State Line Potato Chips

Route 20, Wilbraham, MA, c. 1950s

The only factory sign in this exhibition, the State Line sign clearly articulates the name of a locally-produced snack food against a red circle ringed with small incandescent white bulbs. The name of the Wilbraham-based company refers to the company’s origins in nearby Enfield, Connecticut. According to company lore, the first State Line chips were fried up in a family-run kitchen on a property which straddled the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line. Production of the popular treat was scaled up when Abraham Katz opened the factory in Wilbraham in 1927, and the factory became a reliable source of employment in the growing agricultural and industrial town. (Friendly’s Ice Cream was another major Wilbraham employer, moving there after State Line had already opened its factory). State Line’s bright neon sign, which was fabricated by Howard Scheckterly of Ace Signs in Springfield, popularized the brand and tempted drivers along Wilbraham’s section of the old Boston Post Road to stop for a snack. Schoolchildren growing up in the area enjoyed fresh, hot chips as a special treat, and the factory was often open for tours.

State Line’s striking logo depicts one of the stone obelisks which mark state boundaries throughout the region, making the finished logo an unusual and amusing sign-within-a-sign. As many as 40 delivery trucks emblazoned with the same logo brought fresh potato chips to retailers throughout New England during the peak years of production. Although potato chips are usually thought of a processed food, rather than farm-fresh product, they are not easily transported or stored without significant chemical intervention and complex packaging. “Delivered fresh, the morning after they’re made,” was the slogan printed on many bags of State Line’s potato chips, cheese twists and corn chips. State Line took advantage of local agricultural production and a growing interstate highway system to quickly produce and deliver a tasty and salty snack to New Englanders in the postwar years.

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