The first original corn chips were not Fritos. The first original commercial corn chips on the market were Tostadas. Many claim to have been the originator of the first commercial corn chips, but none have produced any written evidence. I can produce legal documents showing what products were being produced by B. Martinez Sons Company during the early 1900's Such as the registered trademark registered in Austin Texas in 1919, and the patent for the Tamalina Process registered in Washington, D.C. on the 9th of February 1909, etc. Note: In the early years B. Martinez Sons Company was known as Azteca Mills.
How do I know these facts? Mr Bartolo Martinez was my grandfather, and after his death his four sons managed B. Martinez Sons Company. My father is one of the sons, Mr Jose B. Martinez, Jr.
Many who claimed to have been the originator of the first commercial corn chips were actually copying a product that was already on the market. None of these claimants have produced any written proof that they produced the first commercial corn chip. Up to this point, it has all been based on hearsay. San Antonio papers have printed many stories and theories, because they failed to do proper research. As a result, people have been misinformed, because they believed what they read. When these false stories are put in print and not challenged people accept them as being true. There is a great deal of material that is printed today as factual which actually is not. It's just not properly researched.
From the early 1900's to the 1930's B. Martinez Sons company dominated San Antonio and south Texas in sales of corn chips. As the company grew the mangers decided to temporarily discontinue the making of corn chips, because Tamalina had become the real moneymaker. Tamalina is the trade name for dehydrated corn flour that is used to make masa. Masa is the dough from which tortillas and tamales are made. The moneymakers in order were: Tamalina, masa, tortillas, and last corn chips. They also sold cracked corn, regular corn, spices, and tortillas presses.
Soon the demand for Tamalina was such that they added a second shift and then a third shift in order to keep up with the demand. Tamalina was being shipped all over the world. During this early period of Tamalina production, Mr. Martinez was known as the "corn king" in many circles, because he purchased, used, and sold more corn then anyone in the United States.
Some time in the late twenties or early thirties other small companies began to produce masa. These companies were: El Popo, Sanitaria, and La Vencedora. From the early 1900's to the early thirties Mr. Martinez dominated San Antonio in the sales of masa and tortillas. In the early days of the company there were horse and buggies teams that ran twenty-five routes daily in San Antonio. These routes went to satellite stations and to neighborhoods all over town.
The first corn and masa mill was founded in San Antonio, Texas in 1896. The company was located at 615 Dolorosa Street. Another mill was built on the corner of Medina and Colima streets. His last mill was located at 701 south Leona street here in San Antonio. The mill burned down in 1986 under suspicious circumstances. The building had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
701 S. Leona
In Spanish Mr Martinez full name was Jose Bartolome Martinez. In english his full name was Joseph Bartholomew Martinez. Bartolo is short for Bartolome in Spanish as Sam is for Samuel or Jack is for John in English.
Early in his life Mr. Martinez experimented with the mass production of masa. The masa that was being produced was moist, but would dry quickly, because of the warm weather in the southwest United States. He perfected the process of producing commercial masa for mass production. He experimented in making such masa by products as taco shells, chalupa shells, corn chips, tamale meal, champurado mix, gorditas, and special enchilada tortillas which were red. Sometimes he made green tortillas for the green enchiladas which uses the green tomatoes. The gorditas are a thick tortillas that is about three to four inches across, and can be made larger or smaller according to one's taste. The gordita is used very much like the pita bread being sliced open and filled with meat, avocado, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. The gordita can be filled with just about anything to make a Mexican sandwich. Also, the gordita are very tasty eaten fresh off the grill with butter. Champurado was a very popular delicacy in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Champurado is of Aztec origin. It was made like a chocolate pudding with masa being one of the prime ingredients. Champurado was a very popular party dish during the Christmas holidays. These were some of the products Mr. Martinez had planned to market in Texas and later the United States. Eventually, he hoped to produce an entire line of Mexican foods. Little did he realize that he had already lit the fuse to a billion dollar industry.
When the business first started he was having larger masa overruns in the daily production of masa and tortillas. Since this was a new production process it was difficult to estimate the volume of masa needed each day. Being a astute businessman, he developed new products to simply eliminate waste. This was the birth of the commercial corn chip. The corn chips were an immediate success. Soon he was having to make extra masa daily in order to meet the demand for corn chips. The overrun of masa from the daily production was no longer sufficient.
B. Martinez Sons Company marketed the corn chips in San Antonio and south Texas beginning about 1912, and in full production in 1919. The chips were packaged in a wax like 8 ounce bag, and it sold for five cents. These bags kept the chips fresh for weeks. The package had green and red lettering with the company logo on the front. The company logo was an eagle with the extended wings holding an ear of corn. The logo is what was used to make this background for this web page.
Mr. Martinez was also the first in the United States to experiment in the mass production, packaging and distribution of corn chips. He experimented by making thick chips, thin chips, and medium thick chips. They were cut in many different shapes: circles, squares, strips, and triangles. He could not decide between the strips and the triangles. Finally, after he obtained feedback from friends, he decided to cut them in a triangle shape of medium thickness. The reason was that this shaped chip was better when used with dips. The strip chips kept breaking with the thicker dips such as bean dip or guacamole. He tested the corn chips marketability by giving samples to his customers in the San Antonio area.
Another of Mr. Martinez ideas was to serve corn chips with guacamole, salsa, or bean dip in restaurants as appetizers while customers were waiting to be served. The use for chips was first tried at the Original Mexican restaurant which was located downtown San Antonio at the corner of Commerce and Losoya street. This Mexican restaurant is believed to be the first of it's kind in the United States (1899). Other San Antonio restaurants were: Los Apaches 1930, La Fonda 1932, Mitla 1934, Mexican Manhattan 1940, La Paloma 1944, Karams 1946, Casa Del Rio 1947, Mi Tierra 1948 and Jacala 1949.
The reason I say Mr Martinez is the father of the Mexican Food industry is because without the tortilla and masa the Mexican restaurants could not function. When you think of all the items that are made with tortillas and masa such as taco shells, chalupas, tortilla soup, chilaquiles, cheese nachos, flaquitos, chips for dips, chips to eat, enchiladas, rajas, flautas, eating tortillas plus all the other products made from the masa like gorditas, champurado, tamales, and the list continues to grow. In the early 1900's it was not cost effective for people to make masa for their restaurants because of the cost and difficulty of making masa and keeping it from spoiling. Now everyone can buy masa commercially or they can buy corn flour and make masa instantly. Quaker Oats has copied Tamalina with their own product which is called "Masa Harina", however it is easy to tell the difference between the two products.
The number of American eating tortillas daily is growing and replacing bread in many areas. In Los Angeles along one company is producing 1.2 million dozen tortillas a day (1994) however, in total production Texas can match California. In 1995, 46.2 billion tortillas were consumed. The industry is still growing. Almost everywhere you go you can purchase tortillas where bread is sold. Many bread companies are now producing tortillas.
Although I have been unable to find Mr. Martinez name among the outstanding businessmen in Texas publications, he was given credit and honored by the American Historical Society. This publication is called, A history of Texas and Texans by Frank W. Johnson. The book was published in New York and Chicago in 1914.
Mr Martinez also had two daughters. Alicia who lived at 203 King William Street in San Antonio before she passed away, and Aurora Gonzalez who lived in Laredo. In 1920 Mr Martinez purchased the home of Aaron Pancoast, Sr. He enlarged the home and changed the appearance. The appearance was changed to reflect a Spanish style home, but he did retain such classical features as the pilasters and roof cornices. He had the veranda extended and tiled with Mexican tile and added an overhang at the end of the porch to protect buggies and passengers from inclement weather. I believe this is the only Spanish style home in the historical King William area. This was his home until he died in 1924.
203 King Williams
1000 S. Medina