The Real History Behind The Classic Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

A staple in every American household, the peanut butter, and jelly sandwich has been around for ages. However, as history has it, though all the ingredients needed for a sandwich have been around a long time, it took some special skills to put it together and even some decades to popularize it. There are very few who can say that they have lived through their childhood, without trying a bite of the perfect sandwich. It is indeed a wonder how the ideal ingredients were combined to create this childhood nostalgia.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

The History of The PBnJ

John Montagu is called “the lord of sandwiches” because he invented the sandwich. The sandwiched slices of bread were a creation to help the Earl overcome hunger while he was gambling. John Montagu was often on a 24-hour gambling spree and did not want to stop to eat a meal during his games. He wanted to have his meal in one hand and instructed his servant to set meat between bread slices. This is how the ‘sandwich’ came into existence.

However, the story of peanut butter, bread, and jelly sandwich is an entirely different story. Bread is no new food, and it has been around for thousands of years. The history of using slices of bread for a sandwich starts with the invention of bread that was pre-sliced in the early 1900s. It was thought that people would never want their bread in the sliced form and so the ‘bread slicer’ created by Otto Frederick Rohwedder was disregarded. However, Rohwedder was not one to give up. He kept polishing and selling his slicer until bakeries started trying them. With the propagation of sliced bread, people were constantly thinking of what they would cover the slices with, to make it even more gratifying.

Jelly is another delicacy that has been around since time immemorial. The credit should go to Paul Weltch, who acquired the patent for making jelly from pureed grapes in the year 1917. This was popularized during WWI when American troops returned from the war and spread Grapelade (grape marmalade) on bread to make meal times, quick and gratifying.

In the 1900s the peanut crop was promoted in the south by Dr. George Washington Carver. The first peanut butter was introduced by Dr. Ambrose Straub, a Physician of St. Louis. He prepared a peanut paste for his geriatric patient’s so that they could eat comfortably. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg at the same time, secured a patent for peanut butter production. It was first presented to the world during the Chicago World Fair in 1893. Dr. Straub, in 1904, requested a company to develop the peanut spread, which gained massive demand that they started accepting orders from supermarkets.

The Popularity of the PB&J Sandwich

Peanut butter was seen as a luxury food only in upscale tea rooms of New York City. In fact, all other tea rooms also had their pimento sandwich with peanut butter served with soda crackers and toast triangles.

The recipe of peanut butter jelly sandwich initially surfaced in the Boston cooking school magazine in 1901. The author advised using crab apple jelly or currant jelly with bread. This was the grand entry of the famous PB&J. The butter was made more creamily and also didn’t stick to the mouth after years of upgrades done to the original recipe. During the Great Depression families found peanut butter to be a highly satisfying, less expensive meal with massive amounts of protein.