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Laura Scudder Owed a Lot to Peanut Butter

September 23, 1987|MARIA L. La GANGA

It was peanut butter that first got the late Laura Scudder stuck on the food business and peanut butter that later made her a big name in California kitchens.

Scudder was born Laura Clough in 1881 in Philadelphia. She first saw peanut butter being made when she was a nursing student in Trenton, N.J., where it was being prepared as part of a special diet for hospital patients. As the story goes, it was a gooey concoction she never forgot.

She married Charles Scudder on July 4, 1908, and moved to Ukiah, in Northern California, where she opened a restaurant across the street from the Mendocino County Courthouse. A band of local lawyers encouraged her to study law, and while she was never a practicing attorney, she was admitted to the California Bar.

In 1920, the Scudders moved to Monterey Park, where Charles ran a gas station until an injury cut short his career. Laura Scudder took over pumping gas but soon decided to branch out into the potato chip business and then the peanut butter business. In 1926, she delivered her first chips from the back of the family car.

By 1930, Scudder was making a natural peanut butter, which has become California's leading brand of natural peanut butter. Although she sold her firm to Signal Oil & Gas of Signal Hill in 1957, this matriarch of munchies continued to run its operations until her death in 1959.

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