Potato sticks look like small french fries and taste like potato chips; they’re made with “shoestring” (also called “matchstick”) potatoes. Potato sticks have been sold in cans since at least 1933.
The origin of the first potato sticks recipe is not known. A 1916 newspaper (below) featured a recipe for “Chinese potato sticks,” but there is insufficient evidence that potato sticks originated in China or among Chinese-Americans. A 1928 newspaper (below) featured a recipe for “Parker House Potato Sticks,” but there is insufficient evidence that potato sticks originated at Boston’s famous Parker House.
Wikipedia: Potato chip
Potato chips (known as chips in American, Australian, Canadian, Singapore, South African and Indian English as well as most European languages; crisps in British and Irish English; and chippies in New Zealand English) are thin slices of potato that are deep fried. Potato chips are commonly served as an appetizer, side dish, or snack.
An additional variant of potato chips exists in the form of “potato sticks”, also called “shoestring potatoes”. These are made as extremely thin (2–3 mm) versions of the popular French fry, but are fried in the manner of regular salted potato chips. A hickory smoke flavor version is popular in Canada, going by the name “Hickory Sticks”. Potato sticks are typically packaged in rigid containers, although some manufacturers use flexible pouches, similar to potato chip bags. Potato sticks were originally packed in hermetically sealed steel cans. In the 1960s, manufacturers switched to the less expensive composite canister (similar to the Pringle’s container). Reckitt Benckiser was a market leader in this category under the Durkee Potato Stix and French’s Potato Sticks names, but exited the business in 2008. In the UK, Walkers have made a brand of potato stick called “French Fries” which are available either in Ready Salted, Salt and Vinegar, Cheese and Onion or Worcester Sauce flavor.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
potato stick n. a thin stick of potato fried until crisp; a small crisp potato chip.
1937 N.Y. Herald Tribune 20 May 22/6 *Potato sticks—French fried potatoes, shoestring style, are on the market in cans, crisp and golden.
1986 Jrnl. (Fairfax County, Va.) 23 May a6 Wednesday—Hamburger on roll, potato sticks, pineapple, milk.
2001 N.Y. Mag. 20 Aug. 71/1 The new line of Terra Frites‥is a crunchy cross between French fries and those Durkee’s potato-sticks-in-a-can.
30 August 1916, Massillon (OH) Evening Independent, pg. 6, col. 7:
CHINESE POTATO STICKS
Mix with 1 cup of mashed potato, 1 beaten egg yolk. SPrinkle the board with flour, and roll the potato to 1 inch thickness, cut into strips and fry in deep fat.
2 October 1928, Newark (OH) Advocate, “The Home Kitchen” by Jeannette Young Norton, pg. 8, cols. 1-2:
Some New and Interesting Potato Dishes
Parker House Potato Sticks
Pare large potatoes, halve, quarter, then cut in square sticks two to three inches long. Cut until you have a fair-sized saucepanful for four people. Let stand in cold water for at least two hours. When ready to cook, drain and fry a few at a time in deep fat, lift to a colander with the skimmer and set on a hot plate at the edge of the oven while frying the remainder, dust with salt. When done, serve in a hot covered dish. Excellent with steak. This recipe came from the old Parker House in Boston, the only place that ever cooked potatoes in just this delightful way.
13 May 1933, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), pg. 10, cols. 4-6:
Monart Company Introduces
New Crescent Potato Sticks
“Potato Sticks,” one of Madison’s newest industrial products, are on display in the industrial window of the Association of Commerce in the Wisconsin Power and Light building this week.
They are made by The Monart co., 1351 University ave.
Potato Sticks are cut from selected raw potatoes and cooked in a specially processed shortening.
They are put up in one and two ounce packages for retail sales through food stores, restaurants and lunch counters. They are also sold in bulk to hotels, restaurants and taverns.
The Monart company is a home-owned organization, Fred J. Monks being the sole proprietor. Mr. Monks in establishing this business has used local manufacturers and jobbers for procuring all of the necessary equipment and supplies. He hopes to use only choice Wisconsin potatoes in the manufacture of Crescent Potato Sticks.
Although the Monart company has been producing the potato sticks for only a short time, news of this product has resulted in orders from stores and taverns in Rockford, Janesville, Watertown, Portage and other surrounding towns.
4 June 1936, Massillon (OH) Evening Independent, pg. 11, col. 6 ad:
Potato Sticks; Can ... 14c
(V. H. Meyer—ed.)
20 May 1937, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, pg. 22, col. 6:
Four New Appetizer Titbits
Ready for Cocktail Tables
Texas Sends Corn Chips, Potato Sticks Here in Cans…
POTATO STICKS—French fried potatoes, shoestring style, are on the market in cans, crisp and golden and good enough to serve right along with the corn chips as shown in the photograph. Guests will not neglect these either even when presented in the company of the Texas specialty. One can of the sticks serves six, maybe more, according to how many other odds and ends are set out on the help-yourself table.
10 December 1937, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, pg. 24, col. 5 ad
Potato Sticks...can 10c
(A&P food stores—ed.)
7 May 1938, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, pg. 19, col. 4 ad:
Shoe String Style, in Cans
Large Can 10c
13 May 1938, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, pg. 33, col. 4 ad:
POTATO STICKS, O. & C., Fresh Fried, can 10c
19 August 1941, New York (NY) Times, “News of Food” by jane Holt, pg. 17:
Crisp Potato Sticks Are Newest Delicacy
To Serve as Appetizer at Cocktail Time
Habit-forming to an alarming degree are the crisp little potato sticks, covered with a film of golden cheese, which appear in trim tins all ready to serve. Tucked in the oven till they’re piping hot and deliciously brittle, these shoestring potatoes with fancy coats are especially nice beside a juicy steak or chop, with perhaps a scarlet disk or two of tomato to complement their jaunty yellow.
Their nutty flavor is appealing at cocktail time, and they are guaranteed to disappear before the ice melts in the shaker. This is the sort of cocktail accompaniment—or salad or soup accompaniment—of which there should always be a large supply to meet what seems to be an insatiable demand. A two-and-a-half-ounce tin holds quite a goodly amount of the small sticks and may be bought in a city store for 17 cents, or six for 98.
I just love those potato shoestrings. They’re my second favorite. Potato chips is my first.