Mike-sell’s Potato Chips. A Dayton Favorite!
Mike-Sell’s was founded in 1910 by Ohio native Daniel W. Mikesell. Mikesell was born in Miami County, Ohio, in 1883. In 1906, when he was 23, Mikesell moved to Dayton with the desire to start his own business. He started out working for a wholesale and retail dry goods store before serving a short stint as a collector for the Home Telephone Company. Finally, in 1910, he started his own venture. He saw advertised in the newspaper a used dried-beef slicing machine. He bought the contraption and set up a makeshift meat shop in two rooms next to his home. He started selling dried beef and sausage snack foods that he processed with his machine. He delivered his products to customers via bicycle. Mikesell upgraded his delivery system to a horse and buggy after a few years. At about this time, Mikesell became engaged in the potato chip business when he took advantage of an opportunity to purchase equipment designed to manufacture chips, which were relatively unknown in Dayton at the time.
According to legend, a chef named George Crum invented the fried food at an upscale resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, when railroad baron Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt sent his french fries back to the kitchen, complaining that they had been sliced too thick. Disgusted, Crum sliced thin shavings from a potato and threw them into hot oil. After they had fried to a crisp he sent them back to the table, to Vanderbilt’s delight. “Saratoga chips,” as they were first called, became popular throughout the eastern United States. With help from his wife Mikesell began producing the chips with a few cooking kettles, baskets, and stirrers. The operation was truly vertically integrated, with Mikesell and his wife peeling, slicing, frying, packaging, and then delivering the tasty potato chips to customers.
Customers who tried Mikesell’s unique fried potato chips loved them. Mikesell continued to deliver snack food products other than potato chips, because most people considered the chips a seasonal picnic item, but it was clear that the chips were a big hit for the fledgling venture. Indeed, the Mikesells eventually employed their four children peeling potatoes to keep up with demand. Mikesell marketed the chips through county and state fairs, and the entire family traveled during the summers to operate the D.W. Mikesell Co. booth at such events. The Mikesells lived in a tent while traveling and sold the chips out of a glass case, scooping them into nickel bags. In 1913 Mikesell purchased a Ford delivery truck. Evidencing Mikesell’s penchant for innovation, his was the first delivery panel truck in Dayton. The side of the truck was embossed with a new, more descriptive moniker: D.W. Mikesell Co. Food Specialties.
Fast forward to 1965. After the death of Dan Mikesell, leadership of the chip company fell to Leslie C. Mapp. Under Mapp’s direction during the next 30 years, Mike-Sell’s expanded geographically, retained its quality focus, and continued to be an industry innovator.
Les Mapp’s rise to the presidency of Mike-Sell’s was the embodiment of the American dream. His parents had immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s with the dream of owning farmland. They achieved that dream in Ohio, where the elder Mapp became a successful dairy farmer. Mapp received his education in a one-room schoolhouse near Springfield, Ohio, and then attended Bliss College in Columbus for two years before completing his degree at the Dayton Young Men’s Christian Association night school (later named Sinclair College).
Early in his career Mapp was an administrative officer of the Miami Valley Milk Producers Association in Dayton. He helped that organization multiply several times in size during his tenure. It was also through that job that he became involved in numerous trade associations. Mapp, with a broad food industry background, eventually joined Mike-Sell’s and in 1952 was named chief administrative officer. He oversaw the construction of a new manufacturing plant in 1955 and was integral to the implementation of modern manufacturing and marketing techniques during the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to updating and expanding production facilities during the 1970s and 1980s, Mike-Sell’s reached out into new geographic markets on the perimeter of its established customer base. In addition to his success at Mike-Sells, Mapp was a leader in the snack food industry. In 1977, for example, he was elected head of the Potato Chip/Snack Food Association, International, for which he established several new programs including key legislative initiatives in Washington, D.C.
Leslie C. Mapp was born September 15, 1912 and died April 2, 2005 at the age of 92. He is resting peacefully in Section 61 Lot 1624 at Woodland Cemetery.
Daniel W. Mikesell was born March 12, 1883 and died May 19, 1965 at the age of 82. He is resting peacefully at Dayton Memorial Park in Section 2 Lot 490.
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is ocated at 118 Woodland Avenue off of Brown Street near the University of Dayton Campus. The Woodland Office is open Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm and Saturday 8 am to 12 pm. The Cemetery and Arboretum are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. The Mausoleum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 937-228-3221 or visit the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum website.