THE MAN IN THE CAN

While scrolling through my Facebook feed I saw a meme proclaiming the Pringles potato chip mascot was inspired by none other than the notorious H.H. Holmes. What?? Needless to say that inspired a trip down the rabbit hole and what I found there was a really interesting story about those Pringles cans I’d like to share.

Did you know that the man who invented the unique chip packaging was from right here in Cincinnati and upon his death requested he be buried in a one. Yeah you heard that right, a Pringles can as his eternal resting place. Now that’s really getting into your product. Literally.

The inventor of the Pringles can was named Fredric J. Baur. He not only designed the ubiquitous snack tube, but he also held the packaging patent for the unique curved chip stack and storage method. Baur himself was an organic chemist and food storage technician with Cincinnati based Proctor & Gamble, the company who originally made Pringles.

When Fredric Baur passed away on May 4, 2008 at the age of 89 his children were happy to honor his final wish by placing his cremains inside a Pringles container, the invention of which he was most proud. According to an article that appeared in Time Magazine shortly after his passing, Baur’s children swung by Walgreens to pick up a can of Pringles for the burial. They reportedly even debated for a bit as to what flavor to use. In the end they settled for the original. Plain Pringles. The can was filled with Fredeic Baur’s cremains then interred at his gravesite at Arlington Memorial Gardens in Springfield Township, Ohio.

As for the Pringles cartoon mascot, and H.H. Holmes. I did find the potential basis for that meme after some digging, so here goes. Ok, so the little mascot is officially known as “Julius Pringles” and was the brainchild of Louis R. Dixon. A designer at P&G. The Pringles name seems most likely to be derived from an inventor named Mark Pringle, who filed US Patent 2,286,644 titled “Method and Apparatus for Processing Potatoes.” There are a couple other possibilities as to how the chip got its name as well. One being, it was inspired by two Proctor and Gamble advertisers who lived on Pringle Drive here in Cincy. And another theory which inferred folks at P&G just looked through the phone book, came across the Pringles name and voila. A brand was born. So wait how did H.H. Holmes get involved? While I must admit I do see a slight resemblance between Julius Pringles and the notorious American serial killer – come on – that mustache. I can say with certainty the only thread of connective tissue between the Pringle name and H.H. Holmes was a genealogical one. Mary Pringle Mitchell who was an 8th cousin to H.H. Holmes. So there you have it, while not a definitive inspiration for the logo there is a potential connection. Food for thought, anyway.

SOURCE CITATIONS

Caplan, Jeremy. The Man Buried in a Pringles Can. June 04, 2008. Time Magazine. New York, New York.

Goodman, Rebecca. Fredric J. Baur Was Designer of P&G’s Pringles Container. May 31, 2008. The Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati, Ohio

Martin, Andrew. “Once a Great Flop, Now Sold for Billions”. April 5, 2011. The New York Times. New York, New York.

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