Chamber Magazine

2016 Cape Ann Guide

2012 Cape Ann Guide – Experience Cape Ann…serving Essex, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport. Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.

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Page 22 of 75 23 The Fried Clam Celebrates 100 Years In 1914, Lawrence "Chubby" Woodman and his wife Bessie opened a small concession stand on Main Street in Essex. On weekends they sold small grocery items, homemade potato chips and fresh clams that Chubby dug himself. At frst business was slow, but on July 3, 1916 things began to change. It was on that day in 1916 that a local fsherman, named Tarr (his frst name long forgotten) was visiting the stand and Chubby complained that, "business was slower than a couple of snails headed uphill." Tarr, while nibbling on some of the tasty homemade potato chips, noticed a bucket of clams nearby, pointed at them and jokingly said, "why don't you fry up some of your clams? If they're as tasty as those potato chips of yours, you'll never have to worry about having enough customers." Later that night, Chubby and Bessie started to think about frying up some of the clams and see how they tasted deep fried. If by chance they tasted good, then Chubby would have created a way to increase the demand for his own shucked clams. "Let's try it," Bessie said as she tossed a slab of lard into the fry pot normally used to make potato chips. So they shucked some clams out of the shell, experimented with different batters and called over some locals to give them a taste. When the overall verdict was "delicious" they knew they were on to something big. The next day, during the 4th of July parade, Chubby and Bessie presented the frst fried clam to the citizens of Essex and the Yankee appetite has never been the same since. A year after the Woodmans' experiment, a Boston fsh market advertised that it was "now equipped to serve the new taste treat - fried clams." And Howard Johnson, owner of a chain of restaurants that at one time had 100 spots across the East Coast, made the trip to the tiny coastal town to learn how to fry clams from Chubby. On the backside of their wedding certifcate, Lawrence and Bessie wrote what they considered to be important family events. The frst two lines were the birth dates of their two oldest sons, Wilbur and Henry. The third line was the other important birth date in the family. It read: "We fried the frst fried clam - in the town of Essex, Massachusetts, July 3, 1916." One hundred years and fve generations later, the clams are still frying at Woodman's, right where it all began. One hundred years ago on July 3, 1916, Lawrence "Chubby" Woodman and his wife Bessie, at the humorous suggestion of a friend, fried up a few clams at his roadside stand in Essex, Massachusetts and this is the rest of the story:

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