughnut kettle operation produced about 12 pounds of potato chips per day.  Potatoes were prepared in the kitchen of the log house and cooked in the smoke house.  Our first customers were in the state capital city of Jefferson City.  The chip packages were unprinted waxed bags, hand filled and closed with a paperclip.  This was a true cottage industry started to survive the Great Depression.

When sons William Ernest Jr and Fred returned from WWII the operation moved into a renovated barn on the Hillers Creek property.  In this factory we made small batches of what is today called kettle chips using one hand operated kettle.  Packages were still made of waxed paper hand filled but stapled closed.

In the late 1950s it was decided to move into the county seat of Fulton, primarily to get city utilities. We purchased a larger used hand kettle and a couple of weighing machines.  By then the packages had “Backer’s” name on them and were made from cellophane that could be heat sealed.

The near downtown location became too small and difficult for the several route delivery trucks and semi-trucks to access.  So, in the early 1960s we moved again.  This time the building was new, built to be a potato chip factory.  The equipment took a major leap forward to a continuous cooker and packaging machines that could make bags from a printed roll of a cellophane lamination.

Many more changes have happened over the years.  The company is still owned by the Backer family and is being operated by the third and fourth generations.  Ernest and Ida would be amazed!