(This article is from the New England Historical Society.)
On July 3, 1916, Lawrence ‘Chubby’ Woodman invented the fried clam. It was a hot, steamy day in Essex, Mass. Chubby Woodman and his wife Bessie had opened a small concession stand on Main Street two years earlier. On weekends they sold small grocery items, homemade potato chips and clams that Chubby dug from the tidal flats of the Essex River.
That summer day a fisherman named Tarr came by for Chubby’s potato chips. Chubby complained business was slow. Tarr pointed to a bucket of clams and joked that Chubby should try to fry up some clams. He and Bessie shucked the clams, threw lard in the pot and experimented with different batters. When they came up with a version they liked, they asked some locals to taste them. The clams were a hit. Woodman’s sold out of fried clams on July 4 and has been selling them ever since.
Soft-shelled Ipswich clams dug out of muddy flats became the sine qua non of fried clams. Purveyors of the battered bivalve sprang up along the Mollusk Trail –- Route 133 from Rowley through Ipswich to Essex. Hordes come for fried clams In Essex at Woodman’s, run by descendants of Chubby Woodman, J. T. Farnham’s and Essex Seafood, and in Ipswich, the Clam Box.