In the Patented Bag: Peanuts, Packaging, and Intellectual Property in the United States, 1906–1932
This article explores the early history of two American peanut companies: Planters and Tom’s. Both food manufacturers developed major commercial brands through the ownership of intellectual property. In this case, the sourcing of different peanut types figured into the marketing of salted peanuts. Through a legal dispute involving Tom’s patented retail bag, I examine how food packaging changed how peanuts were advertised, distributed, and consumed. The argument is made for an historical analysis of food brands that considers how intellectual property domains interacted with each other and with the material properties of the food itself.