Steve Woodman: My name is Steve Woodman. I am grandson of “Chubby” Woodman who invented the fried clam in 1916. Now, the way this all started was Chubby was trying to make some extra money. He saw that people were clamming along the shore. He decided that he could make some extra money digging clams and then selling them. That’s what he started to do. He dug some clams, sold them to wholesalers who were selling them off to Gloucester and wherever they could peddle them.
Back then there wasn’t a lot of demand for clams, so he wasn’t getting paid very much. He was getting paid maybe 60 cents a bushel for his clams. He said, “How can I make more money?” He got a roadside stand that he could sell his clams at and he started selling his own clams. Anything he couldn’t sell, he’d wholesale them off. He started saying to himself and actually to his wife Bessie, he says “How can we get more people to buy our clams?” He started bringing other things into the roadside stand, whether it was groceries and bananas and whatever may be that he was trying to sell to get more people to come in.
What he decided to do was bring in a fryolator. With the fryolator, he started making home-made potato chips. Those home-made potato chips caught on. People started coming down and getting a bag of home-made potato chips. More people started coming to the store and by that, he started selling a few more clams here and there. A friend of his said, “Hey, Chubby,” because that was his nickname, Chubby Woodman. He was a short man with a big barrel chest and eventually his belly grew into his chest and his name was Chubby.
They said, “Chubby, if you take some of those clams that you’re shucking out to try to put in stews and different things and you fry them, I think people will like them.”
Everyone hanging around at the time laughed at him and didn’t think it was a very good idea because clams weren’t very popular. Bessie actually thought about it and said, “Hey, Chub, I think we could do that. I think it could be very easy to do.” They did that that night. They experimented frying some clams, deep frying them in fryolator because they had pan fried them before for their own use at home, and they liked them.
Well, the next day was July 3rd and there was a little celebration in town for the Independence Day. They put a sign out on the street, “Essex fried clams”. They sold some clams, they sold potato chips, they sold a few other things. They took in $35 that day, which is the most money that they’d ever taken in since they had been open. He was not a stupid man, he kept the fried clams on the menu. Now there are clam shacks all over New England that have popped up because of that.
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