The untold story of the woman behind Duke’s mayonnaise


Mayonnaise is an important staple in southern US food culture, and one brand stands above the rest – Duke’s Mayonnaise. This iconic condiment can be found everywhere from home refrigerators to the walk-ins of the South’s best restaurants. While everyone knows and loves Duke’s, few people know the interesting tale of its creation. NPR’s The Salt bring us the story of the woman who started the company.

The humble origins begin in 1882, when Eugenia Thomas Slade of Greenville, South Carolina was born. Eugenia married Harry Duke at age 18, and was in her early 30s when the US entered WWI. Eager to help the war effort, she made use of her best skill – making a great sandwich. She and her daughter sold egg salad, chicken salad, and pimento cheese sandwiches to soldiers stationed at nearby Camp Sevier. 

After the war, word of her delectable sandwiches had spread and Duke began selling her sandwiches at drugstores. She had difficulty keeping up with demand, so her top salesperson suggested that since it was her homemade mayonnaise that made the sandwiches so irresistable, she should try selling the condiment itself. Duke founded the Duke’s Mayonnaise company in 1923, at a time when few women owned businesses.

Photo of Masterclass: mayonnaise from The Guardian Cook Supplement 

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